Funding a Master’s degree

Are you considering a Masters on completion of your undergraduate degree? To help you make the transition from undergraduate to postgraduate study, why not read our Postgraduate Funding advice guide, packed full of information and advice. In this blog we’ve listed some key points to be aware of from the guide.

Funding a Masters is different to undergraduate study. It’s usually a bigger financial commitment and, unlike undergraduate student finance, your funding is likely to come from a variety of different sources such as loans, an overdraft facility, earnings and savings. You may also wish to look into trusts and charities and crowdfunding.

It’s important to plan everything well in advance, so if one funding option fails, you can still explore alternatives, as once you have started the course, due to the intensity of postgraduate study, there may be limited time to resolve any funding issues.

Remember that you will need to budget for 12 months in an academic year not 9, though some courses start in January rather than September. You can use our budgeting resources to help you plan your finances, which include a postgraduate spreadsheet, money saving tips and ideas for increasing your income and reducing your spending.

As well as several websites which are dedicated to Master’s funding which we list in the guide, Queen Mary also offers a significant number of postgraduate scholarships in a range of subject areas. Make sure you meet the eligibility criteria and apply by any stated deadline.

Applications for Master’s Loans  open in June. Eligible students starting in 21/22 can borrow up to £11,570. The loan is paid in three instalments; either September, January and April for September starters, or January, May and August for January starters. The loan is paid as a contribution towards costs, so you can choose how you spend the loan. Most students use it to pay tuition fees and use any remainder for living costs. There are no additional loans or grants for childcare or dependents, or a postgraduate Queen Mary bursary. If your course is longer than a year, the maximum loan is split across the number of years of your course.

Many postgraduate students work part-time to boost their income and gain valuable work experience, though it’s important to achieve a balance between work and academic studies. Our Part time and vacation work advice guide, written jointly by Advice and Counselling and Queen Mary Careers and Enterprise Centre has lots of advice and information about employment you might find helpful.

During the academic year, if you have a shortfall in living costs funding, you can apply to the Financial Assistance Fund. The fund cannot help with tuition fees. Our guidance explains more about eligibility for the fund, as the assessment criteria is different for postgraduate students.

If your funding or other money is temporarily delayed, you can also apply for an interest-free short term loan from the university and from the student union.

Once you fully enrol on the course, you become immediately liable for 50% of the tuition fee with the remaining 50% due by January 31st.

If your Master’s loan won’t cover your full tuition fee, although it’s paid in three instalments in September, January and April, you will need to pay 50% of the difference fee at enrolment and the remaining 50% by January 31st.

It’s really important not start your course, unless you have a clear idea of where your funding is coming from, as interrupting due to financial issue can be disruptive. It can also be expensive, if you need to repeat either Semester A or B which would incur an additional 50% or 100% of the tuition fee.

Once you have successfully completed your Masters, you may wish to consider further study. Eligible students starting a research degree in 21/22 can apply for a Doctoral Loan of £27,265. We have comprehensive guidance which explains more about Doctoral Loans.

Once you’ve read our Postgraduate Funding advice guide, if you still have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Spring clean your finances!

The clocks have gone back, restrictions have been eased and spring has sprung.  After what has been a challenging year for many of us, the prospect of lighter, brighter days ahead is more than welcome. What better time to spring clean your finances.

Having to stay indoors and isolate, you may have spent far less money than you normally would, given shops, bars and restaurants have all been closed. Or, you may have spent more than usual on takeaways, or on items you didn’t really need as a way of coping with the impact of the pandemic on your wellbeing.

Whatever your circumstances, now that it’s possible to socialise and play sports outdoors in line with government guidance, and with the retail and hospitality sectors also due to open up soon, it’s only natural you’ll be tempted to spend money. However, before you do so, think carefully about whether you can afford it, whether all of your expenses are essential and how can you ensure you don’t overspend.

Why not take a look at the Advice and Counselling’s budgeting resources, which include a spreadsheet you can personalise, some helpful tips on controlling your spending and an A-Z of money saving ideas. Planning a budget will not only help you calculate your total income and costs but also identify any shortfall in your funds.

