Poverty for Postgrads Blog Discussion

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  • ohit
    ohit Posts: 370 Forumite
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    I agree with Reen. However, it's not the fault of the student or their parents.

    Schools just don't teach personal finance properly.

    I "woke up" since 14. Got a job, saved up, grew that money when possible (at 16 you can open more types of accounts, and at 18 you can invest in bigger things) and therefore now am "set" to start uni this year. I took a gap year after a-levels, working. I don't even need the money I've earnt this year, but I'm now in a great position to invest that in something like property, bonds or high-yielding shares in order to get some income from them. Income I can use to live off per month while at uni.

    I think I might have even missed opportunities for funding (e.g. https://www.hotcourses.com) especially as my course (electronics eng.) is very much decline, so the IEE and other industry people are really trying hard to fix that.

    Even while at uni, there must have been many opportunties to get out there, earn cash, gain experience, network, learn and understand further the black&white grind of life. It's just not like that. Get out there, get yourself known. Learn the underlining system. You then open opportunities. Either loopholes to exploit, or avenues to go down. In this case, money to educate yourself.
  • jcw17
    jcw17 Posts: 26 Forumite
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    Hi,

    Financial life as a post-grad student is not fun! Like pcyusw above, I received a grant from the medical research council to complete a PhD into vaccine candidates for protection of meningitis. I did not finish in 3 years (which was what I had funding for) and I have yet to meet someone who has! At this point you have to either fund yourself whilst finishing lab work and writing up your thesis or give up and write-off the last 3 years! One good point to note is that over the last 3/4 years funding councils have realised that you can not live on nothing and the grants have had an increase of ~30%. The problems however continue if you decide to stay in acaedemic science, ie be employed by a university rather than go into industry. Due to the way science is funded in the UK, you will be lucky to get a 2 year contract at most and then you either have to apply for more money or move on to a new 2 year contract. Plus considering how long it has taken to get to this point ie 7 years as a student the pay is not fantastic! Having said this I love my job (still working on meningitis vaccines) and can not think what else I would rather be doing!
  • pcyusw
    pcyusw Posts: 7 Forumite
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    hi jcw17:- Its nice to see you are still positive in what you are doing, I hope i'm the same by the time I reach post-doc level (its easy to be optimistic in your 1st year I guess!). What you hace raised is another good point-I have friends here who are in their 30's with families, but still flitting between 2yr/3yr contracts. Many of them are worried that unless they get a long term contract, i.e. a lectureship, because of the amount of experience they have it will soon be too expensive to keep employing them as post-docs and so they end up without many career options! I can't think of any other career quite like this?
  • r.mac_2
    r.mac_2 Posts: 4,746 Forumite
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    I am in exactly the same position as the daughter in Martin's blog entry. I am going to uni to study law - but this is a second degree for me.

    I don't expect a grant, but there is limited funds for me to borrow at a decent rate. My fees are £7000 per annum alone, for three years. I am entitled to a student loan of max £4000. I ahve a mortgage ( I am lucky that it is the same cost to buy as it is to rent), food, bills, books and living expenses.

    As my course is full-time, I only have a limited amount of time in which to work.

    a career development loan isn't available to me as i am entitled to the student loan and if I take out a personal loan i have to start paying it back immediately - which I can't afford either.

    In the end I am very lucky and my parents have agreed to help by paying a part of my fees - but this only goes a small way to fill what seems like an endless pit.

    Why should a group of individuals who are talented enough to do post grads and other further education courses be penalised fianncially. Many people would argue that as a lawyer I will earn a lot more money - which I can sympathise with, but only to a point as I could end up working for a government department or similar which doesn't pay a big salary. But what about others that are studying for something that doesn't have a 'financial' incentive at the end?
    aless02 wrote: »
    r.mac, you are so wise and wonderful, that post was lovely and so insightful!
    I can't promise that all my replies will illicit this response :p
  • Bargain_Claire
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    Too right pcyusw, I totally agree. Whilst it seems that everyone agrees that we need more scientists, and we are lucky enough to get our fees paid and recieve a tax-free stipend for three years, your PhD years may well be the best you can hope for in terms of stability and spare cash! Stipends are getting larger (the new students now are often getting £5k more a year than I did) but post-doc pay remains a pittance and benefits are poor (one of my friends has recently been completely screwed over on maternity issues). This in addition to the insecurity of working on 1 or 2 year contracts which will probably result in you having to move all over the place has chased me away from university research. Nearing 26 I feel like I would like to have a little bit of security to settle down with.

    However, don't be too disheartened - look heard enough and you'll get a job you're happy with. I'm starting work doing similar work to that I would be in a university soon in an institution that offers excellent stability and prospects. Chin up guys!
  • lady_lucan
    lady_lucan Posts: 120 Forumite
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    I think the situation for postgraduates in the UK is a joke. If there is continued underinvestment in academic research, and R&D more generally, across ALL disciplines, this country will tumble from the middle, to the bottom of the global development table, having been top back in mid-century.

    I don't happen to believe science PhDs are a special case, somehow more deserving of the brunt of the funding. We simply don't have the quality of hospitals or factories to use these technologies for the public good in the UK. In any case, a large amount of intellectual and financial 'hand-holding' already pertains in science faculties which is unheard of in other departments. The top two exports in this country are aerospace and popular music, so following the 'deserving' argument to its logical conclusion would demand a focus on these. Which would of course be daft.

    What I would advocate is an across-the-board academic apprenticeship, somewhat like the new style PhDs, with mandatory scholarship, high quality training, publishing and teaching experience - a stark contrast to my own PhD 'scholarship', which was a disguised minimum wage job teaching those pesky undergraduates faculty find so tedious, and a grand total of 4 supervision meetings.

