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The Cost of a PhD

Written by Ben Taylor

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.

PhD fees in the UK

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 £4,500 per year for domestic students. But they can range from £4,500-£20,000 depending on the subject area.

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.

International PhD fees in the UK

International students 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 £20,000-£35,000 per year. Some subjects cost more, for example in STEM due to the extra resources required such as equipment, servicing and tech support.

The cost of a part-time PhD

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.

Research support fees

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.

PhD funding

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.

PhD living costs in the UK

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 (not including rent), in different UK university cities are for a postgraduate student.

Living costs in UK university cities
City Monthly Cost City Monthly Cost
Aberdeen £633 Hull £598
Bath £805 Leeds £738
Belfast £662 Leicester £649
Birmingham £653 Lincoln £756
Bournemouth £684 Liverpool £716
Bradford £577 London £894
Brighton £770 Luton £685
Bristol £747 Manchester £722
Cambridge £768 Middlesbrough £703
Canterbury £853 Newcastle £676
Cardiff £671 Norwich £686
Chester £664 Nottingham £687
Colchester £708 Oxford £719
Coventry £675 Plymouth £714
Derby £686 Portsmouth £634
Dundee £617 Preston £618
Edinburgh £686 Reading £733
Exeter £670 Sheffield £682
Glasgow £708 Southampton £707
Guildford £776 Swansea £649
Huddersfield £596 York £754
Figures are calculated based on crowdsourced data published by Numbeo.

If you are fortunate enough to get a full Research Council studentships, you will receive an annual stipend to cover living costs and maintenance. The stipend is currently £17,668, and this also increases with inflation each year.

PhD fees in Europe

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 indications of what EU citizens could 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.

PhD living costs in Europe

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.


Postgraduate living costs in Europe (€)
Country Rent Utilities Travel
Austria 603 242 48
Belgium 657 175 49
Czech Republic 515 233 20
Denmark 735 181 67
Estonia 411 252 30
Finland 652 117 58
France 608 158 65
Germany 626 244 70
Greece 345 197 30
Hungary 299 128 23
Iceland 1,094 107 54
Ireland 1,240 176 100
Italy 503 177 35
Netherlands 948 220 90
Norway 843 199 75
Poland 452 187 21
Portugal 576 110 40
Romania 252 118 16
Spain 602 124 40
Sweden 620 76 76
Switzerland 1,276 216 81
Turkey 169 58 23
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.

International PhD fees

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 international 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:

  1. What are the programme fees and what do they cover?
  2. Are there any additional ‘departmental research costs’ e.g. administration fees or costs for printing etc?
  3. Are there any additional expenses such as for research equipment or fieldwork costs?
  4. Are scholarships or bursaries available?

Additional fees and costs

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.

Visas

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.

Health insurance when studying 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.

Application fees

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.

Language tests

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.

Travel

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.

Paying for your PhD

Whatever costs you face during your PhD, there is a range of ways to help cover them. Our funding guides cover doctoral loans, studentships, charitable grants and international scholarships.

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Last Updated: 30 November 2022