Rebecca Heath (G19) is studying for the one-year MPhil in Economic Research and is funded by a Cambridge UK & Churchill Møller Studentship. She has a particular interest in behavioural economics, game theory and empirical economics.

Originally from Spaldwick, a small village in rural Cambridgeshire, Rebecca attended her local state school until the age of 16 before securing an academic scholarship at her local independent school, that enabled her to study A level Economics. Fascinated by the application of the subject to a wide range of real-world issues, including gender, wealth and education inequalities, Rebecca hugely enjoyed studying for her BA in Economics at King’s College, Cambridge and aspired to continue her studies in the field, but she knew this would be impossible to achieve without securing major financial support.

Funding an economics Masters degree can be highly problematic. Non-subject specific external funding bodies are highly competitive, and many external funding bodies have very specific eligibility requirements. Without the Studentship, I would have been unable to study at the University of Cambridge. The MPhil in Economic Research currently has tuition fees in excess of £21,000. Once the cost of accommodation, electricity and food is taken into account, the estimated financial commitment is just under £35,000 for the year. Unfortunately, there are very limited funding opportunities from the Government and external funding bodies. The maximum government loan for masters is £10,000 per annum, leaving a large funding shortfall.

As a result of these significant challenges it was a huge relief to Rebecca when she received notification that she had been awarded the Cambridge UK Masters & Churchill Møller Studentship. The Studentship covers Rebecca’s tuition fees and provides a maintenance allowance, which meets the cost of her accommodation and food during the term. She is very clear about the dramatic impact that receiving the Studentship has had on her life and academic ambitions.

The day I heard that I had received the Studentship was one of the happiest of my life. I spent over a week in utter disbelief. The funding offer took a massive weight off my shoulders. Beforehand, I was under immense pressure as I had to search for funding alongside studying for my finals. I will forever be grateful to Churchill College for the excellent funding that I have received.

Rebecca loves the friendly atmosphere at Churchill and recalls being made to feel immediately welcome when she first arrived in Cambridge. She also has praise for the fantastic postgraduate accommodation available at the College as well as the excellent welfare support available:

I identify as a disabled student. When I was three years old, I was diagnosed with oral dyspraxia. I went through intensive speech therapy in primary school. In addition, I was recently diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Due to this, I can sometimes find Cambridge overwhelming. There are a wide variety of welfare staff at Churchill, including the college nurse Jo, college tutors and the college counsellor. The welfare staff at Churchill are extremely attentive and caring. They are more than happy to listen to your problems. The staff will email you to check up on your progress and to make sure that you are doing okay!

Despite the upheaval caused by the pandemic Rebecca continued to thrive and grow in both academic ability and confidence during the year. She achieved 90% in the preparatory mathematics exam and came top of her co-hort in her mid-term exams, achieving 91% in R300 econometrics and 86% in R100 microeconomic. Rebecca is currently working on her dissertation studying the effect of ancestry on trust and trustworthiness and reports that she was ‘extremely fortunate to be awarded £500 from Churchill College and £500 from the Old Kimboltonians’ Association to fund her online experiments.’

In her spare time Rebecca enjoys writing, organising College events and photography. She is currently Varsity Investigations Co-Editor and recently published a report on disabled access at the University, which is available online here. An active member of the College community, Rebecca has organised several events in her capacity as MCR First Year Representative including masterminding the MCR’s first virtual event series, The Great Churchill Bake Off.

Going forwards, Rebecca plans to do a PhD in Economics at Churchill and is delighted to have been offered a conditional PhD place in the Economic Theory group under Dr Gallo. In April, she was awarded the Vice-Chancellor’s & Churchill Møller Scholarship which will cover her fees and living costs, ‘I am extremely excited to continue studying Economics at Churchill College for the next three years!’

For Rebecca, pursuing a career in academia combines her aspiration to research economic issues in depth whilst interacting with and supporting students; ‘With so few women taking academic positions in economics, I would love to be a role model to encourage other women into the profession.’ Thanks to the vital funding support she has received, this dream can become a reality.