If your budget shows you don’t have enough money, you can apply to the Queen Mary Financial Assistance Fund. There is more information about the fund in our Additional Sources of Funding advice guide for undergraduates and our Postgraduate Funding advice guide. The deadline for a standard award is Friday 16th April.

If you are a student living in halls who doesn’t need a TV licence for the full 12 months, you may be eligible for a TV licence refund.

You might also want to boost your income through part time and vacation work. See our Part time and vacation work advice guide for helpful advice about employment.

Once you have read all our guidance, don’t hesitate to contact a Welfare Adviser in the Advice and Counselling Service with any queries.

Money and Mental Health

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Financial issues can seem overwhelming. That’s because worrying about money can impact on your wellbeing and, conversely, poor mental health can make it difficult to manage your money, so it’s easy to get caught up in a cycle of stress and financial problems.

 Once you’re locked in, it can be hard to see a way forward, and the temptation is often to do nothing and hope your issues resolve themselves. The truth is, financial issues don’t tend to resolve themselves, and may get worse over time and lead to more stress and more debt, so it’s important to act as soon as possible, because there are options and there is free and confidential support available.

There are two main ways you can take control of your financial issues:

1.    Reach out for support

Why not book a 1:1 confidential online appointment with a Welfare Adviser in Advice and Counselling? A Welfare Adviser will be able to take an objective overview of your finances and give you non-judgemental advice about your options. This may include advice on:

If you prefer, take a look at our Money pages where you’ll find all the information you need in one place. If anything’s not clear, don’t hesitate to contact us via our enquiry form.

2.    Understand your mood patterns

The second way to help yourself is to get to know your triggers, especially since online spending during the pandemic has reached record levels. If you can, try and identify whether you spend more money when you feel stressed, low or isolated. Do you feel less able to deal with money issues at particular times of the day? Do you get anxious whenever you receive a utility bill or demand for payment? Does your spending feel out of control?

We have lots of tips and advice for taking control and staying in control of your spending on our budgeting pages. Scroll down to the last section ‘How to control your spending’ for some practical steps you can take.

Also, check out our Mental Health and Financial Issues webpage for lots of useful information which can help you understand how mental health issues can affect your finances and vice versa. This includes links to the MIND website and the Money Saving Expert’s downloadable guide to dealing with debt for those with a mental health condition.

Even if you’re not sure what your triggers are, if you’d like help managing your budget, contact us via our enquiry form for confidential, non-judgemental 1:1 advice.

How can I get confidential money advice at Queen Mary?

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Feeling in control of your money can reduce stress and improve your wellbeing. To help you manage your money, we’re publishing blogs and content across our social media throughout the whole semester. In this post we’ll look at all the ways a Welfare Adviser from the Advice and Counselling Service can confidentially support you.

Helping you plan a budget

The easiest way to get an overview of your finances is to plan a budget. We have lots of resources including spreadsheets you can personalise, and a link to online budgeting apps, or your bank account might come with handy budgeting tools you can use. Once you have calculated your shortfall – the difference between your income and spending – you can start to take control of your money and consider your financial options.

Checking you are getting all the income you are eligible for

A Welfare Adviser can check your eligibility for undergraduate or postgraduate funding, and explain what documents you need to submit with your Student Finance application. They can let you know whether you’ve been awarded the correct amount of funding and what the options are, if your household income has changed.

If you have a disability or dependent children, they can explain what extra financial support you can access from Student Finance England as well as any welfare benefits you might be eligible for.

Discussing options for increasing your income or reducing your spending

Earnings from part-time work can supplement your student finance income as can having a student account with an interest-free overdraft. If you’re in financial hardship, you can also apply to the Financial Assistance Fund.  For information on these options and more ideas, why not have a look at our Additional Sources of Money for undergraduates and our Postgraduate Funding advice guides.

You might think it’s not possible to reduce your spending, but take a look at our Money Saving tips for ways of making small adjustments to your spending, which can positively impact your finances.  

Offering you a tailored 1:1 appointment to look at your finances 

If you’re struggling financially, it can be difficult to see what the issues are, or what you can do about them. A Welfare Adviser can discuss your individual circumstances with you and offer you confidential, non-judgemental advice about your options. To book an appointment with a Welfare Adviser, complete our enquiry form or, if you prefer to research your options yourself, visit our Money pages where you can find all the advice and guidance you need in one place. 

