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PhD Funding - An Introductory Guide

Looking for help covering the cost of your doctorate? PhD funding is available from a range of sources, but it's important to know where to look.

That's where this guide comes in. We've put together a summary of the main sources of PhD funding, with links to our own in-depth guides and other resources.

So, whether you're looking for a Research Council grant, a scholarship, or even a PhD loan, we'll help you get started. Postgraduate research may be challenging. Finding funding for a PhD doesn't have to be.



UK Research Council studentships

The UK Research Councils (RCUK) offer PhD studentships in a range of subject areas. These awards are available at UK universities and are usually awarded to the best students applying each year.

Studentships are open to UK and EU residents. International students may also be able to apply to a limited number of studentships with 'open eligibility'.

This funding will usually pay your PhD fees and may also provide a stipend for living costs, depending on eligibility.

Research Council PhD Funding

A Research Council studentship could be ideal if you're planning on studying a PhD in the UK. Our guide explains eligibility and applications, together with a handy FAQ.

UK PhD loans

England will introduce doctoral student loans of up to £25,000 in time for the 2018-19 academic year. UK students will be able to apply for a loan to study a PhD anywhere in the UK, provided they are ordinarily resident in England.

You'll also be eligible for a loan as an EU student, provided you're already living in England or coming to study at an English university.

Wales intends to introduce a similar loan for 2018-19 and Northern Ireland has previously put forward its own proposals. Our newsletter will keep you updated.

Note that these loans are separate to the postgraduate loans that are already available for Masters degrees and similar programmes, across the UK.

UK PhD Loans

PhD loans will be introduced for UK students next year. Our guide explains how the loans will work and answers the questions you may have about them.


University scholarships

One of the best sources of support for your PhD could actually be the university you need the funding for. This isn't as strange as it might sound.

The majority of universities have their own scholarships and bursaries available to support students. These usually take one of the following forms:

  • Merit-based (academic) scholarships - Universities want to recruit the best postgraduate researchers and one way of doing that is to provide incentives in the form of support for PhD fees and living costs.
  • Need-based scholarships - Most universities also want to be sure that their education and training is available to suitable students, regardless of their background. They may help with this by setting aside fee waivers or bursaries for less wealthy students or those who might otherwise struggle to pursue a PhD.
  • International scholarships - Attracting students from abroad can boost a university's research potential by broadening the pool of researchers it attracts and providing an opportunity to combine new ideas and perspectives. Many institutions support this by funding PhD students from other countries.

Once you've found a PhD at a particular university, it may be worth getting in touch and asking if they have any scholarships or studentships on offer. Alternatively, you can use our guide to PhD funding from universities to see what funding might be available at different institutions.

Make sure your enquiry looks (and is) genuine. Universities will be more likely to respond to students who can demonstrate a real interest in their PhD projects or programmes.

PhD funding from universities

Our guide explains what kind of funding unviversities offer, how to find it and how to go about applying for it.

Charities and trusts

It isn't just universities and governments that fund PhD students. A large number of independent organisations also support postgraduate research.

Some are large research charities with substantial budgets for scholarships and grants. Others foundations and charities are smaller, but may still provide financial support to students in their areas of interest.

Details of eligibility requirements for some of the major research charities are available through the links below:

Many other smaller organisations provide funding to PhD students. Some charities will be seeking to support research that meets their social and cultural objectives. Others may be focussed on widening access to education for people from specific backgrounds.

The value of charitable grants will vary - as will their eligibility criteria - but it's possible to 'portfolio' fund by applying to a range of charities and trusts during your PhD.

'Alternative' PhD funding

Interested in applying to charities and trusts for PhD funding? Our guide draws on the expertise of someone who once raised around £40,000 in this way.

Funding to study abroad

Studying a PhD in another country can be a great opportunity to benefit from new ideas and access unique resources during your doctorate. But there's a catch: international or 'overseas' students aren't always eligible for the same funding as domestic or 'home' students. This is true in a range of countries, including the UK.

The good news is that there's often extra support available specifically for international students.

International students in the UK

You won't be eligible for Research Council studentships or PhD loans as an overseas student in the UK, but separate funding is available.

Your first port of call should normally be grant-awarding bodies in your own country (eg your Ministry/Department of Education) and your local (or nearest) office of the British Council.

The UK Government also runs a range of international funding schemes, including the prestigious Commonwealth Scholarships programme.

UK PhD funding for international students

There's more funding available to study abroad in the UK than you might think. Our guide explains where to start looking.

European Students in the UK

European Union (EU) citizens may qualify for a fees only Research Council studentship, but will need to find their own money for living expenses.

The EU provides some grants to promote the exchange of students and academic staff within Europe. Further details can be found on the Community Research & Development Information Service (CORDIS) web site.

Research collaboration in Europe extends beyond the EU and residents of European countries with organisations affiliated to the European Science Foundation may also be eligible for certain schemes.

Brexit and PhD study

The UK may have voted to leave the EU, but 'Brexit' isn't expected to take place until 2019. In the meantime, our postgraduate FAQ offers advice for EU students studying in the UK and UK students studying abroad.

PhD funding in other countries

Most countries have some form of PhD funding available for their own students and for international postgraduates. Our guides to PhD study abroad are a good place to look for more information.

You can also contact the Ministry / Department of Education in your home country, for advice. They may be able to tell you about international scholarships - or offer funding from your own government.

British Commonwealth Countries

Click for a list of Commonwealth countries

  • Commonwealth Scholarship Plan
    Full scholarships, for Commonwealth students to enable them to study in other Commonwealth countries. Grants are for one to three years and usually cover the cost of travel, tuition fees and living expenses. In some cases, additional allowances may be available for help with books and clothes.

Canada

Universities Canada provides some information for international students wishing to study in Canada.

European Union

The EU provides some grants to promote the exchange of students and academic staff within Europe, primarily through its Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) and Erasmus+ programmes.

USA

Application procedures for Fulbright grants to study or teach in the United States vary from country to country. Fulbright Commissions or the American Embassies administer the program, with the assistance of local educational authorities and institutions.

To learn more about the program or to begin the application process, contact the Fulbright Commission in your country. If there is no commission in your country, contact the American embassy.

UK students wishing to study in the USA should visit www.fulbright.co.uk

USA students wishing to study overseas should contact the Institute of International Education

Other countries

You can find more information on funding to study a PhD abroad in our individual guides to international phd study in different countries. Each includes a section on fees and funding.

Other PhD funding

Hopefully this page has helped reveal just how much support is available for PhD study. But, if you haven't found a suitable funding option yet, don't worry.

Here are a few more possibilities that could be worth considering:

  • Working during a PhD - PhD self-funding may not be your aim, but it's far from impossible - particularly in Arts and Humanities subjects. Working alongside your degree can help provide an additional source of income.
  • DSA for PhD students - You may be eligible for additional support if a disability, chronic illness or learning difficulty makes postgraduate study more expensive for you.
  • PhD funding blogs - Looking for more advice? We regularly cover PhD funding topics on our blog, with information on specific sources of support, as well as updates on new developments.
  • The FindAPhD Scholarships - our own scholarship competition awards £12,000 to new postgraduate students each year. Signup to hear when applications open.

Last, but not least, don't forget our PhD newsletter. Signing up gives you free access to regular updates on PhD opportunities and funding information - including news about the options and opportunities listed on this page.

Did you know we currently list 4,394 PhD opportunities worldwide?


Why not take a look?

Last updated - 02/03/2018

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