financial emergencies



I feel like I only ever come on here when I need advice. I posted a few weeks ago about how starting my PhD in September has led to my separation from my husband. As a consequence of that, I'm experiencing a huge knock-on financial chain reaction which is threatening to swallow me whole. I feel like I'll pop if I don't say this somewhere.

Basically I go on fieldwork in two weeks. I have virtually none of the equipment or clothing I need because I haven't been able to afford it. I applied for a travel grant but got turned down. I've told a few people in my department that I am having financial difficulties (including my supervisor) and they have all said something vague like, "well, let us know if you need anything," in the exact way that we all know means, "pleeeeease don't ask us for help."

My University doesn't offer emergency grants or loans. I get paid about three days before I am due to go away (I have a University stipend, but not a Research Council one) and my naive hope was to use this last payment to buy all the stuff I need. But I become homeless whilst I'm away (I'm overseas for nearly seven weeks, until a few days before easter) and I realize now that almost all of my last paycheck will have to go on putting down a deposit on the place I'm moving into whilst I'm away.

I've looked for all sorts of grants for PhD students, and so far all of the ones I've come across either have closing dates far in the future, or are only for people in their final year, or are for students of a different subject etc etc.

My parents are no longer around and I have no family members left. I applied for a credit card about a month ago but was turned down (I have an old student overdraft which has gone into default and my credit rating is shot to pieces).

I've looked on CCCS -- the credit counselling service -- and loads of debt advice forums. I have tons of advice for sorting myself out when I get back from fieldwork, setting up regular repayments on my old overdraft, getting on the electoral role etc., and my bank manager said I should have no problem applying for a credit card again in three or four months time... but it doesn't help me now.

You might think that my department should pay for all my things for overseas, but I can only claim back specialist equipment. All the ordinary things I need -- hiking boots, fleeces, gloves, base layers, a new rucksack -- I am required to pay for myself.

I don't know what to do. I feel like I've tried EVERYTHING -- applying for grants, contacting my Uni, talking to the bank -- but there's just nothing anyone seems to be able to do. At all.

I can't borrow money from friends because it's a new city for me, I don't know anyone well enough to ask, and I can't see when I'd be able to pay them back.

I even tried to sell my old undergrad textbooks on eBay but I still need around £500 worth of equipment and extreme-weather clothing. In two weeks.

I must sound so melodramatic but I'm so stressed. I do


Hi Cornflower,

yes I remember your previous post. You have all my sympathy.

It's not an easy situation to be in. Obviously the close deadline makes things more difficult. Is there any way to postpone your fieldwork trip? Or in the worst case-scenario -could you suspend your studies for six months or the necessary time to stand back on your feet? You don't need to let everyone know in your department, but you need to speak clearly to the right people. They can certainly do something if they want to. Couldn't  your Uni advance you the next installment? If I were you I would speak soon and very clearly with your supervisor and Head of Graduate Studies.

There is little point in going away if you don't have all you need and you struggle to pay the bills. Having more time available a short-term job might have helped, but this is something that requires more than two weeks of commitment. Fieldwork is very important, and you cannot risk to waste this opportunity. Taking some time off would also take some pressure off you for a while.

Last, but not least, and I hope that you don't mind me asking, are you not entitled to alimony from your former husband?


I am sure you have already checked but does your uni has Access to Learning Fund (ALF) - if so maybe worth applying. Best wishes and sorry to hear your having such a rough time.

Avatar for Pjlu

Cornflower, I know you have separated from your husband, but were there no shared funds or resolution of finances with that separation coming to you?
Or has that all been resolved and gone into your new living arrangements? It seems as if you have been left with nothing, but if you and your partner were not destitute then you must be entitled to some of the money that you both were living off when you were a 'unit'. Even if he were the primary breadwinner (which it sounds like) you both were still in a relationship together (living relationship that is) and both contributed to that relationship for some time. Even if you hate his guts, you would still be talking to him to in order to help end the relationship and resolve all of its constituants and legal issues ??? Can you get some financial help from him (but not as a favour) as part (a part mind you, not all) of your 'settling' and resolving this relationship?

This might seem very mercenary but marriage (or defacto) is a serious partnership and no matter who leaves who or why the marriage ends, neither partner should end with nothing. The other thing to consider is do you have some old friends (not from your current city) who would be in a position to loan you the money for a short period of time until your stipend comes through or you can access a credit card and pay them back. I would also take up your supervisors offer and actually tell them about your difficulties-usually when I say to someone 'let me know if you need...etc etc' I do actually mean it and your supervisor has been a student as well-they will remember and may be able to access some uni funds you do not know about. Good luck and all our best wishes...


Does your university have a student financial advisor? If so, s/he might be worth contacting. Even if officially there are no emergency loans, there may be some discretionary funds plus the ALF someone has already mentioned. I also think you need to be absolutely up front with your supervisor about this problem. Lay it out in detail however embarassing it is. You need this money otherwise your fieldwork collapses - that's a threat to your PhD that needs dealing with. If your supervisor is hopeless, then is there someone with overall responsibility for research students in your department or school? I think you have to present it as a practical logistics problem. Not least because if you go without this stuff then presumably we're talking health and safety risks.
Do you know anyone who is into walking / climbing etc that you could potentially borrow anything from? Borrowing items of equipment might be an easier ask from comparative strangers than money.


Hi Cornflower,

I haven't been on here for ages, but am really sorry to read about your situation. I'd agree with Bewildered about being really upfront about your situation now with your supervisor and head of graduate studies (or similar person responsible for PhD students). It sounds like you would be putting yourself at risk in terms of health and safety by not having the right equipment and clothing, so your department should theoretically be liable to some extent for anything that happens to you while you're away if they know about your situation beforehand, but still let you go inadequately equipped. No university would want to be responsible for any sort of dodgy negligence for students. They are very concerned about risk assessment in doctoral studies these days at mine.

Also, I'd be surprised if there was absolutely no money that your department could tap into to help you, even if it means advancing any internal funding allocated for you for the next academic year and bringing it forward.

Good luck anyway in sorting something out.


Be blunt with your department. Tell them you are in danger of not completing if you do not get financial help. They need you to complete even more than you need money! There are always funds floating around in universities and they can manage to find money.

Link to a page that has info on postgrad funding, you might find something here.

There is also an organisation that has funds for women PhD frantically trying to think of the name. I will search through some old files on my computer and see if I can come up with it. They might also have some emergency funds available. Given that the amount you want is "only" £500 ( a lot of money yes, but not to organisations!!!) surely there is some group with an emergency fund that can help out!


sorry for double post


Funds for Women Graduates

And yes they do have emergency funding schemes, with a deadline coming up in March. Maybe its not in time to help you?? but thought this information might help out.

Avatar for sneaks

Not sure if I have any advice to add, apart from PLEASE PLEASE do not go to one of those short term loan people (e.g. wonga) where they charge you 2000% or something - its definitely NOT worth it!


Sounds like you are having a tough tme of it.

Only suggestiosn I have are can you borrow any of the equipment (eg base layers, fleeces, rucksack) - I ski and so am lending my ski jacket to a friend who has to go to a conference in Stockholm in a couple of weeks time when it will still be really cold.

Or can you buy them cheap on e-bay or at a second hand ski sale - the school my childrne go to (as well as second hand uniform sales) has ski wear sales and a lot of the stuff is really good quality because it has been replaced for reasons of fashion not because it is worn out. Why not try putting an appeal out on a mountaineering / ski website - someone might have something they could lend or donate? It might get you some of the equipment. Or try going to a supplier or outdoor shop and ask them to sponsor you by donating some of the equipment - they are getting towards the end of the buying season and so might be willing to part with some of what you need for free or cheap. By going to a few you are not asking one to give you everything - just one to give you the gloves, one to give you base layers, one a fleece and so on. Or one could give you everyting in exchange for some publicity? Or an agreement to come and give a talk about your fieldwork (I don't know your subject but I am guessing there must be some element that could translate to a talk even if it is just living ina an extreme environment for 7 weeks)

Good Luck


======= Date Modified 14 Feb 2011 21:49:33 =======
Wow, thanks everyone for your help.

First of all, I want to remain friends with my H as far as possible. I haven't even started thinking about the legal side of things yet but I don't want anything from him. He bought a house in his own name which we can't sell, he has been paying for that for years, effectively keeping a roof over my head as I study. I want him to keep the house anyway and I don't want a penny from him. Once this all settles down I'll be able to look after myself fine. It's just the short term that I can't see any way of dealing with. The legal side of it doesn't feel like a priority right now, maybe it will in a few months. Right now all I can think of is the very immediate reality of the next few weeks.

I just can't withdraw or postpone this fieldwork. Not going would be torture, I don't think I could bear it. Especially as it's only two weeks away. I'm doing what I've always wanted to do.

I absolutely love the idea of trying to get free or discounted stuff! I'm not sure I'm actually brave enough to actually walk into a shop and ask... but I might...

I will enquire about ALF, but I thought there was some restrictions on its use by postgrads?

Don't worry, I'm not going to go to anything like Wonga!! But looking on eBay and advertising on mountain / ski sites is a really great idea.

I still don't know what I'm going to do though. I'm just going to keep looking around for local charities or funding sources. I think I can borrow a rucksack from someone, which will save me a lot. There are two other essential items that will cost £60 -£120 each, and if I can get much cheaper versions of them then I might just scrape by. As long as I can get the bare minimum of stuff...

I'm really reluctant to talk to my sup though. It's hard to explain, but there is a lot of distance at University right now and that makes me feel isolated and lost.

Right now I'm going to focus on scraping together the barest minimum of what I need. I'm trying very hard not to worry...


Hi Cornflower, if you find you're really struggling and don't get help from the ALF, what about trying to apply for a loan from the Social Fund? It's for people who are in crisis, is interest free and you only have to pay it back at a bit at a time. You couldn't say you need it for fieldwork, but you could make up something like you need some new kitchen appliances like an oven and washing machine. If you think that's a bit too unethical, what about joining your local credit union and taking out a small loan with them? It's very low interest and a means for people on low incomes to save and/or borrow money with very reasonable terms.


I really think you should talk to your supervisor. Why not try? And by that I mean don't be knocked back if he responds as before. You need to lay this on the line.

I've had to talk to both sets of my supervisors (through both PhDs) about really difficult things going on with me. It was necessary to get their help, especially in the second case where I managed to complete the PhD. Yes it was awkward, I'm sure they'd rather we hadn't had this discussion, but they were professional enough to want to help, so we got on with it.

Your supervisor is supposed to be there for you. If you can't talk to them properly about this sort of thing then something is very seriously wrong.


And don't rule out your university's counselling service. They are there for you to talk to. They can't produce money to solve the financial problem, but they can help you feel a little less isolated. And everything you say is in confidence. It may also help you work out some more solutions.


I know what you mean about not walking in to a shop and asking for a freebee (I am not good at it whereas my dad never buys anything significant without asking for a discount - and he gets them!) but give it a try. Some of my third year students have been organising charity events and got no response when they wrote and asked for donations but when they went in in person they got loads of stuff.

If you go in and ask to speak to the manager and maybe try to establish a rapport - maybe by telling him/her where you are going what you are doing - you might get lucky esp if you ask for some of the small things first adn then work your way up to new jacket etc.

Good Luck and keep us posted :-)