New Year: New Finances! 10 easy tips for improving your finances in 2021

New Year: New Finances! 10 easy tips for improving your finances in 2021

  1. Are you in financial hardship? You might be eligible to apply online to the Financial Assistance Fund for a grant to help you out. We know that many students are struggling this year, for example you may be unable to work due to the pandemic. The Fund is there to help you
  2. Use our money saving ideas to find out about discounts and ways to get the best value for your money. Also check out the money saving ideas by Save the Student and sign up to their newsletter to get deals sent to your inbox
  3. Use our online spreadsheets to plan your personal budget, so you are in control of your finances
  4. Save money on your food shopping with tips from Save the Student. Sign up to Olio where people give away food to their neighbours. Find simple recipes to cook healthy meals at www.studentcook.co.uk. Freeze food if you cannot use it by its’ use by date rather than let it go to waste
  5. For shops you use regularly, like a supermarket, consider getting a loyalty card to earn points and enjoy discounts
  6. Save 30% on travelcards with the 18+ Student Oyster photocard
  7. Get discounts with your NUS Totum card (from £14.99 a year) and subscribe to Save the Student for regular emails about student discounts
  8. Check if you could switch to a cheaper tariff for your gas and electricity bills – see www.moneysavingexpert.com/cheapenergyclub. Also reduce your bills by finding out how you can save energy
  9. To avoid running out of money before the end of the semester, open different bank accounts for different purposes and move money between them at set times, so you are less tempted to overspend. Get advice from the Student Room
  10. For things you need, before paying try freecycling for example on Gumtree FreebiesFreecycle.orgPreloved and Olio.

Budgeting film

Watch our short film to see the advantages of planning a budget, and how easy it is.

Do you need further advice?

We offer confidential money advice to all Queen Mary students. You can find out more about our service, how we can help you, as well as lots of information and guidance at www.welfare.qmul.ac.uk

Happy Holidays to everyone from Advice and Counselling!

Happy Holidays to everyone from Advice and Counselling!

The vacation period will soon be here. You might be staying in London by yourself, or maybe you are travelling to family or friends. Whatever your circumstances, here are some thoughts to help you enjoy this time.

It’s been a difficult year for many students to work-part time along studies, due to reduced work opportunities because of Covid-19. However, the pressure to buy presents and treat yourself to something special over the vacation period hasn’t gone away, so even if your income has dropped, you might still be tempted to spend.

Remember social media is full of influencers, including student influencers, who are paid to put peer pressure on you to spend money on impulse, using tech-enabled, one-click spending.  This feeds the false narrative that you can have everything you want without consequences, when the reality is you can’t. It can also lead you to believe that you want or need things which you actually don’t, or that having material things will make you feel better.

Try disabling one-click and think about your values: perhaps sustainability or ethical choices are important to you, or consider what you need as opposed to what you want.  Do you spend £5 today in a coffee shop or save £5 towards something bigger and perhaps more meaningful?  Surveys show that 80% of students regularly regret a purchase made in the previous month. If you do spend beyond your means, try to not dwell on it as a bad decision; instead see it as an opportunity to learn going forwards.

Think about home-made presents – search online for ideas – or those you can give to others for free: your time, a listening ear, help with household chores/shopping, a course-related skill – languages, accounting, IT. The list of your talents is probably much bigger than you think and others will appreciate your efforts to personalise your gifts to them.

Also consider presents you can give to yourself – everyday kindnesses like a walk in the fresh air along the canal or in the park, a home-cooked meal, taking care of your health and wellbeing with meditation or mindfulness and not comparing yourself to others. Plan special days and take yourself out to a gallery or exhibition or treat yourself to nice food.

Above all, it can be helpful to realise that what you want is actually dependent on you and your values and not other people’s, despite the overwhelming peer pressure which tries to tell you otherwise. So, this vacation why not celebrate by spending within your means, if not with money, then with the gift of time to yourself and others.

However, if you are worried about money, please have a look at our Money pages, where you can find lots of advice and information on additional sources of funding, budgeting and more! You can also contact us via our web form to book a 1:1 confidential appointment.

Undergraduate Students, are you receiving all the money you are entitled to?

