How can I pay for Oxford's Mst. in creative writing?
July 18, 2006 7:31 PM   Subscribe

Is there any way for me to fund Oxford's Mst. course in creative writing? Or will I need to suck it up and decline their offer?

I'm an American, and I've been accepted in Oxford's Mst. course in creative writing (outlined here). The total annual fee is 4,890 GBP. Estimated additional living expenses are 9,250 GBP per year. It's a two year programme.

For a variety of reasons, this is my top-choice graduate-level course in creative writing; as they're not especially relevent to this question, I'll leave them aside. Suffice it to say that I'd be thrilled to accept their offer if I can.

My problem is that I don't see how I can possibly fund my study. I only have a few thousand dollars in savings, and that isn't likely to change any time soon.

I am happy to take out substantial loans, and to send out as many applications as possible for grants or scholarships. The programme website, linked above, lists a few bursaries and grants, but I am only eligible for one of them, and it's a very small offer.

I am a bit apprehensive about contacting the programme head directly, but I plan to do that tomorrow. Apart from pleading my case to Oxford, and maybe requesting a year's deferral, are there any other venues open to me to apply for loans/grants? The programme's webpage links to, which I'm scouring. Anything else out there?

Thank you very much!
posted by scarylarry to Education (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Call Sallie Mae, they loaned me the money to do a masters in the UK and have been fine to deal with ever since, reasonably interest rate etc. You may need a co-signer.

There are also federal loans available for studying abroad but I think you're past the deadline for this fall.

I will warn you that getting the money from the loaner to the college to you takes about 3 months (seriously) but most UK colleges are used to dealing with it so just call them and get all the necessary paperwork set up asap. My college received the entire amount, took out their fees and cut me a check for the remainder at a VERY reasonable exchange rate. 7 weeks after I arrived but still... it was pretty easy.
posted by fshgrl at 7:45 PM on July 18, 2006

Best answer: Am I correct in that for year #1 the actual residency required is only 12 days? Slightly longer in year 2?

By all means, you should talk to the school. But in this day and age of the internet -- not to mention cheap flights to London -- why not work in the U.S. and periodically jet over for maybe a week at a clip. That's a lot cheaper than around $25,000 to live there.
posted by bim at 7:55 PM on July 18, 2006

Hmmm...if the cost would still be $25,000 regardless of where you live, at least you could easily find work here to raise some funds.
posted by bim at 7:59 PM on July 18, 2006

Response by poster: Bim, I think you're onto something so obvious that I hadn't even considered it. Consider my had slapped against the desk. I'll run this by the director tomorrow; don't see that it would be a problem, so long as I am able to attend all the retreats.
posted by scarylarry at 8:24 PM on July 18, 2006

Response by poster: *Should be 'Consider my head...' Brain took a pounding on that one.
posted by scarylarry at 8:25 PM on July 18, 2006

Looks like there is a whole heap of time for working out here...

Can I ask, what other courses did you look into in the UK and what draws you to Oxford the most? What is your past experience?

I only ask because I plan to be applying for similar courses next year (starting september 2007). I am British and will be living in the UK then so my choices will be wide and varied. Any hints you have would be amazing...
posted by 0bvious at 9:35 PM on July 18, 2006

Response by poster: Obvious, I've sent a rather unwieldy e-mail to the address listed on your profile, attempting to answer your questions. Hope I came close.
posted by scarylarry at 11:44 PM on July 18, 2006

Really? I didn't receive it, but thanks a lot. Please try again, or use this address instead : danrourke at bigfoot dot com
posted by 0bvious at 12:37 AM on July 19, 2006

Sorry. Got it. Nice one. Onwards...
posted by 0bvious at 12:50 AM on July 19, 2006

Best answer: Commuting transatlantically would mean giving up most of the value of your program, which I imagine would the interaction with the other students. If your program does not have this interaction (and constant workshops, etc), then it does not sound like it would be a very good masters in creative writing (just saying this as someone who was in a creative writing program).

Looking at the link, it seems this program doesn't involve "high contact hours", no matter what the website says. The undergraduate program I was in had weekly 3 hour classes. I realise this is suposed to be a more advanced level, but once every three months for just three days seems very low contact; that's extremely little time to do some serious reading and critiquing of each other's work, let alone any instruction (to the extent that you wish it at that level, though I have to wonder why go to a tuitioned program if you didn't want instruction, except for access to workshops and critiques).

Perhaps there are more workshops unofficially, organised by students. Certainly, humanities research students in the UK go to optional weekly seminars (to hear papers), which are a big part of their development, even though their actual required class time is nil.

I don't know what you are really looking for in a program, but I guess I would just say that maybe you should talk to someone in the program right now before taking the very drastic measure of basically making it distance learning. I'm just afraid you will end up paying a high tuition, but not receiving what you are looking for. You also would be missing out on the library access, and the experience of living in another country, which is very enriching.

As for funding (I am married to a non-British resident currently attending another British university): foreign student funding for non-research degrees is extremely hard to find; student loans from the US government might be your best bet. But check out whether you might be allowed to work in the UK - I don't know what the visa rules are. I've known international students to work here, though they may be EU citizens.

Also, their estimate on living costs depends on where you live - do you have access to any subsidized college housing? Will you even be a college? (If you aren't in a college, that's not good - non-college people at Oxbridge get very little respect. Trust me, I am one. Part-timers don't have it that easy either.)

