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PhD Funding from Universities

It’s easy to overlook one of the most obvious sources of PhD funding: the university you’re going to be studying at. Most institutions have some form of support available for their postgraduate research students, and some of these awards can be very generous.

But searching through multiple university websites for PhD funding takes time and making sense of the funding you find can be difficult. This guide is designed to help with both problems.

We’ve explained what kind of PhD funding universities usually offer and how to go about finding it. Better yet, we’ve put together a directory of specific funding information for UK universities, alongside their fully-funded PhDs listed here on FindAPhD.com.



Understanding what's available

So, what kinds of funding do universities offer? There’s a wide range available, from small grants to full studentships. But it’s important to be clear about what we mean by university funding, for the purposes of this guide:

  • We aren’t covering specific, fully-funded PhD projects here. The reason for that is simple: we don’t need to. They’re already listed on FindAPhD.com.
  • We also aren’t covering Research Council Studentships. These are distributed by universities, but funded by the UK Government, with specific criteria involved. So we’ve covered them in our separate guide to Research Council PhD funding.
  • Finally, we’re focussing mainly on UK universities. That doesn’t mean that the general advice here isn’t appropriate to PhD study abroad, but information about specific resources will be based on the UK.

So, essentially, we’re covering scholarships, studentships, grants and bursaries, awarded by universities and not attached to a specific PhD project. But what do we mean by ‘scholarships, studentships, grants and bursaries’? Let’s quickly explain.

Types of award

So, what kinds of PhD funding do universities offer? Here are the terms you’ll most commonly encounter – and what they usually mean:

  • A PhD studentship is normally a full-funding package, covering fees and living costs (plus other expenses). Studentships are sometimes attached to specific projects, but the term can refer to any funding sufficient to complete a PhD. Funding that doesn’t cover a full PhD would probably be referred to as a partial studentship.
  • A PhD scholarship is likely to be full-funding that isn’t attached to a specific project. Some scholarships are also more specific, perhaps being limited to a payment for fees or living costs, but not both.
  • A PhD fee waiver removes the need for a student to pay for their tuition, but doesn’t cover living costs. Essentially this is a way for universities to offer partial funding by not charging you to study your PhD with them.
  • A PhD stipend is a regular payment for living costs. It functions a bit like an annual salary, but is usually paid tax-free. It’s rare for a separate funding package to be referred to in this way, but full scholarships and studentships include a stipend.
  • A PhD bursary is money paid to a student during a degree. If this is paid for living costs as part of a full-funding package it may be referred to as a PhD stipend (see above). Otherwise the term ‘bursary’ is used for more general funding.
  • A PhD grant is a specific payment, usually made on a one-off basis in order to assist a student in carrying out research. It might be a substantial amount intended to provide all (or almost all) of the funding you need; or it might be paid for a specific purpose, such as research travel or the purchase of equipment.

Know how these terms are often used can help you make sense of university funding awards a little bit more quickly. But don’t treat them labels as gospel. In practice, labels like ‘scholarship’ and ‘studentship’ are often interchangeable.

Fellowships

Academic fellowships are offered to help support academics researching or working at a university, usually on a temporary basis. They aren't normally a form of PhD funding (in fact, you'll probably need a PhD to apply for one).

Funding criteria

Universities support their students in different ways and for different reasons. Again, knowing something about the common purpose and eligibility criteria for university funding can save you a bit of time as you learn to spot which awards will (and won’t) be appropriate for you.

  • Merit-based funding is awarded to the best students starting a PhD at a university. Selection is normally made according to the strength of your research proposal or your previous qualifications and academic track record.
  • Need-based funding is intended to assist students who wouldn’t otherwise be able to study for a PhD. Criteria can be based on your income or economic background. Alternatively, awards made be made to increase widening participation in postgraduate study from under-represented social groups.
  • International funding is offered to students from outside the UK and EU (who normally pay higher PhD fees). These awards often provide additional money for international study expenses, such as air travel, visa fees or health insurance. Support may be merit-based and open to all overseas students, or offered to citizens from specific countries as need-based funding.

In practice, most university funding for PhDs is merit-based. This means that your success in winning a scholarship, studentship or other support will usually depend on the strength of your application. But it’s worth checking whether you might be eligible for more specific (and potentially less competitive) funding.

Funding during a PhD

Universities may also offer funding for current doctoral students and it can actually be worth knowing about these opportunities before you start:

  • Travel grants or conference funding can help cover some of the costs involved in carrying out your research or presenting it at academic events. This support may be provided at a certain rate per-student, per-year, or awarded on an application-by-application basis.
  • Resource grants may be provided to pay for any additional materials you need to purchase for your research, such as equipment or books.
  • Writing-up funding is sometimes provided to students at the end of a PhD who have completed their research, but need time to finish preparing their thesis for submission. This may be available as an extension to an existing studentship or scholarship, or as a way of supporting students whose research over-runs due to factors beyond their control.
  • Hardship funding may sometimes be offered to students who face unexpected financial difficulties during their PhD.

