Political ambition

Q. I am stuck in a rut of a dilemma concerning postgraduate study. I'm in my penultimate year of a health science degree, which I haven't particularly enjoyed, and it's a career path that doesn't sway much interest with me. I'm thinking of pursuing a Masters in either economics/finance or politics. My ideal destination would be Manchester. Are there Masters for undergraduates from a different academic background and where do I raise the finance? I come from a single parent, low income, ethnic minority background and my undergraduate course is being funded by my local education authority. I do have a part-time job, mainly to supplement my mother. I have taken maximum student loan allowance from Student Loans Company and do not wish to fall further into debt.

A. There are plenty of Masters in these areas, including courses at Manchester Metropolitan and Manchester University, although most do ask for a relevant first degree. However, the University of Salford has an MSc in financial services management for which you don't need a finance degree.

But funding is a major problem and many UK postgraduate students have to go the self-fund route, borrowing money from friends, family or the bank. Ask admission staff how previous students have financed their studies; in the case of Salford, most finance students work part-time during their full-time course. Some universities offer scholarships or awards, although not necessarily covering the full cost of study and living, others have crisis or hardship funding. Search the Prospects site ( www.prospects.ac.uk/links/Pgdbase) for courses, which often include reference to sources of funding and entry criteria. Funding information from the Research Councils can be found on www.rcuk.ac.uk and Career Development Loans on www.lifelonglearning.co.uk/cdl.

You could also consider doing a course part-time or via distance learning and study while you work. Or you could return to studying after working for a while or find an employer who would sponsor you.

Film search

Q. I have a degree in photography and want to do a postgraduate course on film photography (i.e. stills for films). Is there a special course for this? How competitive is it, is it all young people or can those with arthritis in their knees do it too? And does the BBC offer a course in it?

A. I would have advised you to try Skillset, the Sector Skills Council for the Audio-Visual Industries, as in theory they should be able to help. But a 20-minute call to their advice line (08080 300 900) drew a blank, as they had no information on stills photography courses.

However, they have produced a directory of media courses, including film and photography, along with the British Film Institute. The BFI doesn't know of a specific course either. But there are plenty of general photography and film studies courses. The University College for the Creative Arts, with five locations in South-east England ( www.kiad.ac.uk), has several general courses. The research led MA in artists' film, video and photography offered at Maidstone (although this doesn't cover stills for films).

The BBC runs short training courses for outsiders ( www.bbctraining.com) such as camera and editing skills, but there are none on stills photography. But they do have a directory of stills photographers and you could ask how they got into the field. Most stills photographers have a background in general photography and work their way up through photography and the film industry. Some start out as commercial, press or sports photographers and build up their clients. Go to www.prospects.ac.uk/links/occupations for information regarding the main breeds of photographers, as well as tips for entry. While this isn't necessarily a young industry, the BFI advises that you need to be "robust" and warns that it is a difficult business to break into.

Advisers: Deborah Fowlis and Laura Hooke careers consultant at Graduate Prospects