With talk of the global recession, mounting debts and bank collapses dominating the daily news, is there really a chance that you will find funding for a Masters or PhD degree in the coming year?


Funding stays the same
The reality is that for most international students the same amount of funding is available to them for graduate study as there was a year ago. In fact, universities around the world have recognised that more students are likely to consider returning to grad school as a means of shelter from the difficult international labour market and supporting these students is likely to be a key factor in securing the most talented graduate applicants. The seven UK funding bodies, for example the Economic and Social Research and the Science and Technology Facilities Councils, are committed to fund at least the same number of students in 2009/10 and 2010/11 as they did in 2008/2009.

universities recognise that supporting students is likely to be a key factor in securing the most talented graduate applicants

Continued investment in large scholarship schemes
Many of the large-scale scholarship programs, such as those offered by the World Bank, or national government schemes, such as the Australian Endeavour Awards, the UK's Chevening Scholarships and the US' Fulbright Commission awards are also relatively untouched by the current financial crisis.  However, evidence suggests that these bigger scholarship schemes are very likely to be more competitive than in previous years.

Turning to the scholarship programs offered by individual universities, the majority are maintaining their budgets in order to support students wishing to continue their education from undergraduate to graduate programs.  University College London (UCL) has recently invested more than £250,000 in a new scholarship scheme to support international research students, whilst at the same time continuing their Global Excellence Scholarships, each worth £5,000 for one year of study open to all students of high academic potential. 

 The good side of banks
Banks are continuing to do their bit for funding students seeking a graduate degree. While it is true that commercial loans for international graduate study are not quite as freely available as they have been in previous years, UK-based banks such as Barclays, the Co-operative and The Royal Bank of Scotland have announced they will continue to fund the Career Development Loan (CDL) scheme, backed by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) for UK and European students. Further afield, large international banks like HSBC and Banco Santander are committed to continuing their support for schemes for international students throughout Asia, Europe and Latin America.

New student loans
A further and very recent innovation on the more commercial side of funding international students is the introduction of banks making specific arrangements with individual universities for the exclusive benefit of their international students. Earlier in 2009, a number of US universities, including the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University replaced their commercial funding agreements with new schemes in association with high profile and financially secure banks. 

The advantages of such schemes are clear - with universities undertaking to share the risk of providing loans to international customers, students are able to access previously protected sources of funding and benefit from their often reduced rates of interest payments.

Work and study: part-time for both or just one?
Different economic realities might also require different approaches to funding your Masters or PhD degree program overseas. One solution is to consider studying part-time, halving your tuition fees and allowing you to work throughout the course of your degree. Although such an approach has to be balanced with the implications studying part-time have on your ability to secure a visa as an international graduate student, the rules vary significantly from country to country.  The majority of non-EU students coming to the UK, The Netherlands and France are required to study full-time at the graduate level, but some students obtain visas and then change their immigration status once they arrive. European students throughout the EU, however, have far more flexibility.