Funding and sponsorships for business courses: what to know

A look at the many options that can help students finance their business course

Prospective business students may need to look at multiple finance sources, including scholarships and bursaries as well as loans and employer sponsorship. Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Prospective business students may need to look at multiple finance sources, including scholarships and bursaries as well as loans and employer sponsorship. Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

 

If you want to do a top-notch business course or MBA, you’ll have to work harder to find funding because the fees charged can be far higher than for courses in other disciplines.

For example, a full-time MBA at UCD’s Smurfit Business School or TCD’s Business school will cost well over €30,000 a year, while similar programmes at DCU, NUIG or UCC will cost about €13,000-€14,000 a year. Even a reputable non-MBA programme, such as the MSc in marketing at TCD, can set you back €13,500.

This means you may need to look at multiple sources, including scholarships and bursaries as well as loans and employer sponsorship.

There are a number of well-known bursaries and scholarships available that has been used for any discipline at third level, such as the cross-Border North-South Postgraduate Scholarships (closing May 4th), the Government of Ireland scholarships or the Fullbright awards for study in the United States (both now closed).

Many universities and colleges have their own scholarship programmes that can go towards the cost of any degree programme, but there are quite a few ones aimed specifically at those wishing to study business-related programmes or MBAs.

Some of this year’s schemes (for 2017 entry) have already closed, but a few remain open for the next few weeks. Some of the scholarships are particularly generous, so naturally the competition to obtain them is tough.

High achievers

If you have a top academic record, there are several scholarships for high achievers, such as TCD’s 10 merit-based scholarships that pay 30 per cent of its MBA fees, or UCD’s Achiever scholarships that pay up to 100 per cent of MBA fees.

TCD and DCU have both launched scholarships for study at its business schools for high-achieving women in partnership with the 30% Club, which are aimed at helping to increase the representation of women on boards of management and executive management levels. TCD is offering one full scholarship and six bursaries worth €5,000 towards its MBA programmes, while DCU is offering a €10,000 bursary towards postgraduate study at its business school.

UCD’s Smurfit School offers a range of scholarships, albeit mostly for students undertaking its MBA programmes or PhDs, but also for some diploma courses and taught MSc courses, such as the MSc in business analytics (worth up to €13,350) or the MSc in aviation finance (worth up to €21,300), which both close for applications in June.

There is also the long-running Aspire programme offering 50 per cent funding for course fees for three MBA and nine MSc students for 2017. Closing date is April 29th.

At the University of Limerick, the Kemmy Business School offers a number of post-grad fee waivers of €2,000, while the NUIG’s JE Cairnes School of Business & Economics is planning to launch a scholarship for its executive MBA programme.

Scholarships and bursaries for institutions further down the scale tend to be less common and more general than just for business-related courses. Many Institutes of Technology offer sports sponsorships, for instance.

Some colleges will reward you financially if you can successfully refer prospective students from overseas to them. For instance, students at the Dublin Business School could get up to €500 if they refer such a person.

You may need to approach banks or credit unions for additional support. Some may have designated loans specifically for paying course fees. For instance, at Trinity College Dublin there is a scheme called Trinity Finance that offers loans to students to cover the annual €3,000 student contribution charge for undergraduate students. Charged at a rate of 7.5 per cent, the loan can be taken out each year for up to five years.

In general terms, credit union student loans are often cheaper, with some offering rates as low as 5 per cent.

If you are about to graduate but are set on doing such a course, you could consider targeting a job at a graduate employer that is known to pay for tuition fees for its staff

For postgraduate students, Bank of Ireland offers loans of up to €14,000 at a discounted rate of 5.6 per cent with flexible repayment options over a period of up to five years. Don’t forget that there is tax relief on postgraduate tuition fees.

You may consider working part time to fund your studies – research students, in particular, may be offered tutorial work, exam marking etc. But do remember that it is less easy to absorb part-time work into the demands of a taught postgraduate course than it may be on undergraduate courses.

Employer sponsorship

It’s definitely not as common as it used to be, but some employers, particularly multinationals, will still support staff to undertake some of the more expensive taught postgraduate business programmes, including MBAs and professional courses. If you are about to graduate but are set on doing such a course, you could consider targeting a job at a graduate employer that is known to pay for tuition fees for its staff, like Google, Salesforce, Microsoft, LinkedIn or Intel.

Intel, for instance, provides financial assistance (tuition reimbursement or prepaid graduate tuition) for eligible employees who are completing job-related degree programs, coursework, certificates, and foreign language training.

If a Microsoft employee wants to pursue further education, the firm will pay for two-thirds the cost of their course, be it a diploma, certificate or even a master’s.

However, it’s hard to find specific references to smaller or indigenous firms who provide formal tuition benefit or assistance schemes for postgraduate study. Staff at universities and colleges we contacted were not aware off-hand of any companies beyond the multinationals who pay full tuition fees for postgraduate programmes as a policy, although they might offer bursaries.

The exception may be for accountancy firms, as its part of the culture to provide support towards professional accreditations such as ACCA, ACA, CIMA and CPA and possibly some relevant postgraduate study. US firm Hedgeserv provides tuition support for its employees in Cork and Dublin.

“In our experience, on a case-by-case basis most employers will contribute significantly if it is work related,” said a spokesman for the National College of Ireland.

So if you’re currently in work and your employer has no formal tuition benefit or assistance scheme, you will have to convince your boss to sponsor or part-sponsor you or possibly give you paid study leave. The trick is to prove that it will be of benefit to the company as well as your own career.

There may well be a particular course on offer that seems like a no-brainer, but it’s worth researching other options that might be available to present as a shortlist.

It may also be worth bearing in mind programmes in third-level institutions that are directly sponsored by firms and which offer students the opportunity to work with them.

Financial services firm State Street is providing 20 paid internships with a €20,000 salary to students on the MSc by research in fintech programme at Cork University Business School. The student’s only task is whatever fintech research project they are doing.