The fight to find funding

Should I start working as a lab technician? Can a philosophy graduate take a fine art MA?

I have a 2.1 degree in biology and want to start an MSc or graduate diploma. Unfortunately I cannot fund myself on a full-time course for two years at a cost of £6,000. I have written and e-mailed every funding authority I can find but have not heard back. It is now two years since I graduated and I feel like I am stuck in a rut in my full-time catering job. I know the only way to regain a sense of worth is to further my qualifications but with no financial backing - and a graduate diploma in audiology application gathering dust because I no longer have contacts at the university to give me references - I am bewildered. Should I apply for basic lab technician jobs, because they are science-related but not what I want from life, or persevere and get help?

If you can answer the question "what do you want from life?" the way forward may become clearer. What skills do you have, what interests or excites you? Is it money you want, or is it autonomy, potential for promotion, travel? Don't assume you can't get a decent job without an MSc, or that getting further qualifications is the only way to regain a sense of self worth.

While you are dismissive of the post of lab technician, it may be more attractive than you think. Take a look at www.jobs.ac.uk, key in the words "biology" and "technician" and you'll find an array of jobs (many requiring a degree and paying around £20,000) as well as research positions. A year or two of work experience could increase your chances of getting onto a popular MSc.

Although you graduated two years ago, there must still be contacts at your university to provide references - lecturers, a course organiser, a project supervisor. There will also be records of your exam results, projects and essays - which the audiology course organiser will want to know.

The reason you haven't heard from funding bodies is because you have to apply for the course you want to do first. Research councils make awards to university departments or research institutes, not directly to students. Check the research council websites to see which departments will get funding each year. For biology based courses see www.bbsrc.ac.uk or www.mrc.ac.uk. For audiology courses there is an NHS Clinical Scientist Scheme which awards funding.

And although you expect to pay £6,000 for a two year MSc, in fact most are just one year long with fees of around £3,000 (£1,500 a year part-time).

A stronger foundation

I want to study fine art at postgraduate level. However, I have a BA in English and philosophy and only O-level art, no art history or foundation course. I hope to skip a foundation course, as I know my interest is purely fine art. Is it possible for me to get onto a postgraduate course with this background?

The answer is probably no. To get on to an MA in fine art you really need an art degree, or at least a foundation year, because you need to show you have the skills and knowledge for an MA, usually gained through an appropriate degree.

While your philosophy background could be useful, many fine art MAs are practice based. Ask admissions tutors - for example at Chelsea and at Central St Martins colleges of art and design - what they are looking for and the answer is a strong portfolio. And unless you've been practising as an artist for several years you are unlikely to have a portfolio that's good enough.

You might have a slightly better chance getting onto a PGDip. You'll find students on this course without an art degree, although their qualifications do tend to be design related. But again, you will need a strong portfolio.

If you took the foundation route, this would give you the chance to develop skills and techniques, while building up the sort of work needed for an MA.

Advisers: Deborah Fowlis and Mike Cox, Graduate Prospects

Send your queries to Caitlin Davies at The Independent, Education Desk, Second Floor, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or e-mail to caitlind1@aol.com

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: At SThree, we like to be differe...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant Bristol

£18000 - £23000 per annum + + uncapped commission + benefits: SThree: Did you ...

SThree: Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + benefits + uncapped commission: SThree: Did you kn...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate / Junior Web Developer

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions