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Postgraduate queries



I’m 56, have a Masters degree in history and would love to do a PhD, either full-time or part-time. Do you know of any sources of funding for people of my age?

There are a variety of pots of money available for PhD students, but the competition is fierce, and you probably won’t know if you qualify for them until you’re well

down the track of applying for your PhD place. However, university admissions services and academic departments, are well tuned-in to the funding opportunities, so they will help you with your search.

The first category is subject related. The Arts & Humanities Research Council (ahrc.ac.uk) and the Economic and Social Research Council (esrc.ac.uk) both support postgraduate students in historyrelated areas, always administered through universities.

There are also scores of special interest organisations, societies and trusts that give smaller awards for research in their specific areas. You may also be able, partially, to pay your way at your chosen university by doing some teaching, or other assistance, within your academic department. Much of all of this depends on how highly the universities rate your previous academic track record, and value the potential of having you enrich the research pool within their faculties.

For more generic funding advice, it pays to have a look at the postgraduate funding section at prospects.ac.uk.

I’m interested in the science behind what we eat, and its link to public health. Are there are postgraduate avenues I could go down to learn more? I have a first degree in chemistry.

There are numerous postgraduate courses in the market which touch on this link, both in a developed and developing world context. And, in almost all cases, these courses

are rooted in science, so your chemistry degree will stand you in good stead. At this stage, though, you probably need to pare down your search to a specific area of interest. For example, are you interested in how food is manufactured and the role of the industry in improving public health? Is your interest, on the other hand, closer to the field of education, namely contributing to the process of persuading people to change their eating habits to benefit their own health? Do you see your working life spent mainly in a laboratory alongside other scientists, or out in the community transferring your knowledge to people not steeped in the science?  Answering these questions will help you start to narrow down a large field of potential courses.

I’ve just done a management degree and now want to set up my own business, but don’t know whether to do a Masters course first.

There’s no straight answer, I’m afraid. But here are some thoughts that might help you to make up your own mind. First, given that you obviously have the  entrepreneurial gene, you should probably restrict your search to Masters courses that have the potential to feed and fire that impulse. Many such courses have the word “entrepreneur” in their title or among the lists of modules to choose from. Then you’ll need to weigh up whether you think the time and money spent on such a course will pay off in the short to medium term when you start your own enterprise. On the other hand, does your business idea have a “seize the moment” feel to it? Is there a danger that, 12 months down the line, you’ll have missed the boat, and lost ground to competitors? In that case, you might put further study on hold. You can always go back to a course later in life, after all!


Send your queries to Steve McCormack at steve.mcc@virginmedia.com