    Quality control seems all but absent in PhD supervision, and there is a strong argument for saying, unless you absolutely need to rubber-stamp your knowledge for vocational reasons - eg law, or being part of a scientific research team (looking forward to a footnote in the team leader's publishing glory) - then the only reason to do one is for personal interest, as a PhD can actually prejudice your chances of a standard graduate job. (Bosses appear to fear PhDs, regard them as smartarses and/or out of touch).

    If you want to stay in academia, be prepared to kiss a lot of !!!!!!, and spend the brunt of your thesis reflecting your supervisor's glory. I wouldn't pay 6K a year + living expenses for that, frankly.

    And as for raising money to pay to be a postgrad - I firmly believe that if you're having to pay your own fees, you're not enough of a contender to be there.
  • r.mac_2
    r.mac_2 Posts: 4,746 Forumite
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    lady_lucan wrote:

    And as for raising money to pay to be a postgrad - I firmly believe that if you're having to pay your own fees, you're not enough of a contender to be there.

    I take exception to your final comment. NO individual studying for a law converstion degree in Scotland recieves sponsorship. Sponsorship is only an option for the LPC, which is the third (optional) year of study. Therefore this is not a reflection on my ability. I really do not feel that you can generalise in this manner.

    r.mac
    aless02 wrote: »
    r.mac, you are so wise and wonderful, that post was lovely and so insightful!
    I can't promise that all my replies will illicit this response :p
  • reen_3
    reen_3 Posts: 81 Forumite
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    two things...

    firstly, those who think that the govt should be paying for you to study should take a moment and consider who is actually paying for your self-improvement. it's not the govt but the TAXPAYER. the majority of people paying taxes did not and will not receive a higher education at all, much less a postgrad. why should the guy working at mcdonald's pay for you to study? funds are limited, and i would much rather what little there is go into schools rather than unis. no one should be prevented from studying by financial problems. uni should cost what it costs (rather than the lousy £3k that the govt will let them charge next year), but no money should be taken upfront. that's how they do it in australia, and it works a whole lot better than here. the next time you hear the lib dems calling for the elemination of uni fees, just remember who benefits (the middle classes, who make up the majority of uni students) and who pays (everyone, including all those who do not go to uni). ....that being said, i agree that certain degrees (such as nursing) should be subsidized to encourage higher enrollment.

    the second comment is for those who say that they study full time and have little time to work. please. i didn't do a fluff degree, nor did i attend a particularly easy uni (dear martin's alma matter, i believe), and yet i found plently of time to work. on the other hand, i've been in the student bar on campus exactly 2 times during my 3 years. there's nothing wrong with drinking, going out and having a good time while at uni, but if you cannot afford it, i don't want to pay for you to do it. there are 168 hours in a week. budget.
  • lady_lucan
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    r mac - I refer you back to an earlier part of my post, where I say that a law postgrad is a kind of 'rubber-stamping', a hoop to be jumped through. Paying your own fees as a lawyer should be the only way AFAIC because lawyers contribute no net gain to the UK public purse - even those who do Legal Aid work simply demand their exorbitant fee from the taxpayer rather than the client direct, which is why it is so hard to get LA.

    reen - yes, the taxpayer is paying, and yes , money should be put aside to develop the best across the board that the UK has to offer, with a post-scholarship occupational tie-in to prevent the graduate fleeing to the private sector or abroad. Your suggestion of only providing subsidised education up to secondary level neglects the fact that we need instructors, leaders, too. In any case, the vast amount of secondary spending goes on kids with learning difficulties/behaviour problems, not the brightest, which seems deeply flawed to me. The Aussie system is far from foolproof - they have a chronic shortage of various trades and professions, and not really the world-class science, arts or medicine to justify their methods.

    The answer is really quite simple. Students of limited means, of whatever age, who are the brightest of the bunch, should receive state funding. They are an asset to this country and should be able to focus on their talents, rather than giving a large proportion of their time and energy to a dead-end job just to live. And everyone, bright or not, should have the right and the time to socialise occasionally and sample a bit of the world, rather than having to work two, three jobs on top of their research. This would go a long way to restoring status and value to postgraduate work, and quota funding should ensure that those we pay to develop, put something back into the country afterwards. If a postgrad wants to study simply to boost their own earning power, then they're on their own - after all, research is supposed to provide 'an original contribution to knowledge'. The best deserve the best, and universities need to be more academically ruthless and less money-grabbing. The rest will follow.
  • jojo2004
    jojo2004 Posts: 572 Forumite
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    reen wrote:

    firstly, those who think that the govt should be paying for you to study should take a moment and consider who is actually paying for your self-improvement.
    QUOTE]
    That's what taxes are for. Taxes pay for all sorts of things, like maintaining a health service (!) for people to use IF THEY NEED IT. If you don't use it, doesn't mean you don't have to pay for it. You are paying for the opportunity to use it. If you don't happen to use the opportunity for postgrad funding, doesn't mean others should be denied the chance to use it. And as for the comment that certain postgrad courses should be funded/subsidised, this is total madness. If that's the case, you are effectively saying that certain degrees are inherently more valuable, and I'd like to see you prove that. The old cliche that medical/scientific research is more important than research in the arts is ridiculous. Short-term, yes, I would agree that curing cancer would be more useful than discovering an unknown Canaletto, but once you've cured cancer, maybe you'd like to visit an art gallery. The arts are seen as an easy option, and somehow superfluous to requirements, but as the Big Brother house shows - if you son't give people books or music, or art or drama, you get...Kinga.
    xx
    :grin:If at first you don't succeed, then sky-diving isn't for you
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