A PhD is usually cheaper than a taught degree, but the large variety of different subject areas, universities and higher education systems mean that the average fees and living costs vary. This page gives you an outline of the typical cost of a PhD in the UK and other destinations, along with some additional expenses you may have to budget for.
Having a better understanding of how much a doctorate might cost will aid you in your search for PhD funding and may make a difference to where you decide to study your PhD.
Postgraduate courses in the UK are generally cheaper, per year, than undergraduate courses. The typical tuition fee for PhD study in the UK is around £4,327 per year for ‘home’ (UK and EU) students (Brexit does not affect PhD fees for EU students beginning a doctorate in the 2020-21 academic year).
This is the amount that UK Research Councils pay to universities on behalf of funded students. Universities tend to set their fees close to the Research Council amount, though some may be higher.
These fees go up each year in line with inflation, so a PhD for self-funded students may be slightly higher in the second and third years of a UK doctorate.
Students from outside the EU pay higher fees to study in the UK. These are set by individual institutions and vary by subject. As a general rule, you can expect to pay around £15-25,000 per year. Some subjects cost more, for example the average cost of a PhD in Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences for international students is £17,900, whereas PhD fees in STEM subjects are around £24,000.
The costs of a PhD stated on this page are for full-time PhD study. Part-time PhD fees are generally about 50% of the full-time price, but this can vary. Always check if you are able to do a PhD project part-time particularly when doing a PhD abroad as some visas can restrict you from this mode of study.
Some PhD students also pay research support fees to cover the cost of specialist materials used during their project.
For laboratory-based students, these are known as bench fees, which cover the cost of consumables and the use of facilities required to do experiments. These costs may sometimes be included in the tuition fee or quoted separately. Bench fees are one reason why PhD fees for STEM subjects are generally higher than for Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.
Specific costs vary depending on the nature of the programme and the kind of research you are undertaking. Because of this, details of bench fees are discussed during the application or are made available on request.
Universities offer scholarships, bursaries and full studentships to help students cover the cost of a PhD sudy (the latter are often provided by the UK Research Councils. Most university funding is provided on the basis of academic merit or to support widening participation. A government PhD loan is also available to some students. You can find more information on the different way to fund your PhD here.
Living costs will greatly depend on your lifestyle and circumstances – and you will definitely want a life outside of your PhD. Whether that involves going out once a week or once a month, we cannot predict, but we can give you a guide to what the average living costs, including travel and accommodation, in different UK university cities are for a postgraduate student.
|City||Monthly Cost||City||Monthly Cost|
|Figures are calculated based on crowdsourced data published by Numbeo.|
If you are fortunate enough to get a full Research Council studentships, you will recieve an annual stipend to cover living costs and maintenance. The stipend is currently £15,009, and this also increases with inflation each year.
PhD fees elsewhere in Europe are often more affordable than those in the UK, and some countries actually provide opportunities to complete a doctorate for free.
The tuition fees below are what EU citizens pay in different countries, based on data from the OECD.
*If not state-funded
**As doctoral students are classed as university employees
***Additional fee of around €1,050 for your doctoral thesis defence
International students may pay slightly more than these fees, though some European countries don’t distinguish between domestic and overseas students. See our guides to PhD study in Europe for more information.
As with tuition fees, the living costs in different European countries also varies. The following table compares the cost of accommodation, travel, utilities and groceries across Europe.
|Figures are calculated based on crowdsourced prices for one person's share of rent and utilities in a three-bedroom city centre house, together with a monthly travel pass. Original data published by Numbeo.|
The average cost of a PhD for international students can range from £3,500 to £20,000 per year depending on the institution and course type. For UK/EU students, you can expect to pay the following in these different countries for PhD studies.
Although PhD costs for internationals do seem high, most countries offer scholarships and other funding options to attract students. In addition to this, many of the UK Research Councils have partner universities in countries around the world and may pay for part of your PhD to take place in a different country. For example, the A*STAR PhD programme allows students to study in Singapore, as well as a UK based university.
To know precisely how much it will cost you to do a PhD abroad, it is best to get in touch with the university you are interested in researching at. These are some questions you can ask in an email and state whether you are international, EU or a home student:
The main costs of a PhD will be from tuition fees and living costs, but there are also some other expenses you may have to account for.
If you are studying abroad, it is more than likely that you will need a visa.Most countries charge a fee for processing your visa application. However, studying abroad may not necessarily mean that you have to pay the visa fees. Some countries (such as the European Union) don’t require student visas for their member citizens.
Student visa requirements and the costs in different countries can be found in our guides to PhD study abroad.
Costs for health insurance will only apply if you are going to study your PhD abroad, as if you do your doctorate in your home country, you will already be covered by any existing public or private healthcare.
Some universities charge a small fee to process PhD applications. This is not always the case, and isn’t very common in the UK, but it varies depending on the university you choose to do your PhD at.
Individual universities will provide detailed information about any administrative fees they charge and these are covered in our guides to PhD study abroad.
In order to study a PhD in a second language, you must provide evidence that you have sufficient language skills. Universities will either accept existing experience studying in the relevant language or may require a certain score on a language test.
Different universities have their own preferred language tests, though many universities will accept more than one. For more information, see our guides to international language tests for postgraduate study.
Another important aspect of PhD fees, particularly if you are studying abroad, is getting to your destination country or city. This is something that is good to budget for in advance.
Last updated - 28/11/2019