Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Postgrad Scholarship To Oxford?

Congratulations to Jasmine from Malacca, who was successful in securing a place to pursue her PhD in University of Oxford in molecular genetics for October 2007/08 intake. She is currently working as a research assistant in one of the local public universities.

She wrote to me with regards to the types of sponsorship and scholarships available in Malaysia at the moment, which she may qualify for. At this point of time, I'm only specifically aware of the supposed RM1.2billion university PhD funding programmes as blogged here a while back.

If there's anyone else with knowledge of other sources of funding available, please don't hesitate to let her know here, or alternatively, email me. Officials from the Ministry of Higher Education are welcome to contact me as well if there are scholarship opportunities for Jasmine, in line with the Minister's statement that postgraduate scholarships are now only available to successful applicants to top overseas universities.


Howsy said...

She could have gone for ORSAS and other UK scholarships but most of them have closing dates around last Jan/Feb. :)

Anonymous said...

Please approach En Ramli Osman at USM Penang. I have two friends (one already there, one going in Sep 07) successfully gained admission into Oxford University. Both of them are under the ASTS sponsorship.

Anonymous said...

I thought in the UK you don't 'secure a place to pursue a PhD', as long as you have 1st class or 2nd Upper degree you are already qualified to pursue a PhD. If you come with your own funding then any Tom Dick or Harry lecturer (well almost all) would be pleased to accept you.

I would suggest that Jasmine apply for those PhD positions which come with their own funding since these do not have a bond attached. A PhD alone acts as an international passport to jobs worldwide, it can be frustrating if good opportunities have to be missed if one is bonded.


Hafiz MZ said...

Anon above, I guess u r right.
(I think she is aware of public Uni training scheme since she is currently a RA)

But if Jasmine want to return to Malaysia after graduated, and contribute to our nation.
USM's ASTS Fellowship is a great alternative.
the link
Yes, Encik Ramli is the person in charge.

coleong said...

The ORS only cover the difference between the UK student fees and the international student fees. It doesn't include any bursary if I'm not mistaken. In order to survive, you do need some pocket money for rental, food and etc. In some cases, the supervisor might be willing to subsidy part of the living expenses from their research grant. Make sure you talk to him about any possibility of getting financial aid before embarking on the program. Funding from local university is not a bad idea if you can’t get funding elsewhere. The only problem with scholarships from local university is that it’s bonded meaning that you’ll need to come back and service to the university that sponsored you. In that case, you might not be able to get further training as an academic/industrial postdoc which is suppose to be an essential part in your career to become an independent scientist. Good luck and wish you all the best :)

Anonymous said...

Yes, the ORS only covers the difference between the overseas and UK home tuition fees.

However, most science-based PhD students, both home and overseas, are paid a monthly stipend (tax-free) ranging from £12-20k per annum. (I cannot speak for those pursuing PhDs in the arts, social sciences etc.) The stipend is paid to the student for the full 3 years and the amount depends on various factors including location (ie higher in London), type of work undertaken and funding made available to the department or group to which they are attached. Many PhD positions are advertised in the form of studentships and the value of the stipend is usually disclosed beforehand. As such, many ORS scholarships are held in conjunction with PhD studentships. In this way, international students can pay the home fees (currently £3k) out of their stipend and have enough left over (not much but sufficient) to cover their living expenses.

There are also PhD positions available specifically to self-financing students. Generally, supervisors who take on students in this way are seen by some to be taking advantage of his/her student without appropriate compensation for their time and effort. Remember that they would need to hire a lab assistant or postdoc to do the same work which a self-financing PhD student can do for free.

Whilst in the case of self-financing PhDs there isn't really a need to "secure" a place if you have a 1st or upper 2nd degree, competition for PhD studentships are quite stiff.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Jasmine for getting a place to pursue your PhD in Oxford. Not many people get to do that and you are the very few blessed ones with this opportunity. I hope this will be the start of a great research/academic career.

Have identified any potential faculty in Oxford? Perhaps they can suggest you some funding avenues. Usually students either go on a scholarship or get on board the supervisor's research grant.

