How can I fund my PhD?
There are all sorts of ways to fund your research degree, including research council studentships, career development loans, and employer sponsorship. These web pages will help you understand what kinds of funding are available, when it is released, and how you can apply for it.
Before you start looking into how to get funding, remember to consider how much a research degree is likely to cost.
It is always a good idea to contact the Postgraduate Research team in the School/College you are interested in studying in for details of their specific funding opportunities.
How much? Variable up to full tuition fees and a generous living allowance (approximate total £18,000 per year)
Who is eligible? Students with outstanding academic records
When is it available? Autumn to late spring
Because research is key to our ambitions and achievements at the University of Exeter, we fund a number of our own PhD studentships every year, usually on similar terms to those funded via research councils. These are generally released at similar times to research council studentships, ie. most starting in the autumn with some deadlines as late as spring.
Vice-Chancellor's Scholarship for Postgraduate Research
We are delighted to be offering up to 22 scholarships for current University of Exeter students progressing to PhD programmes in 2017, from a taught masters, MbyRes or science, technology, engineering, medicine and mathematics undergraduate programme.
For Home/EU students, this is a fully-funded scholarship and will cover fees, an annual stipend of £14,300 and a research allowance for up to three and a half years (42 months).
For international students, the scholarship will cover full international fees and a research allowance.
Successful applicants will be expected to start their doctoral studies in September 2017. This award is not open to students who have already started a doctoral programme.
The recipient of the scholarship is expected to commit to training and engagement beyond their doctoral studies, for example through public engagement opportunities, accessing skills development opportunities, and career development. Continued funding will be dependent on satisfactory evidence of this activity.
Diamond Jubilee Scholarship
We are pleased to be offering up to 1 funded scholarship for entry in 2017-18. This scholarship will enable a student to complete a doctoral degree in a subject area that is available on any University of Exeter campus.
For eligible UK/EU students, this full time scholarship will cover fees and an annual stipend of at £14,295 (current research council rate) for up to four years (48 months).
Applicants to this scholarship must have a strong first degree (at least an Upper Second Class Honours or equivalent).
The scholarship will be awarded to the strongest applicant based on an assessment of the applicant’s:
- academic excellence
- research potential
- research proposal
- collaborative, impact and engagement elements or ambitious and novel research proposal
Exeter International Excellence Scholarship for Postgraduate Research
We are pleased to be offering 20 full-fee scholarships for entry during the 2017/18 academic year. Successful applicants will have their tuition and bench fees paid by the University for up to 3.5 years (42 months)
A research allowance will be provided and a stipend to support living costs will be paid at current UK research council levels, currently £14,295 per year.
The awards are available to students in any subject area available at the University of Exeter and at all campuses.
Awards will be granted to the strongest applicants based on an assessment of the applicant’s:
- academic excellence
- research potential
- research proposal
How much? Full tuition fees and a generous living allowance (approximate total £18,000 per year)
Who is eligible? Home/EU students with outstanding academic records
When is it available? Autumn to early spring
Research council-funded PhD studentships generally pay your tuition fees (usually in the region of £4,000 to £5,000 per year) as well as providing a generous living allowance (approx £13,000 to £14,000 per year) enabling you to concentrate fully on your research full-time. Because of this, research council studentships are very desirable and highly competitive.
There are seven research councils in the UK which distribute government funding for research. They are presided over by Research Councils UK, and each one faces a different area of research. In alphabetical order, they are:
- Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
- Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
- Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
- Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
- Medical Research Council (MRC)
- Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
- Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)
Please be aware that the specific subjects covered by each council can and do overlap in some instances, depending on specific topics: for instance, History can fall under both the ESRC and the AHRC depending on the precise topic.
Types of award
Research Council studentships generally come in three kinds: open awards; thematic awards; and project awards. Awards given in the humanities and social sciences are usually open or thematic, meaning they are open to any pitch relevant to the specific funding council, or else are tied to a specific research area within the funding council - for instance the medical humanities.
Awards given in the sciences are usually project-based, and can be highly specific; rather than applying for funding to research your own idea, you are essentially applying for a place working on an pre-defined research project, such as genome sequencing a specific organism.
Who is eligible?
There are two aspects to eligibility: residential and academic.
