Scholarships & Funding: How to Get It

Finding the money to do a postgraduate degree sounds stressful, but doesn’t necessarily have to be. explores some of the funding options available.
Jacie Tan

It’s easy to get flustered when thinking about how to fund your postgraduate degree. However, it’s important to take a step back and properly consider your options. Could you get your studies fully or partially funded by another party? If not, what are the resources available to you? 

Help with funding

Here are the different ways you could get financial assistance for your postgraduate studies. These forms of assistance do not require financial repayment, although they usually require a return in some other way. They could either cover a partial amount or the whole of your course fees. 

1) Scholarships

  • For: Merit-based in nature, they are for high achievers who have a lot of potential to offer those who are giving out the scholarships.
  • Offered by: Many organisations, from corporations and universities to the government.
  • What is it: The most commonly sought-after form of financial aid, scholarship providers pay for a percentage or all of the course fees, with some also providing for additional living expenses.
  • The catch: Scholars are generally required to maintain a certain grade while pursuing their studies. They may also have to serve their benefactor for a stipulated term, usually as an employee of the company. 

2) Grants 

  • For: Grants are awarded to students with the purpose of funding their individual research projects. Some grants take into account the financial needs of the applicant.
  • Offered by: Traditionally government and non-profit organisations such as research councils, but now corporations and universities as well.
  • What is it: The purpose of a grant is to generate more research projects in a particular area. Therefore, grants are generally more research-specific than scholarships.
  • The catch: You will have to select a course or project that is relevant or beneficial to the grantor and provide regular progress reports on your research project.

3) Teaching or research assistantships

  • For: Those particularly interested in pursuing a career in teaching and academia, or research and laboratory work.
  • Offered by: Universities.
  • What is it: Allowances are provided in exchange for services in teaching or research. Teaching assistants provide support to professors by conducting tutorials and grading assignments. Research assistants help faculty members with research projects.
  • The catch: Unlike scholarships and grants which cover your fees outright, assistantships are more akin to working part-time alongside your studies or during term break. However, you do pick up invaluable and very relevant skills by doing so.

4) Employer-funded 

  • For: Employees who are planning to stay long-term within a certain company and interested to further their studies in areas that will be beneficial to their employer.
  • Offered by: Companies, usually those with an allocated fund for employee development and education schemes.
  • What is it: Financial aid could come in the form of an interest-free loan or a full sponsorship. Good performance after you’ve completed your studies would usually result in a promotion or better remuneration.
  • The catch: For loans, you may be required to serve for a corresponding period and pay it off through salary deductions. Alternatively, some companies also offer bonding services where you are required to serve the company for a number of years instead of returning the loan, or in return for sponsorship.

Other options

Even if you can’t get a third party to help fund your studies, that doesn’t mean postgraduate study is lost to you forever!

A) Education loans

You can get a loan to fund your studies which you pay back with interest once you’ve completed your studies. Education loans can be obtained from universities, corporations, associations, banks or even from relatives. Interest rates vary, so research carefully before accepting a loan. 

PTPTN loans are the most popular, it is the main education loan provider for Malaysian students who are pursuing studies locally due to its low interest rates. Loan servicing starts six months upon graduation or when employment commences, whichever comes first. You will not be bonded after completing your studies.

B) Personal savings

It may be more practical to use your own savings instead of applying for a loan, especially when the interest rate for the loan is higher than that of your fixed deposit. Furthermore, if you are doing your postgraduate part-time, it is more than possible to finance your studies from your savings and ongoing income. 

Those who have accumulated substantial savings in their EPF accounts may withdraw money from Account 2 to fund their postgraduate studies. If you have not been working or contributing consistently to your EPF account, you can get your parents to draw from their EPF savings to help you fund your education.

C) Tax incentives 

Although this is not a direct source of funding, it will certainly help lighten the load. To encourage life-long learning, the government offers up to RM5,000 of tax relief per annum for the pursuit of postgraduate studies at recognised institutions or professional bodies. Additionally, you can also enjoy tax relief of up to RM1,000 on book purchases. More information can be found at the Inland Revenue Board of Malaysia.