If you meet with a Welfare Adviser about financial difficulties the first thing we’ll do is check you are receiving everything you are entitled to.  We’ll check if you are eligible for Student Finance and, if you are, we’ll ask if you have you been income assessed by Student Finance. This is to check that you have been assessed for your maximum entitlement to the Maintenance Loan and any Supplementary Grants you might be eligible for such as the Childcare Grant, the Adult Dependants’ Grant and the Parents’ Learning Allowance.

You can chose how much Maintenance Loan you wish to take, you don’t have to take the full amount you are eligible for if you don’t want to. You can specify on your Student Finance application how much Maintenance Loan you would like to take for the academic year. If you find you need more Loan than you originally applied for you can request the additional amount later in in the academic year.

Being income assessed by Student Finance also enables you to be assessed for the Queen Mary Bursary.

Some students don’t want to take Loans from Student Finance for personal or religious reasons but do still want to be assessed for the Queen Mary Bursary. It is possible to do this and we explain the process in our Undergraduate Funding Guide in the section called ‘What if I don’t want to take out loans?

If you want to be income assessed by Student Finance for 2020/21 you must apply for an income assessment and provide your household income details to SFE by 31 May 2021.

To be income assessed for the 2020/21 academic year most students will need to provide their household income details for the 2018/19 tax year.  However, if your household income has dropped by 15% or more since the 2018/19 tax year, you can request a current year income assessment which might mean you can get a higher amount of Maintenance Loan and Queen Mary Bursary. We explain more about current year income assessments in the Income Assessment section of our Undergraduate Funding Guide.  

Independent Students

Most student’s household income assessment is based on their parent(s) household income. However, some students are considered independent students for Student Finance and therefore do not have to provide their parent(s) household income details.  Independent students who are married/in a civil partnership or are aged 25 or over and are cohabiting with a partner on the first day of the relevant year will need to include their partner’s income in the household income assessment. For more information on who can be considered an Independent Student please see the Income Assessment section our Undergraduate Funding Guide.

If you are assessed as an Independent Student by SFE, and you don’t have to include a partner’s income, it’s likely you would be eligible for the maximum amounts of Maintenance Loan and Queen Mary Bursary. It also enables you to apply to the University Financial Assistance Fund for support with your summer living costs between each year of your course if you are aged under 25.

If you think you should be considered an Independent Student but are struggling to get assessed as independent by SFE, please contact a Welfare Adviser in the Advice and Counselling Service who can help you with this.

 Queen Mary Financial Assistance Fund

Being income assessed by Student Finance, and taking your maximum Maintenance Loan entitlement, will also enable you to apply for the Queen Mary Financial Assistance Fund if you find yourself in financial difficulty. See our earlier blog post ‘Facing financial hardship?’ as well as our Additional Sources of Funding Guide for more information on making an application to the Queen Mary Financial Assistance Fund.

Looking after someone? Know your rights.

Today – Thursday 26 November is Carers Rights Day. Here at Queen Mary we want to support our students with caring responsibilities and help raise awareness of different information, advice and support that is available to you so you can feel confident asking for what you need. 

Who is a carer?

A carer is anyone who has a commitment to providing unpaid care to a family member or friend who could not cope without their support. This may be due to illness, disability, a mental health issue, or substance misuse. A caring responsibility may be short term — such as supporting someone with their recovery following an accident, or long term — such as helping someone with a long term illness. If you are aged 16 — 25 and have a caring responsibility, you are considered to be a ‘young adult carer’.

There are approximately 375,000 young adult carers in the UK, all facing different challenges and responsibilities. If you provide regular care and support to a family member, partner, or friend, you may be eligible to access additional support while studying.

Below are just two of the many charities providing support, information, and advice to young adult carers. We explain below about support at Queen Mary as well as support externally.  

What support is available to carers at Queen Mary?

If you’re balancing your studies with the responsibility of caring for another person, this can sometimes be challenging. Some students with care responsibilities might think it’s not worth telling the university or college about their circumstances, perhaps because they think it’s a temporary situation, or because they don’t think it ‘counts’. However, all carers deal with their responsibilities alongside their education differently, and you may still find some occasional support helpful, especially if your circumstances change.

