Postgraduate Queries: How easy is it for a foreign student to do a Masters in the UK? What about the funding?

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From Albania to the UK

From Albania to the UK

Q. I am a 32-year-old Albanian living in the UK. I completed a history degree in Albania for which I studied for four years at university. I would like some information and advice on how I could further my education in the UK by studying for a Masters degree in politics/history.

A. There are hundreds of postgraduate programmes in history and/or politics, so first you need to find the courses that interest you. Look at the database of postgraduate courses at www.prospects.ac.uk/links/Pgdbase, or ask the careers service at your local university for access to directories of courses.

Find out all you can about a course - content, entry requirements and cost - and talk to admissions contacts (by phone or e-mail) about these issues and any other questions you may have. Funding postgraduate courses is often tricky, so ask how previous students have managed - and you'll need to know whether payment is expected in full when the course starts or if it can be paid in instalments. If you have a specific career in mind, make sure any further study will help you along this route.

As your first degree was taken outside the UK, you will need to check with admissions tutors whether your qualifications meet the entry criteria. You will also have to provide documentation to prove you have the qualifications and an academic reference.

If you want to find out how your existing qualifications are viewed in comparison with UK qualifications, you could contact the UK National Recognition Information Centre at www.naric.org.uk or call 0870 9904088. You will need to send copies of your certificates and transcripts and the service costs £35.25.

Financing biotech studies

Q. I am an overseas student (from Hong Kong) who is studying for a BSc biology degree in the UK. I am undertaking a year's industrial placement at GlaxoSmithKline. I anticipate achieving a 2:1. If I wanted to pursue a postgraduate degree (PhD/MPhil) in molecular biology/biochemistry/biotechnology in the UK, will I stand a good chance of entry? What will be the funding support options for me?

A. With a 2:1 degree and strong industrial experience, your chances of pursuing a PhD or MPhil are relatively good. But you're going to have to do quite a bit of research for funding.

The hardest part of getting a PhD placement is finding the funding, especially for non-UK students. Most international students fund their UK postgraduate education through private means, and while funding is available through other sources, there is tough competition for scholarships and awards.

Even if you have undertaken undergraduate study in the UK, you do not qualify for funding on the same basis as a UK or European Economic Area student. The research council's studentships - one of the primary sources for postgraduate funding - are not available to international students.

You could start with the careers service at your present university, which should be able to give you information on sources of funding. These could include scholarships provided by your own education ministry, awards from charitable trusts, or scholarships from a UK university ( www.ukscholarshipsdatabase.britishcouncil.org).

The British government has a number of schemes for international students, such as the British Chevening Scholarships which have been offered in Hong Kong since 1996, with almost 400 students receiving awards since then. Contact the education affairs section at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, (020 7270 1500).

Another programme - the Overseas Research Students Awards Scheme - is more geared to research-based study and provides about 800 new awards a year.

Awards are made via UK institutions and you will need an unconditional or a conditional offer before making an application.

With thanks to Laura Hooke and Naeema Khan, careers consultants at Graduate Prospects; Janet Metcalfe, director of the UK GRAD Programme

caitlind1@aol.com

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