Working in the UK – A Guide for International PhD Students |
Get free PhD updates, every week | SIGN UP NOW Get free PhD updates, every week | SIGN UP NOW

Working in the UK – A Guide for International PhD Students

Written by Mark Bennett

Most international students are allowed to work at least some hours whilst pursuing a doctorate in the UK. However, you can't rely on this income as part of your main PhD funding.

General guidelines

Provided you are pursuing a full-time PhD in the UK, you may work alongside your project or programme, provided you do not:

  • work for more than 20 hours per week, except during any vacations or in the case of an agreed work placement or internship (see below).
  • engage in business, self-employment or provide services as a professional sportsperson or entertainer.
  • pursue a career by filling a permanent fulltime vacancy.

In other words you can do most part time jobs. This does not apply in all cases and you should check official guidelines or discuss with your university's international office before making plans or commitments.

Who counts as an international student?

Most students who do not have UK citizenship or settled status in the UK will count as international students for the purpose of paying UK PhD fees, applying for UK PhD funding, or meeting the requirements of a UK student visa (including working whilst studying).

Exceptions apply to:

  • Irish nationals
  • EU students with settled status or pre-settled status
  • People with refugee status

Check with your university if you aren't sure what applies in your case.

Note that, following Brexit, EU students from outside the UK now count as international students.

Can you work to pay for university fees?

Generally, you must be able to pay your course fees and the living expenses of both yourself and any dependants that you bring with you without working in the UK and without recourse to public funds. This will be assessed when you apply for a visa for your PhD.

However, if you have a guaranteed offer of work at the university where you are studying this income may be taken into account when your means are assessed.

Can my husband or wife work in the UK?

A recent change to UK visas has meant that dependents can only be brought with you on research programmes. This means that a husband or wife will be eligible to live with you and should be allowed to work.

If you were given permission to stay in the UK for 12 months or more your husband or wife will be given a visa or passport stamp that allows them to work. They will need a copy of your passport to show the Immigration Officer if they are following you to the UK.

What do I need before I can start work?

You will need to have applied for a National Insurance number to be eligible to work in the UK , but you do not need to have received your National Insurance number before you can start work. You should do this after you have received your offer of employment (your local Benefits Agency in the UK will advise you on how to apply).

What is an internship?

An internship is a short period of paid work, which an employer may offer a potential employee, even if the potential permanent employment is outside the UK . A student subject to conditions restricting employment will be allowed to undertake an internship provided that:

  • the student has not previously undertaken an internship with the employer
  • the internship is for not longer than three months
  • it is an established part of the employer's recruitment procedure
  • it offers pay and conditions of employment comparable to those for a 'resident worker' doing the same work
  • it is completed within the current period of leave as a student

Further Information

To find out more about working in the UK during a PhD, see information from:

You can also read our own detailed guide to UK visas for PhD students.

Ready to do a PhD?

Search our project listings to find out what you could be studying.

Research Council (UKRI) PhD Studentships – An Introduction

The seven UK Research Councils provide government studentships for PhD research in different subject areas. Our simple guide explains how this funding works, what you can get and how to apply successfully.

Read more
PhD Loans for Doctoral Students – A Guide for 2023

You may be able to get a PhD loan of up to £27,892 for a UK doctorate. Our guide explains eligibility, applications and repayments.

Read more
International PhD Funding for 2023

Our guide explains the best ways to fund international PhD study in the UK, with information on all the main scholarships available to you.

Read more
Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) - A Guide

Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) or Doctoral Training Centres (DTCs) provide UK Research Council funded PhD studentships to postgraduate students

Read more
Inlaks Scholarships for PhD Students

Inlaks Scholarships provide a fantastic funding opportunity for Indian students looking to do a PhD abroad at one of the world’s top universities.

Read more
Commonwealth PhD Scholarships for Indian Students

Commonwealth PhD Scholarships offer talented Indian doctoral students the opportunity to complete a funded 12-month placement at a participating UK university.

Read more

Last Updated: 23 May 2023