Increasing Access to Postgraduate Study

“It’s a great effort by Birkbeck and donors to support students during these uncertain times. Knowing that the bursary wasn’t just given to a select few but distributed across the board was just an extra way to show us that Birkbeck doesn’t just talk the talk; it genuinely cares about the wellbeing & development of every single one of its students.”  – MSc Data Analytics Student

In September 2020, philanthropic support from alumni and friends enabled Birkbeck to launch a new stream of student funding designed to increase access to postgraduate study. Over 400 students applied for the initial fifteen scholarships. Dr Ian Harrison, one of the Assistant Deans for Access and Engagement involved in the selection panel, commented, “I found this an incredibly humbling process. Reading people’s stories, the challenges they have faced and overcome, so many deserve the opportunity afforded by the Access to Postgraduate Scholarships.”

The calibre of applicants and the evident need for postgraduate scholarships inspired the Goldman Sachs & Birkbeck Diversity Fund and the Jongen Family Charitable Trust to generously support Birkbeck. This flexible philanthropic funding played a vital role in the College being able to respond to the pressing needs of our students, which amplified as the pandemic continued. In February, the Student Funding Administration Team quickly expanded the programme to almost 300 additional postgraduate students.

Professor Rosie Cox, Strategic Lead for Access to Postgraduate Study, commented that “Master’s degrees are playing an increasingly important role in helping graduates navigate competitive job markets as well as being an important step to diversifying the academic pipeline. Yet so many students face barriers to accessing further study, especially those from underrepresented backgrounds. This funding alongside our widening access work has been an important step not only in creating pathways to postgraduate study but ensuring students have the resources needed to succeed during their course.”

The Access to Postgraduate scheme is one of several student support packages that have been introduced or increased thanks to the generosity of the Birkbeck community and investment from the College. Philanthropy, coupled with the Student Funding Administration Team’s responsiveness and ingenuity, has meant that Birkbeck has expanded its bursary offering, responded to increased need for hardship funding and established an Access to Digital Learning fund.

For many of the recipients, the Access to Postgraduate funding has brought a sense of financial freedom, given an important boost of confidence and shown they are part of a community that will support them to succeed.

‘I cannot express how much this support means to me. It makes me want to achieve more than I ever thought possible, and I am so grateful for the opportunities ahead. I hope one day soon I can do the same for someone else.’ – MA in Text and Performance student.