There are probably more funding opportunities for your PhD than you think. It is worth making sure you have investigated them all.
Funding bodies support PhD students in different ways. Some pay course fees only, some include a stipend (maintenance costs) or travel expenses, and others offer a one-off award to ease the financial burden of academic study.
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).
The seven Research Councils invest in the region of £380 million into doctorate research every year. However, funding is made available through the participating universities rather than the research councils themselves. Universities set up Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs) or Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) in order to receive funding.
It is then up to the universities to decide who to award studentships to – usually based on academic merit following a competitive application process.
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 per annum which is paid tax-free.
The seven Research Councils include:
The above organisations have been grouped together with Innovate UK and Research England in 2018, and the umbrella organisation is called UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).
UKRI’s key objectives include providing funding for the training of new researchers.
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 may 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. These are 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 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 PhDs:
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. It is wise to review the specific application criteria to ensure that you are eligible.
A further option is to study part-time while working. This could however place additional demands on your time and financial situation. 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.
The jobs.ac.uk website lists some excellent PhD opportunities as well as a wide range of jobs – do take a look at them!
For more PhD tips: