Oxford grad wins one of six £3,000 Amazon Student Prizes

first_imgWhilst some postgraduates, such as Hopkins, see Doctoral Training Centres as an “added complication”, others see them as an opportunity. Fourth year postgraduate Karl Heilbron told Cherwell, “they [Doctoral Training Centres] strike me as a really great idea too because you spend your first year in lectures learning a variety of useful things, then you do two 10-week rotations working on a research project. Afterwards you pick which of the two you preferred and that’s the lab where you do the rest of your DPhil (3 more years), so the rotations give you a chance to try before you buy”. Nevertheless, applying for postgraduate funding has proven daunting for many prospective students. Phil Madgwick, a third year Biological Sciences undergraduate at Merton College applying currently to start a DPhil in 2015, commented that “Postgraduate funding is really confusing. I have spent ages trying to find out how postgraduate study works for DPhils and there has been little formal support of my enquiries.“The dual system of needing to get both a supervisor and funding is bewildering when I first approached it, as there is no simple or straightforward path to getting a DPhil. DTPs do provide a more honed route to funding (given the many means of getting funding) but I have ended spending a lot of time and effort sending emails out to supervisors to enquire whether or not they had any funding, as often it isn’t advertised clearly, or what route should be approached if they would like me to come and work with them.“It is very hard to find a comprehensive review of the opportunities in Oxford. The lack of certainty is very disconcerting as it means that I can expect no idea of where I will be next year, and in fact the move towards DTPs, as far as I am concerned, is a step backwards as it involves greater emphasis on grades and lesser emphasis of a more holistic assessment of research potential.“These concerns are actually really damaging because they detract attention from all the others things going on in finals year that getting to grips with a disorientating funding system whilst trying to keep up with lab work, tute deadlines and still make it to lectures at 9am is a nightmare. Most of my peers haven’t, and feel reluctant to, put the time into working out how postgraduate study works and what opportunities there are available.”A spokesman from the Oxford University News Office told Cherwell, “Fundraising for postgraduate scholarships is one of the University’s key priorities and this year over 1,000 fully-funded scholarships were available from the University, its colleges and supporters for new master’s and doctoral students in 2014-15, which puts us in a very fortunate position compared to our UK peers.“But for the many aspiring graduate students who do not receive scholarships, it can be very difficult to find the money for their studies and we hope that more can be done at a national level to ensure postgraduate study is open to all.” Agreeing with the difficulties of self-funding a PhD, Heilbron also added: “To the best of my knowledge, only a small minority of DPhil students are self-funded. This makes sense because three years of tuition and college fees alone will equate to ~£34,000 for British nationals and ~£52,000 for internationals”. An Oxford postgraduate student won £3000 from the online retailer Amazon to spend throughout the coming academic year. The student, Thomas David, is one of six winners of the Amazon Student Prize Fund, a prize associated with the Amazon Student Scheme. The scheme offers students in higher education six months of unlimited free one-day delivery on over seven million products. David, whose DPhil is in Materials Engineering, will use the prize money to purchase academic books and digital equipment. Funding prizes, such as that offered by the Amazon Student Scheme, have been commended by current postgraduate students. Ben Hopkins, a first year postgraduate student at Linacre College, said that although he didn’t know specifically of the Amazon Student Scheme, “the more sources of funding the better!”.Hopkins further commented on the issue of postgraduate funding, saying,  “Judging from my own experiences, the postgraduate funding system in the sciences is becoming increasingly difficult to navigate. However, this may well be due to the area undergoing something of a transition. Whereas before it seemed to be the case that one would apply for full funding packages and approach a supervisor with their own research proposal or apply directly for an advertised PhD position, there is now the added complication of Doctoral Training Centres.“The best approach seems to be to approach supervisors directly and ask what they recommend but, from my experience, it seems that some academics are more aware of the ever-changing system than others. Perhaps this is unfair but it seems as though the big research councils are implementing systems that benefit individuals with broad or as yet undefined research interests and perhaps penalise those who have comprehensive research proposals already, which seemed to be the historical route taken by postgraduate students.“Postgraduate funding has always been a competitive business but with an increasingly diverse array of sources (including colleges, universities, charities, research councils, private donors, industrial companies, individual labs) and more comprehensive guides to funding the savvy student has an increasing number of options from which to build up their funding.”last_img read more

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