Postgrad Queries: 'I'm desperate – how can I fund my PhD in stem cell research?'

Hard cell

Q. Later this year I'm starting a doctorate in stem cell research, but I have been rejected for a scholarship by the Medical Research Council (MRC). My financial situation is fairly desperate – is it true that some charities offer funding to postgraduates?

A. First, the MRC is only one of seven research councils in the UK. Before giving up, you could also try the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, as this fits the subject of your proposed PhD.

However, most people who want to do a PhD do not apply for a studentship directly from the research councils. Instead, the awards are allocated to departments or PhD supervisors who then advertise for candidates. In your case, there might not have been enough to go around.

Before turning to charities, check if your chosen institution has its own PhD scholarships available. Usually these are allocated to departments, so it could be worth checking with your future supervisor. A searchable database of these scholarships can be found at

Charities and trusts do indeed offer funding for postgraduates. The big medical ones – such as the Wellcome Trust, Leverhulme Trust or British Heart Foundation – might all fund research into stem cells, but any awards would go directly to the relevant university departments. So double check if you haven't already.

There are also a number of smaller charities and trusts that you could apply to directly for funding. A list of medical and scientific charities can be found at the website of the Association of Medical Research Charities ( You can check if you are eligible for an award and see the amounts of money on offer.

Of course, smaller charities tend to give out smaller amounts than the large ones, so you'd be looking at a few hundred pounds rather than the £12,940 (outside London) currently offered by the MRC. Needless to say, you would be hard pushed to survive on such a pittance for the duration of a three or four-year PhD, which will be hard enough without having the added worry of not knowing where your next meal is coming from.

A word of warning: starting a PhD without full funding is a very dangerous decision, because if you do run out of money half way through it can be a horrible wrench to have to give up on the research you've worked so hard at. If you do find yourself without any cash as the start date approaches, it's worth considering deferring entry for a year.

Web development

Q. I'm looking to gain a postgraduate qualification in web design, and I've heard you can get funding through a Career Development Loan (CDL). Are these the same as undergraduate loans? How do I know if I am eligible for one, and how much will I receive?

A. Yes, you can obtain funding from a Career Development Loan for a wide range of postgraduate courses. The emphasis of the learning must be on enhancing skills directly relevant to your desired job: in this case, web design would surely qualify.

CDLs are not the same as undergraduate loans. For a start, they are not provided by the Student Loans Company, instead they are offered by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) and three high street banks: Barclays, the Co-operative Bank and the Royal Bank of Scotland.

The amounts of money you will receive also vary greatly. You can borrow £300-£8,000 for up to two years of study, or up to three years if your course includes a work placement year. The LSC will pay the interest on your loan while you are studying, and for one month after you graduate. Unfortunately, the banks ultimately decide who gets these loans, so expect your credit rating to be scrutinised. For Government information on CDLs, visit

Thanks to Nan Sherrard and Deborah Millan, careers consultants for Domino Careers ( Send your queries to Chris Green at

FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Primary KS2 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam