Finding the funding to study for a masters degree is always a concern, particularly for students who have accrued large debts during their undergraduate years.

And a masters does not come cheap – the average cost of studying for one of the programmes that participated in the FT rankings is £7,300 ($11,633), before living costs are included.

Within that, the costs vary enormously. HEC Paris charges more than €20,000 ($29,251) for its programme, while some business school programmes are free of charge to local students – particularly in Scandinavian countries. But beware: the fees for international students may be much higher than for locals. However, financial help is available if you know where to look.

Institutional funding

Your chosen business school is the first place to look for funding. Scholarships, grants, awards and bursaries for students are not always openly advertised, so it is important to contact your school directly to ask.

Although one of the most expensive, HEC Paris is also one of the most generous schools in terms of financial aid. Some 40 per cent of the students received scholarships in 2008, and this figure will rise this year. The money comes from the school itself, the French government and the HEC Foundation, with over 50 partner companies. Funding is also available from companies such as Nomura and from the French embassy, which gives seven or eight scholarships a year to students from African countries.

The scholarships can be worth as much as €17,714 a year, says Richard Perrin, newly appointed development director for HEC’s masters programmes.

Nearly a third of the 170 students at Italy’s SDA Bocconi School of Management receive some kind of scholarship from the school, sponsored by a series of companies and foundations, says Markus Venzin, director of the MSc programme in international management.

At Esade Business School in Barcelona, where the course fees are €21,790, only 10 of its 180 masters students receive scholarships on the basis of their previous academic record, which account for 50-75 per cent of the fees. A further three receive scholarships on the basis of a business plan competition that is open to all admitted students, says Cristina Olabarria, Esade’s director of admissions.

Students on the Erasmus Mundus scheme are also eligible for scholarships.


Corporate sponsorship is another route and, if students complete internships as part of their degree, can be available for the latter part of their programme.

Students can be paid a stipend – sometimes even a full salary – during their internships, while some corporate sponsors will tie successful interns to the company by financially supporting them through the remainder of the masters programme.

Charities and trusts

Many charities and trusts provide financial support for postgraduates. A list of participating organisations in the UK is published annually as the Grants Register. Some of the funding on offer is specifically tailored for certain groups. Funds for Women Graduates, for example, offers grants of up to £1,500 to women who face an unforeseen financial crisis. Other types are extremely general and application is open to everyone.


Banks are your next port of call. Although business schools often organise loans for MBA students, masters students are usually left to their own devices. European banks are accustomed to supplying loans to students. At HEC Paris, for example, BNP Paribas is a regular supporter of students at the school. In the UK, students are eligible for a career development loan of up to £10,000, which is paid back after graduation.


While this is not for everybody, some part-time work may be beneficial, such as teaching or marking. One option (not for the faint-hearted) is to set up your own company. One student in France set up a small business during his gap year, which he continued during his masters degree. “The school supported me and teachers shared their expertise to back me up,” he says.

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