The residential criteria is about applicants having a relevant connection with the UK. To be eligible for a full award a student must have:
- a settled status in the UK, meaning you have no restrictions on how long you can stay;
- been ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK for three years prior to the start of the studentship. This means you must have been normally residing in the UK (apart from temporary or occasional absences);
- not been residing in the UK wholly or mainly for the purpose of full-time education (this does not apply to UK or EU nationals).
If you have any queries about your eligibility, you should speak to the the appointed contact for the individual studentship before applying.
For the academic criteria, applicants should have a first or 2:1 honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject. Equivalence may be demonstrated by qualifications gained outside of the UK or an undergraduate degree plus relevant postgraduate study, or experience in their chosen field.
Where can I find PhD studentships?
Research council studentships are listed on the relevant Doctoral Training Partnership and research subject pages. In addition, all our PhD studentship opportunities are searchable via our funding database.
When are studentships available?
Research council studentships are generally open for applications during autumn and winter, although deadlines vary and some can be as late as April. Because they are competitive and attract the very best-qualified students, it is best to start looking, and be ready to apply, from September. This means you may need to start considering funding for your PhD before teaching for your Masters has even begun, if you wish to progress directly from a taught postgraduate programme to a research degree.
Doctoral Training Partnerships
The vast majority of funding for PhDs that comes from the research councils is via Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs). These are consortia of universities who together receive bulk funding for research into specific areas. By sharing resources, expertise, and facilities, Doctoral Training Partnerships can provide outstanding support and training for PhD candidates researching within them. Most Doctoral Training Partnership-funded PhDs work on a joint-supervision basis, where your primary supervisor is from one institution and your secondary supervisor is from another.
The University of Exeter is a partner in 11 Doctoral Training Partnerships, and is one of very few universities to be part of partnerships facing every research council.
How much? Up to £25,000
Who is eligible? English students
When is it available? From 2018/19
In the UK Government's March 2016 budget it was announced that they intend to introduce PhD loans of up to £25,000 from the academic year 2018/19, under similar terms to the new postgraduate loan scheme.
"From 2018-19, loans of up to £25,000 will be available to any English student without a Research Council living allowance who can win a place for doctoral study at a UK university," according to the Budget red book, published after George Osborn's budget speech on 16 March
"They will be added to any outstanding masters loan and repaid on the same terms, but with the intention of setting a repayment rate of 9 per cent for doctoral loans and a combined 9 per cent repayment rate if people take out a doctoral and masters loan. The government will launch a technical consultation on the detail. Those who take out only a masters loan will still repay at 6 per cent, as announced at Autumn Statement 2015."
We will update information regarding PhD loans as the situation is clarified.
How much? Varies according to provider
Who is eligible? International students, varying according to provider
When is it available? Varies according to provider
As an international student your first action when looking for PhD funding should be to check grant-awarding bodies in your own country (for instance the Ministry or Department of Education), and your local (or nearest) office of the British Council. The British Council manage a small number of international studentship grants in some countries and should be able to tell you what other awards may be available to you.
As with anyone seeking funding for a PhD, it is also worth contacting the department you with to study within, to find out more about internal funding opportunities available to outstanding candidates.
Funding opportunities for international PhD students are subject to the usual rules regarding visas and immigration.
Exeter International Excellence Scholarship for Postgraduate Research
There will be up to 20 full-fee scholarships available for entry during the 2017/18 academic year. Successful applicants will have their tuition and bench fees paid by the University for up to 3.5 years (42 months). A research allowance will be provided and a stipend to support living costs will be paid at current UK research council levels, currently £14,295 per year. The awards are available to students in any subject area available at the University of Exeter and at all campuses. This scholarship is only open to those who are classed as International for fee-paying purposes. See full details of the Exeter International Excellence Scholarship for Postgraduate Research.
China Scholarship Council and University of Exeter PhD Scholarships
The University of Exeter is proud to offer up to 10 full-time PhD scholarships in collaboration with China Scholarship Council (CSC) for Chinese students starting in the academic year 2017-2018. Full tuition fees of successful applicants will be funded by the relevant College at the University of Exeter. The China Scholarship Council will provide a living allowance, including the cost of a return flight from China to the UK, accommodation and subsistence, depending on the applicant’s eligibility. See full details of the China Scholarship Council and University of Exeter PhD Scholarships.
The Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) is the world's first and oldest international university network, established in 1913.
A UK-registered charity, the ACU has over 500 member institutions in developed and developing countries across the Commonwealth. The ACU administers scholarships, provides academic research and leadership on issues in the sector, and promotes inter-university cooperation and the sharing of good practice – helping universities serve their communities, now and into the future.
Full scholarships for Commonwealth students to enable them to study in other Commonwealth countries. Grants are for one to three years and usually cover the cost of travel, tuition fees and living expenses. In some cases, additional allowances may be available for help with books and clothes. For details, write to: Commonwealth Awards Division, Association of Commonwealth Universities, John Foster House, 36 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PF; firstname.lastname@example.org
For Commonwealth students specifically interested in PhD study in the UK and at the University of Exeter, Commonwealth Scholarships for PhD and split-site PhD study are available. These are aimed at talented graduates from selected countries and normally close in June for study commencing the following September. Please see the UK's Commonwealth Scholarship Commission website for details.
Scholarships for students in developing Commonwealth countries for taught courses at postgraduate (or in certain cases undergraduate) level. Preferred subjects are those relevant to the economic and social development of your own country. For details, contact the British High Commission or British Council in your own country, or write to: Department for International Development, 94 Victoria Street, London SW1E 5JL (tel: 0300 200 3343 / +44 (0) 1355 84 3132)
The Great Britain-China Educational Trust (GBCET) administers its own awards, and also makes awards with funds contributed by the Sino-British Fellowship Trust, the Universities' China Committee in London, and the Han Suyin Trust. The awards are meant to contribute towards applicants' university tuition fees, and living expenses.
The British Association for Chinese Studies (BACS) provides a detailed overview of the state of funding available to researchers and students for China-related studies in the UK.
European Union (EU) citizens may qualify for a fees only award for UK research council studentships, but will need to find their own money for living expenses.
The EU provides some grants to promote the exchange of students and academic staff within Europe, such as the SOCRATES and LEONARDO Programmes. The European Commission (EC) also makes some awards to students from developing countries. Contact the EC office in your own country or write to the European Commission, Directorate General III, Rue de la Loi 200, B-1049 Brussels, Belgium. Further details can also be found on the Community Research & Development Information Service (CORDIS) web site.
Research collaboration in Europe extends beyond the EU and residents of European countries with organisations affiliated to the European Science Foundation may also be eligible for certain schemes.
The major objective of the Foundation is to identify exceptionally talented young Indian students and support them financially to develop their special skill and talents to the maximum. It achieves this by awarding scholarships to outstanding young students to continue their post-graduate study/research abroad. Over the last three decades, more than 350 scholars have benefited from these scholarships.
The Higher Education Commission is an excellent site detailing scholarships available to Pakistani students wishing to study abroad.
Full scholarships for United States graduates to enable them to study in the UK. Write to the Graduate Students Programs, Institute of International Education (IIE), 809 United Nations Plaza, New York, NY 10017- 3580, USA
Full scholarships for United States citizens, who are under 26 and are graduates of United States universities, to enable them to study for a degree in the UK. For details, write to: Marshall Aid Commemoration Commission, John Foster House, 36 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PF; tel: 020 7387 8572; email@example.com. Application forms are available from United States universities and colleges, British Consulates General in the United States, or British Information Services, 845 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022, USA
All International Students
For students wishing to follow full-time taught or research postgraduate-level courses in any subject at UK universities or colleges in the public sector. Most scholarships are mainly for one year, but awards are also occasionally given for shorter vocational courses/research attachments. Awards are given to cover all or part of the cost of the period of study. Contact the British Embassy, British High Commission or British Council Office in your own country.
Full scholarships for professionals in fields considered by the British Council to be of special importance in the candidate's own country. Grants are for postgraduate study or research and range from short attachments to research leading to a PhD. Grants vary in size – from small grants to fellowships which will cover fees and living expenses. For details, contact the British Council in your own country, or write to: Fellows and Scholars Department, The British Council, 10 Spring Gardens, London SW1A 2BN (tel: 020 7930 8466) or International Student Services Unit, Regional Services Dept, The British Council, Bridgewater House, 58 Whitworth Street, Manchester M1 6BB (tel: 0161 957 7000).
