Funding a masters in management degree poses real issues for those students who do not come from an affluent background. While the full-time courses do not yet command the kinds of fees charged for an MBA, it is still common to see fees in excess of €25,000 at some continental European institutions and courses can cost far in excess of that in the US.

In addition, unlike when studying for an MBA, students typically come to a MiM course with little or no work experience or personal savings behind them. Indeed, they are also often burdened with an undergraduate degree loan.

The good news is that there are a number of solutions on offer. Students can research scholarships from their target institutions or from well-established philanthropic organisations. Many students can get loans or grants from their own governments. Some students who have already secured employment or the offer of employment might be able to get corporate sponsorship from their future employer. And finally, there are the old fashioned sources: a personal bank loan or money earned from working yourself.

Each school has access to different loans and scholarships and some can offer considerable help should students need it.

Start early

The important thing for all students seeking funding is to start early, and to see what resources their school has, according to Valentín Cortés, director of financial aid at IE business school in Madrid. “Of course if you try to do things in one month, it’s going to be very difficult. Ideally, we would would like one year. Sadly a candidate normally comes to us four months before the start of their programme”. He says 50 per cent of students on the MiM programme at IE receive some kind of funding. Similarly, at Edhec Business School in France, there are bursaries and scholarships available but students have to apply up to a year before their MiM is due to start.

Scholarships and bursaries

Many schools offer scholarships or bursaries. Some are available on a means-tested basis, but most schools appear to reserve scholarships to assist candidates whom they particularly want to attract. For example, IE has scholarships that cover up to 30 per cent of fees for particularly high-flying candudates. Even if a student is not top scoring, it is possible to find other schools, such as London Business School, that offer scholarships favouring certain groups such as women, or those that have previously been in the armed services, for example.

At Edhec, merit based scholarships are also available for the strongest candidates and can cover up to 40 per cent of fees. To reliably access these scholarships applicants should apply by March for September entry. Should students also want to apply for the EIFFEL French government bursary, which French business schools can apply for on behalf of high-achieving international candidates, students should put in their application before December. The award pays €1,200 a month. Edhec also offers loans for small amounts of money to students and can consider reducing fees by up to 10 per cent.

“There are no exact rules. We tend to provide assistance on a very personal basis,” an Edhec spokesperson said.

At Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, one of the few US schools to offer a masters in management programme, outstanding students can also apply for a merit-based award which can cover anything from $10,000 to the full cost of the $47,000 tuition fees.

“The majority of our students are self-funded, but between a quarter and third receive some kind of scholarship,” explains Liz Riley Hargrove, associate dean for admissions at Fuqua.

Government-backed loans and grants

It is often possible to apply for government-backed loans or grants from a student’s home country to cover MiM programmes. Even if studying abroad, US students can apply through Sallie Mae, the US student finance group, which offers both government-backed loans and private loans to graduate students. Students from the United Arab Emirates get 100 per cent of their study funded by the state, according to Mr Cortés. Japan, he says, is also generous to its nationals.

Sometimes it is possible to approach more than one state source. Mr Cortés cites one example of a Chinese national who was living in the US. The student was able to access Chinese state funding as well as a loan from Sallie Mae. Schools with proactive financial aid departments, such as IE, collect data on how alumni funded their studies and can provide that information to prospective students applying from the same countries. Applicants to French business schools can also apply to French embassies in their home countries for masters scholarships.

Corporate sponsorship

Even if you have yet to secure a job or a job offer, some schools have connections with corporate sponsors who might offer means-related support or specific support for those from particular geographical areas, such as the Santander scholarships for postgraduate study at Cass Business School which are reserved for those from an Ibero-American background.

Commercial loans

Commercial loans comprise an important source of student loans. Banks will often lend directly to students particularly if loan applications are backed by additional evidence from the schools. IE, for example, can provide information to a potential lender on what sort of jobs and salaries have been achieved by alumni from similar backgrounds. It helps if students can also show evidence of additional funding sources, for example a loan from parents and a partial scholarship from an institution or philanthropic organisation. Knowing that they are not the sole source of finance can encourage a bank to participate.

Students are usually advised to apply to banks in their home countries as banks are sometimes reluctant to lend to overseas students due to concerns about defaults, but this too is changing, according to Mr Cortés. He says IE has made direct contact with banks and has three just waiting to provide finance to students recommended by the school. The students benefit from low interest rates (Spanish banks are offering loans at Euribor plus 3 per cent to Spanish nationals and Euribor plus 5 per cent for overseas students – a very attractive rate if you compare to loans on offer in Russia, for example, where interest rates can be as high as 25 per cent, according to Mr Cortés). Banks also gain from the relationship by gaining access to clients who are going to be financially extremely productive.

“There’s a willingness to invest in education, so long as it is a proper education,” explains Mr Cortés.

The increasing availability of commercial rather than charitable sources is also proving to be popular with students, he reports. Instead of worrying about how to hide their assets so that they are eligible for means-tested assistance, students are increasingly keen to present themselves as good investments for banks.

“They like it and banks like it,” says Mr Cortés.

Edhec reports less involvement in helping students gain personal loans, but say they had been approached by financial institutions seeking confirmation that a particular student has been accepted on a course.

At Fuqua, Ms Riley Hargrove says US students can access federal loans, but the school has joined forces with an external credit union to offer loans to international students which do not need to be co-signed by a US citizen, unlike most such loans offered in the US.

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