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Self-Funding Your Postgraduate Degree

Many people have to fund their postgraduate degree program themselves, either through savings or from earnings – working as they study.

Those who are lucky enough to be able to pay their tuition fees as soon as they come in are merely concerned with transferring the money across to their university and personal bank account, and then managing their living costs successfully.

The other group of ‘self-payment’ people are those who intend to work through their degree, and this can be a complex game of time and numbers management.

Self-funding your studies through work

If you are going to work while on a full-time course, make sure your time management and money management skills are up to scratch. You need to make sure you are not spending too much time working (as your studies will suffer) or not enough time working (as you don’t want to get into trouble financially).

It is a good idea to make a proper plan projecting how much you are likely to earn, as unless you are paid incredibly well it is unlikely that part-time work will be able to pay for your entire degree and living costs. If that is the case, then you need to start looking at alternative sources of funding that can supplement your work.

It is also essential that you make sure you are eligible to work in the UK if you are an overseas student, and that you are paying the correct tax and national insurance contribution.


Part-time study versus full-time study

If you have to self-fund your postgraduate studies, it might be worth considering studying part time so you can continue to work throughout the duration of the course. This option could enable you to fund your degree as they go.

However, you must double check what a university’s regulations on part-time study are before deciding to this. At some universities, part-time courses are more expensive because they happen over a longer length of time, so you are charged for multiple years (if your degree takes that long). While studying part time might seem a cheaper option, this is not always the case, so double check before you commit!

Your university may also have rules regarding how much paid work you are allowed to undertake whilst studying your postgraduate degree, particularly if you are an international student. Check on this to ensure that you stick to the rules and don’t break the terms of your postgraduate studies.

Self-funding your postgraduate degree

Other ways to self-fund your postgraduate degree

Here are some other methods of self-funding that you could consider.


Studentships are funding that come with certain postgraduate positions, which can cover both your tuition fees and living expenses. You should check the details of the course you wish to study to find out whether a studentship is available. You will find that studentships are more common in science subjects and for research-based courses rather than taught degrees. The reason for this is that they are mainly funded by the seven UK research councils:

  • Arts and Humanities Research Council
  • Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
  • Economic and Social Research Council
  • Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
  • Medical research Council
  • Natural Environment Research Council
  • Science and Technology Facilities Council

However, some studentships are funded by universities, colleges or companies. To acquire about a studentship you don't need to apply through the research councils but to where the position itself is based.

Government funding

The UK government offers masters loans to UK students that are studying a masters degree at an eligible university in the UK – this masters course can be taught or research-based. This loan is only available to students who are studying their first masters degree.

In addition to this, some postgraduate courses still receive government funding in the same way as with undergraduate studies. The types of postgraduate courses that receive this sort of funding tend to be teacher training, social work, medical and healthcare courses.

Funding from an employer

Many people considering postgraduate study are unaware that employers may consider funding their postgraduate course. Employers often want the best out of their employees and want to ensure that they excel in their field, as this is what will give their company an edge over their competitors. Because of this, many employers offer schemes so that employees can work and study at the same time. So, if you are already working in a fulfilling role but are considering postgraduate study, it is worth asking your employer if they have any learning schemes available.

Freelance work

Once you have ascertained that it is OK to undertake some paid work to help self-fund your postgraduate degree, you could consider doing some freelance work as it offers plenty of advantages to postgraduate students.

  1. Time management is an attractive aspect of freelancing. Making your own work schedule ensures the success of your studies and can give you time to browse for a steady job at the same time.
  2. Working remotely is another key factor to consider in choosing to be a freelancer. The flexibility of working from home comes in particularly handy during the busy university years.
  3. Breaking language barriers for work is an extraordinary thing. For international students who travel abroad for their studies, freelancing can be a great opportunity to earn money, especially if they don’t confidently speak the language of the country of their studies. Freelancing means you can make use of the languages that you speak and work across borders.

What freelance work could you do?

So, what freelance work is out there for postgraduate students?

Here are some of the most popular options.

  • Writing/blogging – if you like to put words down on paper, the current freelancing market is perfect for you. Writing is a skill of great value, and you have a real chance to get paid for it. Online media outlets and blogs have a constant demand for content writers and content creators, so you may find that you can write about subjects that are of interest to you and get paid for it. Another popular idea is to start your personal blog and, with some effort, even turn it into a business.
  • Web development/programming – having a flair for IT offers many freelancing possibilities that are worth trying. You can be a web or an app developer, work with programming, design websites, specialise in SEO or other fields. If you study in a related area, this is also a great way to improve your resume and get paid at the same time.
  • DIY projects – if you are a fan of do-it-yourself projects, there is a good chance you can earn money out of it. You can be passionate about many things, from designing clothes and jewellery to crafting furniture and even making your own organic beauty products. All of these can become your business if you reach the right audience. Go to social events like fairs or festivals and try to set up an online shop. The internet offers a world of possibilities to market your products.
  • English/foreign languages tutor – if you are an international student, taking advantage of your foreign languages skills can be very useful when looking for a freelance job. Teaching English is very popular, and you could even be an online tutor if you want to work from home. Of course, you can also search for opportunities to teach other foreign languages. Today’s global society means the demand for language lessons and skills will only increase.

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