student life

Emily-Rose Eastop and the future of education

On the 18th of June, Emily-Rose Eastop received a letter from the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

On the 18th of June, Emily-Rose Eastop received a letter from the Higher Education Funding Council for England. Eastop, who was pursuing an MSc placement at Wadham College, Oxford, specialising in Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology, the study of human beings through the mind and evolution, had her grant application denied.

She had recently completed an undergraduate degree in Human Sciences from Magdalen College, Oxford, but wanted to pursue the MSc further.

The same day, Eastop set up a page on the crowdfunding site Hubbub with the hopes of funding her place that way.

“I have always known that I wanted to be a scientist,” Eastop says in her YouTube video prefacing the pitch, adding that it hopes to be her foot in the door for academia, as she considers studying a Ph.D. in the United States.

Eastop, reached by email, said it was the final option.

“The degree is headed by an academic whose work I am very interested in, and the syllabus is a perfect reflection of my scientific interests more broadly,” Eastop said. “I’m not ready to decide on a PhD topic yet – there are too many possibilities. Another year being able to study so broadly will help me ascertain what I want to specialise in.”

Criticism abound

Eastop reached her goal towards the end of July, through the help of mainly friends and family. Eastop said she was inspired and touched by their generosity.

However, Eastop had been the subject of criticism for such a move, from being called a posh brat to calls to seek employment to fund the degree. Eastop said she had worked as a tutor, a hula-hoop dancer and a singer, and also had a job in the City, which she was made redundant from after it was announced the company was to reduce the number of staff, for which she says she was glad.

“I’m not interested in wasting time,” Eastop said. “To me, working a job that is irrelevant to academia, for a company that essentially serves the interests of corporate fat cats, is exactly that.”

Yet, Eastop says, the feedback reaction was that of general pity, particularly in response to comments received in an article about her in the Daily Mail.

“My reaction was one of true pity,” Eastop said. “Pity for people who are so bitter and so limited in their outlook and intelligence that they find themselves trolling the Daily Mail comments section to bat somebody down for trying to achieve something. It doesn’t take many brain cells to work out that seeking employment wouldn’t enable me to *save* (not just earn) £26.3 K without wasting years of my life.”

‘Just something people do’

However, Eastop says, the shift towards crowdfunding indicated a bigger problem.

“The fact that crowdfunding was my last remaining hope of not having to turn the place down is obviously indicative of a problem,” Eastop said. “There are poorer countries who can nonetheless afford to make graduate education attainable. Student fees in England are obscene.”

Eastop advises to do a lot of research if a master’s degree is ahead.

“I would advise doing a lot of research – for some courses there are obscure scholarships available, which aren’t always easy to find,” Eastop said. “Make sure you’ve exhausted all possibilities. If you’re still stuck, try crowdfunding. But make sure you have 5 or 6 weeks to dedicate every waking hour to, and be prepared for the possibility of disappointment.”

Eastop adds that the idea of crowdfunding will be part of the norm for the public down the road, as she wanted to get the idea of crowdfunding more in the public eye, despite any attached stigma.

“I envisage that in a decade or so, crowdfunding will be internalised by people as a social institution, just something people do, as a matter of course, sort of like voting or tipping at restaurants, neither of which can be explained in terms of “utility” or self-serving rationality,” Eastop said.

What do you think? Do you think crowdfunding will be the future on how a Master’s degree is funded? Have your say in the comments section below.