The availability of this funding shouldn’t make or break your PhD, but it could make it quite a bit cheaper.

Finding funding

Checking what PhD funding is available at one university might not take long, but checking several can be complicated and time-consuming.

So we’ve made things a bit simpler. The table below shows you where to look for PhD funding opportunities from individual UK universities.

We haven’t listed every single scholarship or studentship each university offers*. Instead we’ve shown you where to look for that university’s own funding resources, including details of its PhD scholarships

We’ve also provided a quick link to PhD projects and programmes for each university, here on FindAPhD.com. After all, it’s handy to know what you might be looking for funding for. Or whether a project already has funding.

*It would be very difficult to keep that up to date. Plus, this page would be huge.


PhD Funding from UK Universities
Aberystwyth University Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
Anglia Ruskin University Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
Aston University Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
Bangor University Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
Bath Spa University Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
Birkbeck University London Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
Birmingham City University Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
Bournemouth University Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
Brunel University London Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
Canterbury Christ Church University Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
Cardiff Metropolitan University Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
Cardiff University Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
City University of London Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
Cranfield University Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
De Montfort University Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
Durham University Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
Edge Hill University Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
Edinburgh Napier University Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
Falmouth University Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
Glasgow Caledonian University Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
Glasgow School of Art Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
Goldsmiths University of London Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
Heriot-Watt University Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
Imperial College London Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
Keele University Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
King's College London Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
Kingston University Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
Lancaster University Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
Leeds Beckett University Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
Liverpool Hope University Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
Liverpool John Moore's University Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
London Metropolitan University Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
London School of Economics Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
London South Bank University Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
Loughborough University Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
Manchester Metropolitan University Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
Middlesex University Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
Newcastle University Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
Northumbria University Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
Nottingham Trent University Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
The Open University Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
Oxford Brookes University Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
Plymouth Marjon University Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
Queen Margaret University Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
Queen Mary University London Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
Queen's University Belfast Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
Robert Gordon University Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
Royal Central School of Speech and Drama Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
Royal College of Art Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
Royal College of Music London Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
Royal Holloway University Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
Royal Veterinary College Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
Sheffield Hallam University Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS) Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
St George's University London Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
Staffordshire University Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
Swansea University Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
Teesside University Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
Ulster University Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of Aberdeen Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of the Arts London Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of Bath Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of Bedfordshire Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of Birmingham Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of Bolton Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of Bradford Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of Brighton Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of Bristol Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of Buckingham Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of Cambridge Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of Central Lancashire Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of Chester Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of Chichester Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University College London Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of Cumbria Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of Derby Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of Dundee Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of East Anglia Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of East London Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of Edinburgh Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of Exeter Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of Glasgow Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of Gloucestershire Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of Greenwich Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of Hertfordshire Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of the Highlands and Islands Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of Huddersfield Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of Hull Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of Kent Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of Leeds Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of Leicester Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of Lincoln Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of Liverpool Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of Manchester Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of Northampton Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of Nottingham Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of Oxford Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of Portsmouth Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of Reading Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of Roehampton Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of Salford Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of Sheffield Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of South Wales Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of Southampton Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of St Andrews Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of Stirling Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of Strathclyde Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of Sunderland Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of Surrey Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of Sussex Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of the West of England Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of West London Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of the West of Scotland Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of Wales Trinity St David Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of Warwick Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of Westminster Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of Winchester Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of Wolverhampton Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
University of York Current projects & programmes PhD funding information
York St John University Current projects & programmes PhD funding information

Hopefully the resources above are useful to you. We’ve done our best to make it as accurate as possible, but pages do change from time-to-time. If you spot anything that needs updating (or if you think we’ve missed something) let us know at editor[at]findaphd[dot]com.

Brexit

Universities are free to set their own criteria for the PhD awards they provide. In most cases this kind of funding won't be affected by Brexit. Our FAQ explains the current situation for EU students considering a UK doctorate.

Applying for awards

Universities will set specific eligibility criteria, application processes and deadlines for each of their funding opportunities, but the following tips are worth bearing in mind.

Check whether you actually need to apply

Some universities automatically consider students for certain funding awards. If so, you may simply need to indicate that you’d like to be considered for an award during your normal PhD application. Or you might not need to do anything (other than apply for the PhD itself).

Make sure the funding is definitely for a PhD

A university’s ‘postgraduate’ funding awards won’t always be available for research students; some may be restricted to Masters degrees and other taught courses.

Other awards might include all postgraduate programmes, but only provide funding for one or two years – helpful, but not enough to complete a PhD.

Be aware of deadlines

Even if a PhD project or programme doesn’t have a specific application date, studentships and scholarships for it probably will.

Universities will need a cut-off point in order to assess candidates, make a shortlist and award the funding in time for the successful candidate to start their PhD. Deadlines are often set in the autumn or spring, but this can vary.

Don’t make funding the focus of your entire PhD application

Universities know that students need help paying for a PhD and they want to support you (that’s why they make funding available in the first place). But they also need to know that you’ve chosen them for your doctorate for the right reasons and not just because they might be able to fund you.

Be sure to explain why you’re the right person to do this PhD, why this PhD is worth doing and why this university is the right place to do it – all things that should be part of your research proposal and / or personal statement.



Last updated - 03/08/2018

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