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    My wife was considering a particular degree. We are a low income family and we are having to do very careful financial planning to make it work.

    She went to an open day and the university tutor advised her that given her years of particular job experience she would not be suited to the degree, but best suited to going directly onto a masters.

    However, it seems that for a reason I do not understand even if you have never had student finance before and this will be your you first (in time sense) degree, the Masters (post graduate - though in her case not actually POST graduate) degree has very very very little student finance, only £10K with which you have to pay your fees, leaving virtually nothing for maintenance. You are not eligible for separate fees and maintenance loans you are not eligible for parental loans and you are not eligible for adult dependent loans. The University say that advance parliamentary discussion suggests that Masters finance in England will be increased to £13K but the only parliamentary statement I can find of 6 days ago says it will only increase by inflation.

    She does not want to do the degree if the tutor is suggesting that that course is not suitable and she is a best match for the Masters, but I have no idea how anyone can manage to do a masters given the funding. If she had already had funding for a 1st degree then the low funding would make sense to me, but she has never had student finance before.

    Does anyone have any ideas?
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    The masters funding is administered separately from undergrad funding, so it shouldn't make any difference whether she goes into the masters from professional experience or a degree background. I've not heard anything about the masters loans increasing, although an increase in line with inflation wouldn't be that surprising (although naturally this doesn't lead to a real increase in the amount of funding you're getting).

    Bear in mind often mature students (and independent students) generally and those from low income backgrounds may be eligible for additional bursaries or similar from individual universities - this may be something to look into. Another thing to consider is depending on what the degree course is and what area she wants to go into, she may need a first degree, either in some given area or just in general, to progress into her desired field, so a masters may actually be a step back, or at least sideways, in that route.

    It sounds as though a first degree might be a more sensible approach - have you looked into the possibility of part time study? If you aren't doing a distance learning course you would still be eligible for a maintenance loan, and the tuition is covered in a fairly similar way in that SFE will just directly pay the costs up to a given limit (I presume equivalent to the full time format of length of degree plus one year of funding less any previous years study).
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    (Original post by artful_lounger)
    The masters funding is administered separately from undergrad funding, so it shouldn't make any difference whether she goes into the masters from professional experience or a degree background. I've not heard anything about the masters loans increasing, although an increase in line with inflation wouldn't be that surprising (although naturally this doesn't lead to a real increase in the amount of funding you're getting).

    Bear in mind often mature students (and independent students) generally and those from low income backgrounds may be eligible for additional bursaries or similar from individual universities - this may be something to look into. Another thing to consider is depending on what the degree course is and what area she wants to go into, she may need a first degree, either in some given area or just in general, to progress into her desired field, so a masters may actually be a step back, or at least sideways, in that route.

    It sounds as though a first degree might be a more sensible approach - have you looked into the possibility of part time study? If you aren't doing a distance learning course you would still be eligible for a maintenance loan, and the tuition is covered in a fairly similar way in that SFE will just directly pay the costs up to a given limit (I presume equivalent to the full time format of length of degree plus one year of funding less any previous years study).
    The University she would be attending don't do any formalised low income bursaries or attendance bursaries. You can "apply" for hardship once you are on the course, allowed on a descretionary basis.

    The University tutor felt the degree would not be suitable but the matters would be, AFAIK this was based on her current background and experience in the field, the University criteria for the course and the University prognosis for the field she explained to them she wanted to go into.

    I presume when you suggest part time you are referring to a batchelors since you mention maintenance loan. Masters only provide one very small loan for everything together. A batchelors "part time" would be too long given her age.

    I guess the design of funding does not consider that someone might do a master's and not a batchelors, or maybe government economics suggest that master's should be low priority compared to batchelors and doctorates.
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    (Original post by artful_lounger)
    The masters funding is administered separately from undergrad funding, so it shouldn't make any difference whether she goes into the masters from professional experience or a degree background. I've not heard anything about the masters loans increasing, although an increase in line with inflation wouldn't be that surprising (although naturally this doesn't lead to a real increase in the amount of funding you're getting).