It’s important to make sure you know where to get support if or when you need it. Knowing that you have caring responsibilities allows the university to put support in place, to make sure you get the most from your university experience. We recommend you do this as early as possible, however small or major your caring role may seem to you. Queen Mary has put support in place specifically to help students with caring responsibilities. This can include:

• Emotional and practical support – The Advice and Counselling Service provide a wide range of support services. You can make contact via our web form to find out more or to ask for an appointment. You can have a dedicated named welfare adviser in the Advice and Counselling Service so you won’t have to share your story multiple times with different staff across the university.

• Financial help – financial support to student carers in financial hardship who have accessed their full government student finance but are unable to undertake part-time work as a result of their caring responsibilities. You might be eligible for help from the Financial Assistance Fund. A Welfare Adviser can also advise you about this.

• Academic support – this might include flexibility with deadlines, help with managing your workload, or access to academic or career opportunities. Contact your academic adviser or Student Support Officer.                              

External support The Carers Trust offers support to those who give unpaid care to a family member or friend – find out more at carers.org. If someone in your family has a life-threatening illness, Hope Support Services can help. Visit their website for more information or watch their video. You might also be interested in watching Ben’s story

To help you know what you are entitled to, you can read the latest Looking after someone guide from Carers UK, which gives carers the full picture of the practical and financial support available to them. Students who are carers may benefit from respite support, and there is a Carers Centre in Tower Hamlets. Their services are explained on their website. They have a specific project for young carers (up to age 25) who are caring for someone in Tower Hamlets, even if the student doesn’t live in the borough. If you are caring for someone outside Tower Hamlets, you can contact your Local Authority to find out about available support. Move On Up is a unique housing option for people aged 18-25, who have previously or currently care for someone.

Are you not in contact with family?

This is referred to as ‘estrangement’ and it’s Estranged Students Solidarity Week 23-27 November!

Estranged Students Solidarity Week is run by Standalone, a charity which supports people without family contact. Keep an eye on their Twitter feed this week for updates #WithEstrangedStudents as well as on the Advice and Counselling Service Twitter and Facebook.

What is estrangement?

Many students at Queen Mary are not in contact with family, or have limited contact. Lack of family support can cause serious challenges with practical matters such as accessing funding and accommodation, which can adversely impact on studies. It can bring a sense of feeling like others don’t understand your situation, and that you need to manage everything on your own, which can lead to isolation.

A blog posted written by one of our Counsellors about studying without family support explains more. 

You might be interested to listen to other people’s experiences of estrangement on the Standalone podcast.

What support is available at Queen Mary?

You aren’t on your own. Queen Mary has taken a pledge with the charity Standalone to support our estranged students, meaning that there is lots of support available throughout your course to help you get the funding you are eligible for, to help you find accommodation, to support you academically, and emotionally.

If you are in the process of separating from your family, we can support you through the transition to living independently and try to help you minimise the impact on your studies.

There is information on the Queen Mary Advice and Counselling Service website about the confidential support available for –

Students who are without family support

Students who have been in care

You are invited to contact the Advice and Counselling Service confidentially and let them us of anything you would like advice or support with, and we will be happy to help you.

If you would like to meet other students without family support, we are launching a Queen Mary Independent Students Support Group. The aim is to provide a safe and confidential space for students who are studying without family support to meet together, share experiences of university life and offer each other support. The group will run online for eight weeks from the end of January 2021, on Tuesdays at 11am for one hour. Participants are expected to attend all eight sessions. The group will be facilitated by two staff members from the Queen Mary Advice and Counselling Service. If you are interested in joining the group, please complete a short form as soon as possible and the facilitators will contact you to arrange an online appointment.  

I am not an estranged student – what can I do?

The Estranged Students Solidarity Week theme this year is ‘Be an ally to estranged students’. We can all step up as an ally and make a big difference. For example, normalising conversations about estrangement, being conscious of the language you use, and thinking about your friends at times of the year which may be more challenging without family support, for example university holiday periods. Standalone has some useful tips on being an ally. Maybe your friend doesn’t know about the support available at Queen Mary, and you could let them know that they can contact us.

Facing financial hardship?

