Dubai: After Dubai-based Indian expat Shalini Sinha saved enough money to pursue a one-year post graduate course in the UK, she is now saving to fund her full-time two-year executive MBA in Canada, and that while she works a full-time job! Here’s how she went about it.
Based on her first-hand experience of funding her post graduate degree, Sinha explains the value of disciplined saving and benefits of weighing the long-term value of a course and detailed research while opting for an executive degree.
After Sinha decided to join a public relations (PR) firm in the UAE, she took on additional HR responsibilities alongside her PR role. “That’s when I started thinking of pursuing a post graduate degree in Human Resource Management & Industrial Relations from Alliance Manchester Business School in the UK,” Sinha said.
Back in 2014-15, a full-time one-year Master’s degree in Human Resource Management and Industrial Relations course cost Sinha £15,500 British pounds (Dh80,000). Now the same course costs £20,500 pounds (Dh106,000) for international students. Everything from administration to computational costs are included in the tuition fee with no hidden cost, Sinha highlighted.
Sinha’s total expense in the UK during the one-year course in 2014-15:
Thorough research is the first step
Six months into her PR job, Sinha had already created a spreadsheet containing every piece of information from universities and courses, admission and scholarship requirements, campus facilities as well as alumni details. Sometimes lack of proper research can add to a student’s expenses, be that an extra credit course or even finding out that accommodation is not exactly what was promised, Sinha added.
“I had set a 1.5-year timeline to work and diligently save money to fund my post graduate course. In-depth research helped me to find a one-year course within my budget without taking a loan or borrowing from my parents. Moreover, I got a small amount of scholarship based on my work experience, volunteering and extra-curricular activities and scores from my undergraduate degree.”
“I wanted to apply for an HR course in a university that figured among the global top 50 in that domain and where GMAT score was not mandatory. While the GMAT test fee is around Dh1,000, if you add the cost of course materials and preparatory classes, it adds to the expenses that I wanted to avoid at that time.”
Tip #1: Sinha recommends platforms such as MBA.com and the university portals to conduct thorough research for information on universities, courses, admission process, associated costs, funding possibilities, living expenses and more. These are free resources yet creditable sources as information is provided by the university student services team, teachers, counsellors and alumni recommending the right programmes along with the financial requirements.
Disciplined saving is key
Sinha is careful about financial planning and credits her father for instilling a saving mindset. “Quite early into my career, I decided to follow the 50:30:20 budget rule, spending 50 per cent on needs, 30 per cent on wants and saving 20 per cent. Of course, I was fortunate to save almost 70 per cent of my monthly income due to disciplined saving. And this helped me to avoid financial stress when I took a break to study.”
Sinha was able to save almost 70 per cent of her monthly salary, approximately Dh10,000 including incentives, for nearly two years. Living with her parents, she did not have to pay rent or utilities, which are big expense heads. “While I spent on occasional groceries, outings, fuel and personal care, I still managed to save the biggest chunk of my monthly income for my course. That was a huge advantage.”
Tip #2: Besides allocated savings per month, Sinha recommends putting aside even the smallest amount of money, if possible. In her case, when she lost a month’s worth of living expenses in the UK, this small kitty helped her to tide over the crisis. Sinha strongly believes in the ‘every dirham counts’ principle.
I was able to save almost 70 per cent of my monthly salary, approximately Dh10,000 including incentives, for nearly two years.
Calculate the return on investment
Soon after completing her one-year course, Sinha got a job in the UK. But she opted to return to the UAE to be with family and fortunately got a job within three months in a major automobile company. Instantly her monthly salary increased by 30 per cent. Besides knowledge, degree and an increased level of confidence, a higher salary was her return on investment from the course, which continued to increase since 2016.
“I still live with my parents and save on rent, although now I have a few other financial commitments. Even after all the monthly expenses, I manage to save 50 per cent of my salary,” she shared.
With her savings, Sinha is planning to pursue a full-time two-year executive MBA course at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto in Canada. “As we get older, our plans evolve. Now I think about the various possibilities after completing the course – do I want to get a permanent residency and settle in Canada or return to the UAE? I decided to get a permanent residency in Canada even before enrolling for the executive MBA programme, because the tuition fee reduced significantly compared to what I would have to pay as an international student without a permanent residency.”
Five years into her current job, Sinha has been able to save enough to get a permanent residency in Canada and build savings for her tuition fee and living expenses.
“I am planning to leave for Canada next year, and fortunately I have saved enough to cover a major part of the tuition fee and the annual living expenses. In addition, I will apply for a scholarship. Only if required, I might opt for a small loan to fund the remaining portion.”
Tip #3: Sinha recommends a few tips for professionals who are keen to pursue an executive MBA after a few years of work experience: factor in the probability of getting a job soon after the course, evaluate stability in the job, weigh the option of permanent residency where possible bearing in mind long-term goals of settling down and associated living expenses versus saving.