"I was often on a budget of £40 a week"

International History PhD candidate Tom Wilkinson received hardship funding to complete his master’s degree

The generous support I received undoubtedly paved the way for my academic career.

Tom Wilkinson

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Tom Wilkinson

"There was a time when I was unsure if I would be able to finish my master’s at LSE due to my financial circumstances. 

I am a first-generation university graduate who grew up in Blackburn and Clitheroe in Lancashire. I was fortunate to have my master's tuition fees waived because I had done very well in my undergraduate studies. But when I arrived at LSE to do my master’s, I still had to work part-time to complement the savings I had. My dad, a retired policeman, was a fantastic support and really helped with my accommodation costs, but I could hardly expect him to fund my living costs entirely. The government system of loans was also not in place at that time and I did not fully understand how expensive living in London could be. 

While I was studying at LSE, I was fortunate to find work as a parliamentary assistant in Westminster, undertaking research for a Member of Parliament and Shadow Minister, but the pay barely covered my expenses. It was quite an odd juxtaposition, because there I was, working in the elite bubble of the Palace of Westminster but my own circumstances were really quite strained. 

Between my accommodation, transport and other living costs, I was really living on the breadline. I tried to keep my expenses minimal and budgeted to spend about £40 a week. It was possible, but difficult to really thrive! 

Then halfway through my master’s I received funding from LSESU and the School, and this really made a huge difference to my student life. I was just so relieved to be able to complete my studies and be able to go to the supermarket without having to watch every penny. And to make the most of the unique student experience at the School.

With the focus I could put into my studies, I went on to be awarded a first-class master's degree and then to commence my PhD studies. 

The generous support I received undoubtedly paved the way for my academic career. Today I am in the final year of my International History PhD. I was a visiting research scholar at Columbia University in New York last year and have taught history and international relations at LSE for the last three years. For the last two, I have also been Director of LSE's Widening Participation scheme. 

LSE students come from a range of backgrounds, and some might still feel embarrassed to seek help. But because of the amazing support that the School and its community can provide students from poorer backgrounds, first-generation university students can get by and secure their futures.” 

Tom Wilkinson
(MSc Empires, Colonialism and Globalisation)


 The Student Hardship Fund

Due to COVID-19, more students than ever are finding themselves in positions of financial hardship than ever before. Through the Hardship Fund, we are able to grant the students most in need with financial help ranging between £500 and £3,500.

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