If your income is not covering your costs, The Financial Assistance Fund (FAF) may be able to offer some financial support towards your shortfall.  The application process is simple and you don’t have to have special or extreme circumstances to apply but you do have to be eligible and demonstrate you are in financial hardship.  Your circumstances are individual to you and each application is assessed individually on its own merit.  It’s not compared to other applications, so it’s not a competitive process. 

There are many different causes of financial hardship. It could due to temporary loss of part-time work or redundancy because of Covid, becoming unwell and unable to work for a few weeks, moving home unexpectedly for urgent reasons or your financial sponsor may have their own unexpected financial difficulty that has temporarily affected the financial support they are able to provide to you. This list is not exhaustive so if you are in financial hardship apply to be considered.

Although the fund is there to support any eligible student who has a particular financial need it’s also important to be aware that it cannot help meet the cost of tuition fees and unfortunately it’s unable to meet the needs of every application received or cover all income shortfall costs.

If you live at home, do not pay rent to pay, are eligible for the Student Finance Maintenance Loan and also the Queen Mary Bursary, it may be difficult to demonstrate that you are in financial hardship. However if you calculate that this money is not sufficient to cover your costs and you apply to FAF for additional financial support make sure you explain why this is and provide any supporting evidence so this can be considered.

This year eligible students can apply for a £500 award if they do not have access to a computer for their studies and need help to purchase one. Financial hardship must still be demonstrated.

So who is eligible?

All UK students. Undergraduate and Postgraduate students can apply. EU undergraduate students are also eligible to apply.

If you fall into one of these groups you can also apply if you are on study abroad or on a placement year. 

If you are interrupting or re-sitting out of attendance, have not permanently withdrawn from your studies, intend to return after your time out and have exceptional or unforeseen costs you can apply. It’s important to provide details of your current circumstances as this will be considered as a ‘non-standard’ assessment (there is more information about this later and in the Financial Assistance Fund guidance). For example, you may need some financial support during the exam period.

EU Postgraduate and International students with short-term and urgent situations are also eligible and can also be considered although the fund cannot provide the main support for your costs. You should therefore explain how you would normally have met your costs and why this funding is currently unavailable.

Who is not eligible?

Apprenticeship students and MBBS students in Malta.

How do I apply?

Before applying to FAF you are expected to have planned your finances for the year, have some means of financial support already in place and have taken out all the student funding available to you.  This includes the Student Maintenance Loan, Masters Loan Student Loan or NHS bursary and you must have received an instalment of this before you apply.  However if you are only applying for the £500 award to purchase a computer, you don’t need to take out these loans in order to apply. 

Priority is given to final year undergraduate students, students with children (especially if you are a single parent), disabled students or students who have become too unwell to work, students who are homeless and students who are care experienced or who are estranged and not in contact with your family. You can read what estrangement means in our guidance

The fund can also help if you have been awarded the SFE Disabled Students Allowance and been asked to contribute the first £200 yourself. The Disability and Dyslexia Service have further information about this.

It’s not possible to give an indication of how much will be awarded prior to an application being made and assessed. However if an application is successful and a grant is made you do not have to repay this.

Applications are made from your MySIS account as explained in the Financial Assistance Fund guidance. There is one application and this will be considered for a ‘standard award’ and a ‘non-standard award’.  Standard awards help towards the difference between your income and basic expenses, using assumed income figures and a ‘non-standard award’ is help with a sudden financial emergency or special circumstances or costs that other students might not have.

The FAF guidance notes explain more about eligibility, Assumed income that is taken into account and has information about standard and non-standard awards. 

Applications can be made each academic year. There are two closing dates for the 2020/21 academic year:

Applications for standard awards should be submitted by Friday 16 April 2021.

Applications for non-standard awards should normally be submitted at least 4 weeks before the end of your academic year but if you are a continuing student you can apply until Friday 16 July 2021 subject to funds being available.

To avoid delays in processing your application, try and submit all the required evidence with your original application as it can take up to four weeks to finalise assessments. If there are documents missing from your application, the Bursaries Office will usually contact you to tell you what you need to provide.

You can also read our guidance about the Financial Assistance Fund in our Additional Funding guide.  You may also find our budgeting guidance useful to help plan your budget and work out if you have a shortfall between your income and your outgoing costs (expenditure).

If you would like advice about your finances, or would like to discuss which aspects of your situation might be important to include in your application, please contact us.