The significant cost of funding an MBA need not prevent you from studying. Liz Lightfoot explains the range of financial help available

When times are hard, people traditionally turn to education to give them an edge in the job market. But finding between £10,000 and £45,000 to pay course fees is even more of a challenge in a recession, when banks are wary of lending and there is less equity in property.

An MBA course can qualify for a professional and career development loan of between £300 and £10,000, which means the Government pays the interest, but only from registration until a month after the course finishes, leaving the full capital to be repaid with interest.

This year more than ever it's worth looking into the various grants available from charities and organisations in different sectors, as well as from the colleges themselves. Mindful of the economic circumstances and keen to expand into different areas, business schools are offering an unprecedented array of financial help for home and overseas students, on top of their existing schemes.

Cambridge University's Judge Business School has five full scholarships of up to £30,000 for its one-year MBA, funded by the Sainsbury family's Monument Trust and open to students from the charitable, voluntary or public sector. Cranfield School of Management in Bedfordshire has two full-fee scholarships for its two-year part-time or modular executive MBA open to leaders of voluntary sector organisations in Europe tackling poverty, disability or social exclusion.

High fliers who opt for marketing subjects as their main focus on a full-time MBA course at Cass Business School can apply for a £10,000 scholarship, to be decided on performance and a dissertation on a subject to be chosen by the sponsors, the Worshipful Company of Marketors. Meanwhile, Newcastle Business School at Northumbria University has a number of £1,000 bursaries granted on the strength of the application.

Colleges are also increasing the financial help available to overseas students, The Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School in Belgium is launching a new loan scheme, which will cover up to two-thirds of tuition costs – up to a maximum of slightly more than £15,000 – at an attractive interest rate and with the added bonus of repayments being deferred until six months after graduation. The loans must be repaid within seven years.

The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth is hoping to bring in more international students by offering them a new "institutional loan" restricted to people from overseas. "This programme significantly lowers the cost of borrowing from what was otherwise available," says Steve Lubrano, the assistant dean. There are no set-up costs and the variable rate is currently 9 per cent.

Students from four countries wanting to attend higher education institutions in Scotland can apply for one of 200 awards, each worth £2,000, towards the cost of a one-year Masters course. The Saltire Scholarship scheme for students from China, India, Canada and the USA is being managed by The British Council on behalf of the Scottish government. It will be piloted for two years before being reviewed. Entries have closed for 2009 and will re-open for 2010 in the middle of October.

A range of new awards for candidates in specific regions includes two for students from the Middle East, which will cover the full cost of the MBA programme at the University of Oxford's Saïd Business School. The successful candidate for the first will be a citizen of one of the 22 countries in the League of Arab Nations and will be able to demonstrate their ambition to serve their society. The second is for candidates skilled in Islamic finance and involves a short internship with the sponsoring bank.

The Judge Business School has two scholarships for talented Malaysian applicants who aspire to create a richer culture and greater nation, which is provided by companies in Malaysia. Cranfield is welcoming applications for its two scholarship awards for New Zealand Mãoris committed to empowering Mãori economic development.

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