More and more students choose to continue their avenues of study after completing their undergraduate degrees. While there have always been obstacles to postgraduate study, the ongoing cost-of-living crisis is having a particular impact on many mature students, and I am one of them.

Postgraduate study is not the get-out-of-work card many think. In fact, rising costs in the UK are putting many postgraduates in a difficult position of having to find sources of income to fund their studies.

Here are some of the top barriers to living and studying in the UK for those who are considering postgraduate degrees.

Language Obstacles

The UK receives a high number of international students. In 2020-21 over 290,000 postgraduate students enrolled in UK universities. Many of them come from non-EU countries such as India, Nigeria and Pakistan. One obstacle these students face is the language barrier. While support is available in the form of module reps, course reps, and lead school or department reps on behalf of your university, studying in a foreign language is never easy. At times, the linguistic barrier can affect your academic performance, especially when written assessment is a core feature of your subject. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to make sure you have a good level of written and spoken English before committing yourself to postgraduate study in the UK.

Rising Cost of Living

The UK is officially in a cost-of-living crisis. Postgraduate funding at most levels is not sustainable for the average student to live off. The maximum loan available to a home postgraduate student doing a Masters is between £11,000 and £12,000. Postgraduates do not receive a separate loan for living expenses. Rather, the Master’s Loan, which is given in three instalments, is supposed to cover your academic and everyday expenses. Andie Riches, a postgraduate research student at Anglia Ruskin University, shares some hints and tips for postgraduates. These include using discount sites such as Totum, StudentBeans and Unidays to help manage everyday costs. Postgraduates aged between 26 and 30 are eligible for the 26 to 30 railcard to help lighten the costs of travel.

Staying Mentally Sane

Having come out of a global pandemic, it’s perfectly normal to feel worn down and drained of energy. This can be even worse for postgraduates. Unlike undergraduate students who usually have family support or budding professionals with regular incomes to cushion any vicissitudes, the postgraduate student falls somewhere in between. If you’re in that limbo area, the first course of action is to focus on your well-being, exercise regularly, and talk about your problems with someone you trust. Refusing to dwell on the negatives is equally important. Remember that the future can still be bright even if there are many obstacles in your path.

A Housing Conundrum

The UK’s housing shortage has been well documented. This of course applies equally to students looking for affordable accommodation during their period of study. One solution is student housing. Many first-time postgraduate students from UWE Bristol live in either Cheltenham, Gloucester or Newport student accommodation where single en-suite rooms cost between £4,902 and £5,461 per academic year (that’s 43 weeks). This is still not cheap, of course, but is usually a better option to private renting.

The lack of housing security carries other issues for students. Daily commuting to and from the university campus can disrupt learning and interfere with forming friendship groups by consuming valuable time. Anyone who has ever lived off campus will know that student life in non-student areas can be isolating and make working part-time difficult.

As part of the government’s Renters’ Reform Bill, landlords will not be able to evict tenants without due cause. Tenants, for their part, will need to give landlords two months’ notice before moving out to ensure a property does not sit vacant for an extended period. The proposed bill has created some tension, with student renters in decline. One way, however, in which some students are combating the housing issue is by taking courses nearer to home. After all, paying rent to your parents rather than a university hall or private landlord can be a much better option.

Unite Students is one accommodation company where a studio rental in London can set you back £360 per week at Arbour House, near Angel Islington. In Newcastle, the same company are charging £125 per week for an en-suite in Manor Bank. These eye-watering costs alone are enough to put many students off postgraduate study.

Navigating your way as a postgraduate is not easy. A willingness to make a few sensible compromises where possible and developing a firm mental armour will serve you well. As for the rest, it’s a case of being frugal and making sure that a postgraduate degree is really for you that will make a difference in the long run.

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