Guidance / Help on funding MSc

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    Andrew Oldnall

    Please delete this topic if it does not follow the guidelines of the website.

    Hi there,

    I’m currently applying for an MSc in Astronomy and Astrophysics and its becoming difficult to fund the course straight out of a BSc. Loan companies have been very difficult to work with when trying to apply for postgraduate loans for someone who is currently unemployed. What i’m asking is if anybody knows of any charities that perhaps sponsor students who are in these types of situations?

    The funding would pay for things such as living arrangements, equipment required for the course, travel and so on.

    If anyone has any advise, please let me know, it is much appreciated.

    Andrew Oldnall

    Andy Wilson

    Hi Andrew,

    I am sure this topic is fine and may well interest other BAA members.

    I can’t answer your exact question, but I have experience which may be relevant. I am a part-time self funded mature Astronomy PhD student at the University of Exeter. I pay for my PhD course fees and living expenses by working 3 days a week, and doing my study/research 3 days a week. This can make for a busy life but it is rewarding in the non-financial sense!

    I did look at funded PhD places but there is lots of competition for them. My employer kindly agreed to let me go part-time so I could spend 2 days a week at university, on the understanding with the university that I would also spend a day of my weekends doing study/research.

    Since then I have changed jobs and I now do a variety of jobs, mostly IT. This includes working part-time for the BAA doing a mix of office and IT work, so this isn’t pure astronomy work but it is interesting. To avoid any confusion, I also do some voluntary activities for the BAA, like managing the Photometry and Spectroscopy databases.

    I am about to start demonstrating at university, another source of income which may be available to MSc/PhD students at other universities.

    I have considered other sources of income which may be relevant to astronomy/physics graduates. There are websites which allow registered people to bid for small scale IT build work in different programming languages. It may be possible to find tutoring work in astronomy, physics or maths. I have also seen planetarium and astronomy educator roles come up at museums, and while these aren’t necessarily part-time it can be worth asking.

    Good luck and let us know how you get on,


    Eric Watkins


    I did a taught part time astronomy  Msc  at Uni Herts, during the late 1990’s which had a time limit of between 2 and 5 years, hence costs could be spread if needed. Also, course fees where far more reasonable and value for money. I then went on to do a part-time PhD at the same Uni with Nail Tanvir. I was able to get paid experiment/observatory student classes and marking. I was also offered some teaching which I turned down, by then I was well integrated with both the staff and other post-grads.  I also became an associate lecturer for a maths course  with the OU.  This Phd was still costed at the MSc price and good value for money.  Due to a serious chronic illness and hospitalisation  I had to withdraw from the course.  Four years ago I began a new part time PhD at South Wales for which costs had significantly risen.  Most likely there would have been the possibility of paid tutoring or lecturing within the department.  Unfortunately, the whole astronomy department and courses was closed and the provisions made for me to continue were unsatisfactory -maybe you can sense the bitterness.

    At public libraries you can find a reference book of charities that do provide financial assistance, but such help is often small amounts for books or travel, though via the local museum we have the John Ray award for natural science (biology) which is substantial.

    Some ideas for you.

    Good luck, Eric

    Andrew Oldnall

    Hi Andy,

    This information was helpful, i wouldn’t mind working on something part time and you have given me many ideas as to what is available, it’s much appreciated, although i wouldn’t have the first clue on how to actually get onto some of those jobs that you’ve described haha!

    Thank you very much for your input, it’s been insightful.


    Andrew Oldnall

    Hi Eric,

    Thank you for sharing. I’m potentially leaning toward paid tutoring or something internally. Your advice has helped a bunch, thanks again


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