PhD Funding - A Checklist Of Possible Funding Sources

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There are probably more funding sources for your PhD than you think. It’s worth making sure you have investigated them all.

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 (such as in the case of the British Federation of Women Graduates).

Below 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 (with Research Councils UK acting as an umbrella the seven Research Councils work under), 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 £13,863 per annum (2014/15 rates) which is paid tax-free.

Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)

Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)

Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

Medical Research Council (MRC)

Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)

Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)

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 are typically 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 for 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 three 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 often find these to be good avenues for finding full-time work at the end of their placement, 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.


Lastly, if you are having difficulty in getting funding from the above sources, you may be able to fund your own way through a PhD. You may be eligible for Professional and Career development loans, but it’s worth reviewing the specific requirements of these to ensure you are eligible (eg you are not eligible if you already have access to savings of £16,000 or more).

A further option is to study part-time while working. This is possible, but naturally places additional demands on your time and financial management. Be aware that if you have managed to access some funding elsewhere, you may be prohibited from working during your PhD as part of the stipulations of the award.



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