How much? Varies: from £10 to £10,000 or more
Who is eligible? Varies according to provider
When is it available? Varies according to provider
If you are not one of the lucky few able to secure a fully-funded studentship, there are still lots of ways to fund your PhD. A 'portfolio funding' approach - using lots of different, small awards and sources of funding rather than relying on one source - can really help you. Applying to educational charities can be an effective way of building up a portfolio of funding.
There are all sorts of philanthropic organisations dedicated to helping people pay for educational pursuits. These vary from major charities with millions of pounds dedicated to specialist research, to small trusts offering modest grants to help pay for books or travel. Some are very niche in their remits (funding just research into specific topics, such as the Research Society for Victorian Periodicals, or by people from specific places or social groups), and others are much more general. It is worth researching opportunities thoroughly, and writing speculative letters to appropriate bodies who may not have formal application processes.
Finding out about what opportunities are available can be tricky; many bodies have minimal websites that are not updated regularly, and some don't have websites at all. Writing, calling, or following potential funders on social media can help.
When applying, you will need to outline the case for why you deserve funding in much the same way as you would outline your academic case for being able to do a PhD. It is worthwhile mentioning if you have already secured any awards, as this demonstrates that organisations already think you are worth funding.
Print directories of funding bodies
The Grants Register is an annual publication listing charities and other bodies that provide grants, including for education. We have copies in our libraries. We also have copies of The Directory of Grant-Making Trusts, a similar publication.
Find out more about charities, foundations, and trusts on our alternative funding page.
How much? Varies according to sponsor
Who is eligible? Varies according to sponsor
When is it available? Varies according to sponsor
Responsible employers are always keen to develop their employees through training. While a 3-4 year full-time PhD may seem like an extreme example of staff development, it’s not unheard of, especially in technology-driven businesses and the medical and legal professions. Museums and heritage groups, and tech industries working on cultural projects (such as mobile apps), are often open to funding / working with humanities researchers. We also offer specific professional doctorates, which are studied for alongside work, in education and engineering.
Getting the support of your employer is obviously key, and you’ll need to put together a proposal for your training in much the same way as you’d need to construct a business plan for any new commercial venture.
Likewise companies often approach the University of Exeter with proposals to fund research that can further their business, and often the best way of doing this is via PhD students. Specific opportunities that arise are listed on our funding database alongside other studentships, but it may be worth talking to relevant academics in your field to find out about other possibilities that could be created for outstanding candidates.
How much? Varies
Who is eligible? Anyone
When is it available? All year
Working full-or-part time whilst studying for a research degree can be incredibly demanding, but is a possibility for the many academically-capable PhD candidates who just miss out on the limited funding available. Almost 90% of students funding a PhD in this way are studying part-time, for obvious reasons.
Working while studying can also help give you key work-related skills that might be quite different to those you gain as a researcher, but just as valuable to future employers. It can also, crucially, give you a much-needed break from the intensity of PhD research.
There are several things you will need to consider. For instance, the University has regulations on how many hours you can work alongside your studies. You will also need to make sure your employer is understanding regarding the demands that your studies will make on your time; while some research degrees allow for great flexibility of time, others will demand your presence at specific times in laboratories or workshops.
How much? £300 to £40,000
Who is eligible? People over 18, resident in the UK for 3 years prior to the course, and who intend to work in the UK, EU, or European Economic Area after studying
When is it available? Any time
Professional and Career Development Loans
Professional and Career Development Loans are available from Barclays and the Co-operative Bank, and while they won’t cover the entire cost of a PhD they can go some way towards helping, and can range from £300 to £10,000 in value. More information is available on the government’s website.
UK government PhD loan scheme
In the 2015 Autumn Statement, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced the possibility of a government-backed PhD loan scheme, similar to the one finalised at the same time for taught postgraduates. This is currently being investigated and consulted upon, with findings expected in late 2016. The FindAPhD guide to the scheme is a very useful place to check for developments.
Private loan providers
Some financial institutions, often motivated by social benefit as much as financial return, offer specialist loans for postgraduate students.