As for scholarship, try approaching the British High Commission. I'm sure you'll get more information from there. Why don't you quickly work out your CV that is relevant to your research and please include your publications, if any. Your CV is very useful as most faculties will want to see your CV before they will consider taking you in their team.

Many years ago, I was offered PhD studentships in both IC and Reading. My prospective professor in IC was about to help me apply for the ORS (I think) but not 100% funding. To make ends meet, I had to source for local funding. Coming from a poor family, I approach my alma mater, USM (coincidentally!) and was told that as a Malaysian non-bumiputera, I do not qualify for ASTS sponsorship.

Thus, my advice to you is: -

1. Find out from overseas sources first- Oxford, British High Comm., Commenwealth, etc.

2. Ask about your eligibility in applying for local universities' sponsorhips and how those schemes AFFECT your allowance and whether you are ASSURED of an academic position upon successful completion of your Ph.D.

3. Ask yourself very HONESTLY if you are interested in RESEARCH or TEACHING as if you do return to join the local academia, you will have to face the current realities-our research culture is nowhere that advanced as in the UK or even Singapore for that matter. Our standards are going down the drain. Just look at millions wasted for those dubious foreign expos and all the talk about BioValley... Now we talk about BioNexus. The fact is we are now laughing stock. Nature journal focused on Malaysia in 2005 and if you can read that article (i hope you do), then you will know how depressing our standards have gone down. I hope you know what journal I am talking about. And please if someone can help make reference to the article. Kian Ming?

Finally, just for your consideration...if I were you, I will just FORGET about taking a local university scholarship that comes with a bond. Having been in the academic circle for more than 10 years now, it's only frustration as promotion is not based on merit entirely and getting funds plus GOOD students to do research are very difficult, to the point of discouraging. Go overseas, make a mark for yourself. For someone like you to get accepted in Oxford, there must be really great potential in you.

I'd hate seeing you languish at the bottom come several years after you return to Malaysia.

Make a wise choice, ask around, don't be shy. Look at the big picture.

But if Malaysia is where you will want to contribute your skills and knowledge, to make it a better place, then by all means go ahead as it is a honourable and patriotic thing to do.

But please consider all options first.

GOOD LUCK and wishing you SUCCESS!

Anonymous said...

Dear jasmine,

you can try your luck at these two foundations from germany. The applications are open for international applicants regardless of nationality.

coleong said...

I totally agree with Anonymous (4/12/2007 02:35:00 AM)

A good CV could mean a lot for scholarship/studentship application. If possible, I’ll go for the international/UK scholarship as you will have the opportunity to further your career and training elsewhere if you decided to do so after graduated. Having say that, I think you should also apply for the local scholarship as well. Do it as soon as possible as it take times to arrange for the interview and paper work. From my personal experience, it took about 3 months to as long as a year to get an offer letter. That was, however, 6 years ago and I’m not sure how the system like these days. I have the same problem, trying to get a scholarship, when I get the offer from several universities in UK for my PhD. I was lucky to get the ORS from the university and a stipend from the research grant for my living expenses. Just before I went to UK, I was asked for an interview for the tutorship program by local university. And after that, no news and I thought I must have been disqualified. Then, the letter of offer came by almost a year later when I’m about to finished my first year. So, I just have to give it a pass.

Well, the point is, try to apply as many as possible as you don’t know which one get you the offer. During my study, most of my friends either get the ORS, BBSRC or EPSRC studentship at my department. If you’re doing cancer research, try also Cancer Research UK. Note that instead of searching for the key word “scholarship”, you should also search the key word “studentship”. Although, conceptually it’s different but it meant the same in most of the UK universities. I’ll also check with British Council to look for additional information, i.e. Chevening scholarship, Commonwealth scholarship and etc, although I’m not sure if they offer to PhD candidate.

I’ll try to post it here if I can find any further information regarding research studentship in UK. Good luck and wish you all the best in your scientific career.

coleong said...

Oh... how about a study loan ? Well, it might sound risky, but if you're a graduate from Oxford, I'm sure you won't have a big problem with employment. You can then pay off the loan easily if you work in overseas.

Also, once you're accepted to the PhD program, you can then look for alternative funding from other agency. Sometimes, it is hard to get any information unless your supervisor has a good network. Alternatively, you can also shift to other department/university which can offer you a studentship. By the end of your first year, you'll either granted with a MPhil or Postgraduate Diploma if you choose not to continue for PhD. I don't know whether he program at Oxford offer such flexibility.

