PhD Funding - A Checklist Of Possible Funding Sources


If you want to do a PhD then it really is worth making sure you have investigated all of the possible funding sources – there are probably more than you think.

Funding bodies support PhD students in different ways; some will pay course fees only; some will include a stipend (maintenance costs) or travel expenses while others will simply be a one-off award to ease the financial burden of further study. Similarly, each funding body will have its own criteria for eligibility. At PhD level, full funding will tend to be awarded on academic merit but there are also some that take into account financial background and other criteria such as gender (in the case of the British Federation of Women Graduates). Here is a list of all of the main sources of funding for UK based PhD students.

Research Councils

The seven Research Councils currently fund around 19,000 doctoral students in the UK. However, funding is made available through the participating universities rather than the research councils themselves. Eligibility criteria and award amounts are standardised, and you will find many other funded PhDs referring to research council rates when defining their own. Research council studentships include fees and a minimum stipend of £13,590 per annum (2010/11 rates) which is paid tax-free (apparently this level matches the tax-free equivalent average graduate starting salary).

Research Councils UK 

Arts and Humanities Research Council 

Economic and Social Research Council

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council

Science and Technology Facilities Council

Medical Research Council

Natural Environment Research Council

See jobs and PhD opportunities funded by the Research Councils on

Academic institutions

Universities, colleges and research institutes also fund their own studentships, and these will often be listed on the institution’s own website alongside its research council-funded studentships. Some will offer fees only, while others may offer a stipend as well. Amounts vary, although many use the Research Council rates as a benchmark.

Commercial and charitable organisations

A number of non-academic organisations help fund research at PhD level in collaboration with the university hosting the study. CASE (Cooperative Awards in Science and Engineering) studentships are four-year PhDs part-funded by a non-academic 'co-operating body' such as a UK industrial firm, public sector organisation or charity. Students spend at least nine months of the PhD working in-situ at the co-operating body, which in turn, makes a financial contribution to both the student and the project. Students stand a good chance of a chance of a job at the end and will have gained valuable hands-on work experience. There are also CASE-Plus studentships where students spend a further year working full-time on the premises of the co-operating body as an employee following the PhD.

A number of charitable organisations, foundations and trusts can help fund PhD’s. These include:

The Wellcome Trust

Cancer Research UK 

The British Academy 

The British Federation of Women Graduates

The Institution of Civil Engineers 

Institution of Engineering & Technology

Institution of Mechanical Engineers

Royal Geographical Society

Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland

Leverhulme Trust

Action Medical Research

However, there may be smaller charities relevant to your area of study that offers funding, such as The Grundy Educational Trust, which supports science students under 30 years of age.

Self funding

Lastly, if you really can’t get funding from the above sources, you may be able to fund your own way through a PhD. Professional and Career development loans are available or another other option is to study part time whilst working.


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