Students from the Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage, part of the University of Birmingham

Finding funding

Julie Nightingale, March 2016
From government loan schemes to crowdfunding, there are a range of ways you can raise money for your degree
A postgraduate scheme launching in England this year means any student up to the age of 60 will be able to apply for a non-means-tested loan of up to £10,000, whether the degree is a taught one or research-based, including part-time and distance learning courses. Repayments start once the student is working and earning £21,000 or above, at 6% interest.

In Scotland, the Scottish Funding Council gives universities money to help pay tuition fees for some students on postgraduate programmes with applications handled by the individual universities.

And in Wales, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales channels some funds to universities to support postgraduate students. In Northern Ireland, funding sources include government Studentship Awards, available for some master’s courses.

Career development loans

Up to £10,000 is available through the professional and career development bank loan scheme, whereby you borrow money usually at a reduced interest rate. This initiative is set to continue even after the government loan scheme is launched, although it is believed that career development loans, for which repayments start once the course ends, will be deeply unattractive by comparison.

Grant-giving bodies such as Research Councils UK focus on PhDs. A better option for master’s degrees can be small grants, trusts and bursaries given by local organisations, such as small education societies, heritage trusts or local patrons. University careers services often have lists of these.

Alumni discount

Some universities offer fee reductions for those who studied there as undergraduates and want to return for a postgraduate course. Ulster University, for example, offers a 10% discount and former Nottingham Trent University students can receive 25% off their postgraduate fees.

Goldsmiths, which offers courses including a master of fine arts in curating, gives those with first-class undergraduate degrees a 30% discount.


Raising money through social media platforms such as Kickstarter has taken off in the past couple of years, with some students collecting as much as £16,000. You need an appealing back story or a talent for publicity. One student attempting to raise £26,000 for a master’s at the University of Oxford was lambasted as a “posh brat”, but found the negative press actually helped bring money in.

Overseas students

There are some dedicated grant schemes for overseas students:

  • Chevening scholarships – funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and partners, covering study on postgraduate courses.
  • Commonwealth Scholarships and Fellowships Plan – for students from particular Commonwealth countries studying at PhD and master’s level, including by distance learning.
  • Saltire scholarships – give 200 students from Canada, China, India and the US the chance to study in Scotland.

Useful links

For information on Ucas, postgraduate fees and funding, including the new government loans, click here

For government funding, click here

Louise Baker

Louise Baker did an MA in museum and gallery studies at Kingston University in 2013-14. She is now the archivist at Madame Tussauds.

“The Madame Tussauds heritage collection had been lying dormant with the absence of a trained heritage caretaker. Initially, I was asked to come in to ascertain the extent of the collection and to ensure the objects were stored safely.

However, my role has evolved. I am currently project-managing a year-long cataloguing and rehousing project intended to bring the collection to Spectrum standard. I also have curatorial responsibility for the collection’s interpretation and future development.

It is an exciting job but not the one I expected to get once my course was over. I started the MA course thinking I would like to pursue a job in exhibitions as I enjoy the process of developing an exhibition from initial concept to opening day.

But it has been my project management skills that I have used most here. I am essentially bringing rooms full of objects and files to a point where there will be a professionally catalogued heritage collection. The course was instrumental in widening my perception of heritage and what a collection consists of.

I had previously worked with the visitor services management team at the Museum of London, so my experience was with a large museum whose ethics, procedures and practices met and followed national standards and guidelines. It was the MA that taught me to see and value heritage in the grey areas between the formal world of Accreditation and the everyday heritage of individuals and environments.”


Courses guide and listings (pdf)