    Bear in mind often mature students (and independent students) generally and those from low income backgrounds may be eligible for additional bursaries or similar from individual universities - this may be something to look into. Another thing to consider is depending on what the degree course is and what area she wants to go into, she may need a first degree, either in some given area or just in general, to progress into her desired field, so a masters may actually be a step back, or at least sideways, in that route.

    It sounds as though a first degree might be a more sensible approach - have you looked into the possibility of part time study? If you aren't doing a distance learning course you would still be eligible for a maintenance loan, and the tuition is covered in a fairly similar way in that SFE will just directly pay the costs up to a given limit (I presume equivalent to the full time format of length of degree plus one year of funding less any previous years study).

    The University she would be attending don't do any formalised low income bursaries or attendance bursaries. You can "apply" for hardship once you are on the course, allowed on a descretionary basis.

    The University tutor felt the degree would not be suitable but the matters would be, AFAIK this was based on her current background and experience in the field, the University criteria for the course and the University prognosis for the field she explained to them she wanted to go into.

    I presume when you suggest part time you are referring to a batchelors since you mention maintenance loan. Masters only provide one very small loan for everything together. A batchelors "part time" would be too long given her age.

    I guess the design of funding does not consider that someone might do a master's and not a batchelors, or maybe government economics suggest that master's should be low priority compared to batchelors and doctorates.

    It's also further underfunded since you only get a regular year's sf which for maintenance will leave £3-4K, but the course is actually a literal calendar year so 2-3 months at the end of the course when at the end of your degree you could potentially work you are still a full time student.
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    (Original post by hardya)
    The University she would be attending don't do any formalised low income bursaries or attendance bursaries. You can "apply" for hardship once you are on the course, allowed on a descretionary basis.

    The University tutor felt the degree would not be suitable but the matters would be, AFAIK this was based on her current background and experience in the field, the University criteria for the course and the University prognosis for the field she explained to them she wanted to go into.

    I presume when you suggest part time you are referring to a batchelors since you mention maintenance loan. Masters only provide one very small loan for everything together. A batchelors "part time" would be too long given her age.

    I guess the design of funding does not consider that someone might do a master's and not a batchelors, or maybe government economics suggest that master's should be low priority compared to batchelors and doctorates.

    It's also further underfunded since you only get a regular year's sf which for maintenance will leave £3-4K, but the course is actually a literal calendar year so 2-3 months at the end of the course when at the end of your degree you could potentially work you are still a full time student.
    Can she do the masters part time or distance learning? You can still apply for the post grad loan but she could potentially work alongside. I had to do that for my degree and will have to for my masters. I’m the main income bringer in my family so I can’t give up work but I don’t want to give up pursuing my studying and career goals.
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    (Original post by hardya)
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    As you note masters courses are additionally usually a calendar year, which can present additional issues. Masters courses usually aren't as emphasised because they aren't filling a market niche the government requires Re: skilled workers - they need workers (to some extent; arguably not that much any more) with an UG background for a variety of roles, and they need workers with a PhD for a few higher order positions. A masters, in the scope of employment considerations, usually doesn't add that much beyond the UG degree and certainly comes nowhere near the level of a PhD. Some roles however require a masters or equivalent training as part of the training programme for it (e.g. architecture, physician associate, engineering, some other allied health professions) but for these usually the first degree is necessary anyway (engineering and maybe some allied health professions might be the only exception there). It's debtable I suppose whether this reasoning is sound but unfortunately that's the route they've decided to take at present (however bear in mind some undergraduate degrees are offered as 4 year integrated masters courses e.g. MEng, and this is funded by SFE as an undergraduate course, and not with the masters loan scheme, so there is a higher level of support).

    Yes, the maintenance bit would pertain to a PT UG course. Is the PT restriction that limitative (bearing in mind employers cannot legally discriminate on the basis of age)? She wouldn't necessarily need to do a course at 50% intensity to qualify for PT funding, and some are more flexible of the rate at which it can be completed (e.g. 75% intensity, or starting at 50% and moving to full time later etc potentially). I suggest it mainly to provide some flexibility to your financial situation - it could be starting PT, allowing you both to hopefully create some buffer for the latter years of the course, and then moving to FT might "smooth things out" (potentially only extending the duration by one year, if for example she did year 1 as 50% intensity over two years and then went FT for the rest of the course). Naturally these options are dependent on the individual university and offerings in this area vary (some courses aren't available PT due to the structure or nature of the course), but still...if it were that or not getting the degree, it must be worth considering?

