UoB PhD student left to raise over £11,000 to cover fees after losing out on a scholarship

‘I did a search on Twitter and found that the fund had been withdrawn.’

International UoB PhD student Michael Joel Bartelle was given no information for over three months over the status of his scholarship application. In June Michael found out through Twitter that the fund had been withdrawn.

A year into his studies Michael is now expected to cover the remainder of his fees himself and he has even set up his own crowdfunding page.

In the first 48 hours of the crowd funding campaign, over 70 donations had been made amounting to £4 335. “We’re well over a third of the way there, which is just shattering my expectations of how long this would take me and if I would get there at all,” he told The Birmingham Tab.

Commencing his studies at The Shakespeare Institute, at UoB last year, Michael planned to work part time as well as using a small personal loan to fund his course, the part time work however disappeared due to lockdown.

“After self-funding my first year, for my second year I applied for the CAL Doctoral Scholarship, which is one of the few scholarships available to international PhD students,” Michael explained.

“I submitted my application, with strong references from my supervisors. I was in touch with the scholarship team about this in March, and they confirmed that they had received everything.”

“I started to hear rumours that the fund had been cancelled sometime in May but I wasn’t contacted directly. I attempted to contact them three times (13 May, 25 May and 8 June) and received no response,” he told The Birmingham Tab.

Michael didn’t hear any correspondence from the College of Arts and Law until Friday 24 June, over three months after his original application was submitted.

He was told that the university  “had to make the difficult decision to withdraw the CAL Doctoral Scholarships for 2020 entry.” Whilst his application was also considered for other funding opportunities, his scholarship application had been unsuccessful.

As an international student, fees demanded for his course are over three times higher than those charged to home students, meaning, despite the £5 900 in scholarships Michael has secured through the Richard Stapley Trust and the Barry Jackson Fund, he still needs to raise £11 640 in order to continue his research at UoB.

To make matters worse, as he is on a student visa, the amount of paid work he is allowed to undertake is restricted and he receives no student loan from the government.

Michael has had to turn to crowdfunding and aims to cut costs by submitting his thesis a year early. “I won’t pretend that my higher education is more vital than a lot of other things you could be donating to.” Michael reflected.

“But I do genuinely believe that the work I am doing is important as well. As a young Black actor, I have been inspired by watching the career trajectories of those who look like me.”

In the first 48 hours of the crowd funding campaign, over 70 donations had been made amounting to £4 335. “We’re well over a third of the way there, which is just shattering my expectations!”

A spokesperson from UoB told The Birmingham Tab  “a very difficult decision was taken” to cancel scholarships such as the CAL Doctoral Scholarship due to the uncertainties created by the global COVID-19 pandemic”. The university confirmed that, whilst some scholarships were granted to students this year, “the college of Arts and Law cancelled Doctoral Scholarships and Distance Learning Scholarships (PhD and MA by research).”

UoB also addressed Michael finding out the fund had been withdrawn through Twitter, rather than from the university. “Students may have received correspondence at different times if they were being considered for different funding opportunities.” However, they reassured us that “college staff have been working hard to ensure incoming PhD students are well supported in this particularly challenging time”.

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