If worse come to worst, work part time to earn for living. A lot of my friends work at night at chinese take out shop to get extra money for their living expenses. It's tough but doable. Good luck :)

Anonymous said...

PhD is a big investment of 3-5 years of your time in a very specialised field.

I'm currently based in Oxford as well, and my advice to you is.. if the supervisor requires you to pay your own tuition fees and living expenses, it is not a fair deal.

Getting a Bachelor's degree from Oxford is deemed much more valuable than a PhD. It is a big difference and employers know that.

Anonymous said...

how come getting a Bachelor's degree is deemed more valuable than a PhD in Oxford? Will the pay for the degree holder be higher than a PhD holder? Do you mind elaborate more on this?

Anonymous said...

Reply to Anonymous 404pm:

Generally, only the best students gets to study a Bachelor's degree in Oxford, and only a handful of malaysian students succeed in doing so each year.

PhD is a different story. In UK, the locals do not want to pursue a PhD, since it's deemed a waste of time, and its very subjective if it adds value to your CV. Hence, asian students are recruited to do it instead. 2nd upper class students can do a PhD, but for a bachelor's degree, only the very best straight A students might be considered to be enrolled for the bachelor's degree.

My opinion on a Phd is, only do it if you want a career in academia or research. If you're hoping to make money with it, I don't think it carries much weight.

On your question on whether the pay for a degree holder is higher than a PhD holder. The answer is there isn't much difference in non-academia related field.My malaysian friends, who has excellent CVs throughout their academic years, found out that if they decide to pursue a non-academic/research career after their PhD, they are left on the same payscale (or 10% higher in some cases) as fresh Bachelor degree holders in the UK.

A colleague of mine (with PhD), applied to Accenture KL and he was offered rm4k per month, only rm500 more than the standard rm3.5k for fresh graduates in the same company. And you have to consider that he has spent 5 extra years for the PhD.

Statistically, those I know who graduated with a Bachelor's in oxford and went straight to industry, and those who stayed back for a PhD, the former are all doing much better than the latter.

Strange enough, in Malaysia/Asia, you tell your aunts/uncles/friends, you have a PhD, they think you're a champion.

coleong said...

I’m not sure about the potentiual of PhD in social science or business study. However, in science, especially in biological sciences, it makes a big difference between BSc holder and PhD holder if one wanted to pursue their career in academic/industrial research. Note that I’m familiar only in the field of medical research and not expert in any other position e.g. sales, administrative and etc. So, my comment can only be applied to career researcher.

In US and in UK, a fresh BSc grad can only qualify for a position of Research Assitant/Associate which by academic scale is about USD 30k per year and Usd 45k in industry. Only experienced worker is promoted to Scientist position and very seldom make it to the Investigator/Project Leader position. Whereas, a PhD holder will normally get paid about USD 40k as academic research fellow or much higher if you’ve a fellowship grant. In the industry, PhD holder normally works as Scientist and the salary can range from 60k-100k depending on experience. Group Leader position is almost always dominated by established researchers who has a PhD and string of publications. In UK, a postdoc fellow normally get about GBP18k-33k while a BSc get only GBP15k-22k. Note, this is only apply in the research job and not other.

Having say so, I believe a PhD training is more suited for a research career. If you think that getting a PhD will make you richer than BSc grad then you’re wrong. It doesn’t go that way. A PhD is a more specialise training. If you get a job in other sector, e.g. consultancy, slaes and etc, the pay probably won’t differ much between BSc and PhD holder. On the other hand, if you’re interest in research, PhD will open up more opportunity than BSc. As I said before, PhD is a very specialise degree. You will get a much better offer if your field of study is interested by the industry. Vice versa, if your research is some what outdated, you’ll get into trouble of unemployment.

In short, a PhD might be of advantage if you want to pursue a career in research or R&D (both academic or indistry). Otherwise, a BSc and PhD probably won’t make a very big different in term of salary. If one wanted to advance in their career (not research base), working experience probably weight more than a degree. Just my opinion.

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