    Unless the university is saying they wouldn't make an offer for the undergraduate course (which I doubt if they think she should go onto the masters), it's really up to her what the best option is. If she feels the UG would be preferable or necessary, for any reason (which may be financial, or may be due to a desire to reinforce her foundations in the area), then she should definitely pursue that. The alternative, if she would otherwise be happy with the masters option aside from the finance issues, would be to take a year or two to save some money to fund that, and then apply to the masters hence. This wouldn't necessarily be a longer time than doing an UG (and/or masters after that) potentially (depending on how much it is possible to save in that timeframe) and might otherwise be suitable.

    Hardship funds tend to be pretty limited and not widely available - as I recall my former university more or less indicated it was mostly for international students who might need one off travel expenses unexpectedly due to bereavement etc...I definitely wouldn't recommend expecting much, if any support from that just to be on the safe side (although with any luck the university in question might be able to support her more through that avenue) as far as financial planning goes!
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    What subject course is it that she wants to do?
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    (Original post by artful_lounger)
    As you note masters courses are additionally usually a calendar year, which can present additional issues. Masters courses usually aren't as emphasised because they aren't filling a market niche the government requires Re: skilled workers - they need workers (to some extent; arguably not that much any more) with an UG background for a variety of roles, and they need workers with a PhD for a few higher order positions. A masters, in the scope of employment considerations, usually doesn't add that much beyond the UG degree and certainly comes nowhere near the level of a PhD. Some roles however require a masters or equivalent training as part of the training programme for it (e.g. architecture, physician associate, engineering, some other allied health professions) but for these usually the first degree is necessary anyway (engineering and maybe some allied health professions might be the only exception there). It's debtable I suppose whether this reasoning is sound but unfortunately that's the route they've decided to take at present (however bear in mind some undergraduate degrees are offered as 4 year integrated masters courses e.g. MEng, and this is funded by SFE as an undergraduate course, and not with the masters loan scheme, so there is a higher level of support).

    Yes, the maintenance bit would pertain to a PT UG course. Is the PT restriction that limitative (bearing in mind employers cannot legally discriminate on the basis of age)? She wouldn't necessarily need to do a course at 50% intensity to qualify for PT funding, and some are more flexible of the rate at which it can be completed (e.g. 75% intensity, or starting at 50% and moving to full time later etc potentially). I suggest it mainly to provide some flexibility to your financial situation - it could be starting PT, allowing you both to hopefully create some buffer for the latter years of the course, and then moving to FT might "smooth things out" (potentially only extending the duration by one year, if for example she did year 1 as 50% intensity over two years and then went FT for the rest of the course). Naturally these options are dependent on the individual university and offerings in this area vary (some courses aren't available PT due to the structure or nature of the course), but still...if it were that or not getting the degree, it must be worth considering?

    Unless the university is saying they wouldn't make an offer for the undergraduate course (which I doubt if they think she should go onto the masters), it's really up to her what the best option is. If she feels the UG would be preferable or necessary, for any reason (which may be financial, or may be due to a desire to reinforce her foundations in the area), then she should definitely pursue that. The alternative, if she would otherwise be happy with the masters option aside from the finance issues, would be to take a year or two to save some money to fund that, and then apply to the masters hence. This wouldn't necessarily be a longer time than doing an UG (and/or masters after that) potentially (depending on how much it is possible to save in that timeframe) and might otherwise be suitable.

    Hardship funds tend to be pretty limited and not widely available - as I recall my former university more or less indicated it was mostly for international students who might need one off travel expenses unexpectedly due to bereavement etc...I definitely wouldn't recommend expecting much, if any support from that just to be on the safe side (although with any luck the university in question might be able to support her more through that avenue) as far as financial planning goes!
    Excellent explanation and advice, thank you.
 
 
 

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