Actually - you don't say what country you are from. That makes a big difference in both your funding applications and your visa possibilities. I think there is actually more funding to send Americans than Canadians, but the Commonwealth people can sometimes qualify for working visas (such as the working holiday visa program - but I don't know if you are allowed to be a student under that, and it's not 2 years).
posted by jb at 3:09 AM on July 19, 2006

Oxford will probably have a dept that can provide information on possible sources of funding. Start with their careers dept and go from there.
posted by biffa at 4:22 AM on July 19, 2006

Glad to help out Larry. Antime. Let me know if they're handing out about $25,000 for free. Maybe I'll sign up too. I guess there is such a thing as a free lunch!!!

Or alternatively you wind up in hock to your eyeballs with no way to pay off the debt.
posted by bim at 4:25 AM on July 19, 2006

Oh yeah. I taught the whole time I was in grad school. Sometimes it got very time consuming. But hey, it was work and it paid the bills.

I'd love to lay around London and think deep thoughts -- for free.
posted by bim at 4:31 AM on July 19, 2006

Don't be too quick to pass by jb's advice:

Commuting transatlantically would mean giving up most of the value of your program, which I imagine would the interaction with the other students.

Based on my own experience, I agree wholeheartedly.
posted by richardhay at 5:39 AM on July 19, 2006

Best answer: As someone who has a few connections to the college that runs Rewley House (where your course would run), I'll say that jb has it right-- maximize the amount of time you spend in Oxford and you'll get much more out of the program that you would otherwise.

For part-time courses, there is substantially less on-site interaction than there is with a full-time course, and the people at Kellogg College (where you'd most likely affiliate) are very friendly and generous people. You'd do well to meet lots of people and make friends as part of your education, and the only way you'll do that is to live there at least part of the time, go to lectures, join clubs, etc. The postgraduate experience at Oxford has a huge amount to offer outside of courses and workshops, so take advantage of it as much as you can.

You're not eligible for an ORS award, which would lower your fees to the amount paid by an EU resident, but there may still be pockets of money you can tap into through Oxford. I will say, however, that overseas Master's students are a big financial boon to UK universities, so your best chance at finding funding may be in the US, rather than in the UK.

Send me an e-mail if you want to chat more.
posted by yellowcandy at 8:34 AM on July 19, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone, for your answers! It's given me a lot more ideas, not to mention perspective.

fshgrl, I've got an application started for a Sallie Mae loan.

bim, grand idea. I hope it didn't sound as though I expected Oxford to give or loan me *anything close* to $25,000; I emphatically do not. Really, in contacting them, I'm primarily hoping to defer until 2007. Not sure how they'll respond given the competitiveness of the course.

jb, I've considered and am still considering your point of view here. It's not ideal at all for me not to live in Oxford, but I'm trying to find a compromise that will allow me to do the course at all. As I won't be able to work if I live in the UK, it's looking like that's not an option... The next best thing would be for me to live in the US and commute transatlantically. That feels quite luxuriant to me, but it's the only feasible compromise I've come up with...
posted by scarylarry at 11:12 AM on July 19, 2006

I think you may be able to work - from this site of advice for international students in the uk:

"Most students on courses of more than 6 months will be given a passport sticker that allows them to work part-time during the term (up to 20 hours a week) and full-time during the vacations. However, for immigration, you must be able to show that you can afford to study and live in the UK without needing to work. You must be able to show other sources of funding apart from your part-time work. For further information from UKCOSA about this topic, download the Guidance Note, 'Working in the UK during your studies'."

It doesn't specify full or part-time - it would be worth it to call the British consulate for that.
posted by jb at 3:35 PM on July 19, 2006

There is something that worries me a bit. I've had some recent experience with the British university system, and taught masters are a new thing here, and there are some unscrupulous programs which exist largely to get tuition funds from overseas students. My husband (a current overseas graduate student in the UK) says the way that the universities put it is to "get money out of rich Americans". (I think that kind of attitude is horrible, and not just because I am a North American who once dreamed of going to graduate school in Britain.)

I have no idea if this program is anything like that - I know nothing about it. You said that you had reason to prefer this program. I guess I would just say that it helps to be a bit wary, even from good universities, and to make sure the program will provide what you need.
posted by jb at 3:47 PM on July 19, 2006

No, jb, the Department for Continuing Education is superb, and all the programs run through it are vetted by the Oxford University system. I can't speak to the quality of other taught Masters programs at other UK universities, but I have a lot of experience with taught courses at Oxford, and I can attest to the attention paid to maintaining high quality. Moreover, the Research Assessment includes these taught courses, so it's in a high-scoring university's best interests to maximize the quality of their part-time offerings, and OU does this very, very well.
posted by yellowcandy at 11:36 AM on July 20, 2006

That's good to hear. I've heard not such great things about a certain part-time course at the other half of Oxbridge (not against the course, but that the department offering it won't honour it as a masters, even though it includes as much research as their other taught masters with a thesis - if you wish to progress to the PhD you have to do a second masters). But there have been a number of universities looking to work off their names and the British location (very appealing to North Americans like me, that's why I'm here studying); I remember them recruiting back in Canada.
posted by jb at 4:45 AM on July 23, 2006

Well, in this case, we're talking about a Creative Writing MSt, which would never lead to a PhD (DPhil), so the issue is moot.

But generally, PhD-connected MSc/MSt courses are methodology courses or fundamental theory courses, and other MSc/MSts from other departments won't necessarily exempt a person from doing that coursework. This happens in the US all the time, as well.
posted by yellowcandy at 10:41 PM on July 25, 2006

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