How to fund your PhD
The costs of studying for a PhD can be met in several different ways.
- Through funded research degrees, commonly known as studentships, which cover the cost of your degree and often provide a stipend to cover living expenses.
- Self-funding your PhDs, covering the costs yourself or through other sources
- Applying for scholarships, grants and bursaries, which may cover all or part of your fees and help towards other expenses
- Working while you study.
Securing funding can be complex and time consuming so it’s important that you start your search early.
Funded doctoral training opportunities
Funding bodies support postgraduate research students in different ways; some will pay programme fees and also a stipend (i.e. often a tax free fixed sum of money to cover your living costs and expenses), some will only pay programme fees and others simply make a one-off award of some kind. Each funding body will have its own criteria for eligibility.
Research councils - UK students
Research Councils are funded by the Government and invest £3 billion in academic research each year.
There are seven Research Councils in the UK:
- 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)
Each year, the Research Councils allocate around 6,000 training grants, commonly known as studentships, to selected universities and departments. Please note, the Research Councils don't fund postgraduate students directly.
Researchers funded by the UK Research Councils or other research funders, such as the Wellcome Trust, are likely to experience a structured doctoral training programme. The main structured doctoral programmes in the UK are Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTP), which usually involve a consortium of institutions and research institutions, and Centres for Doctoral Training (CDT), which are focused on a particular research area, often located within one institution.
The UK Research Councils normally fund UK students. If you're an EU or international student see our section on 'Research councils - EU and International students'.
Research councils/ Government Sponsorship - EU and International students
Funding may be available for EU students through research council-funded Doctoral Training Partnerships. See the guidance offered by each partnership for more information. EU and international students can also look for funding through a Research Council in the country you normally reside in, or your local (or nearest) office of the British Council.
Studentships/Doctoral Training Partnerships at Liverpool
The University of Liverpool continues to be successful in securing funding from a variety of research councils for Centres for Doctoral Training (CDT or DTC) and Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTP) ensuring access to this increasingly influential model for providing postgraduate research studentships.
These initiatives provide researchers with the skillsets required to tackle both current and future challenges as part of supportive and innovative interdisciplinary environments.
Trusts and charities
A large number of charities and trust funds offer funding to students at university level, some of which is available to intending postgraduate students, and some to students who have already started their course (this is more common for PhDs and other doctoral study).
Funding is usually awarded on the basis of two main criteria: either academic excellence, economic hardship, or both. Individual charities may well have additional criteria which relates to the work of the charity itself, and there are sometimes other strict eligibility requirements based on subject or place of residence. The funds provided normally relate to the amount of money a particular charity or trust may have, and can vary in amount from a few hundred pounds to several thousand. They are frequently intended to be partial funding only, so you may find you need to apply to more than one source if you need funds to cover all your study.
You can fund your postgraduate research yourself if you have access to funds such as personal savings. Other ways to help fund your research working alongside your studies, tutoring, and helping undergraduate students by becoming a residential advisor.
Postgraduate research students occasionally supplement their main source of support (within limits set by the Research Councils or other funding sources) by earning payments from the University. Responsibilities can include:
- Teaching and demonstrating work in the departments (for up-to 15 hours a week)
- Exam invigilation
- Administrative duties
Speak to your supervisor to find out what opportunities are available.
Residential Adviser opportunities
By becoming one of our Residential Advisers you can save a minimum of £4000 per year on accommodation, which can be used towards other costs relating to your studies. These important roles involve you providing support and guidance to our undergraduate students, including those living in our brand new £50 million Crown Place at the heart of the Liverpool Campus. This support could involve dealing with anything from lost keys or illness to well being concerns or news of a family bereavement.
We will provide you with the necessary training and you will have 24/7 back-up from our professional student support teams. In return we can offer you accommodation at a reduced rate as well as the opportunity to gain some valuable experience to benefit your future career. Find out more about becoming a residential adviser.
Grants, bursaries and scholarships
Grants, bursaries and scholarships may cover all or part of your fees or provide you with contributions towards your living expenses and other costs such as travel and equipment.
Obtaining employee sponsorship can be highly mutually beneficial for both you and the company involved in the arrangement, as it can give financial support throughout the period of study, while at the same time ensuring that meaningful, relevant research is being carried out for the company.
We recommend that you approach your line manager, HR or Training and Development team with a proposal of how postgraduate research can improve your skill set and benefit the organisation. If your proposal is approved then you will then need to agree the terms and conditions of the sponsorship including the amount they are willing to sponsor you, working and study hours, the amount of time to complete the research and any allowance for learning materials.
We then recommend you contact us with the proposal you have agreed with your organisation.
Government-backed, non-means-tested PhD loans worth up to £25,000 will be available for the 2018/19 academic year to help cover tuition fees and living expenses.
Early indications suggest that you will be eligible to apply if:
- You’re a UK national who has lived in England for the last three years for a reason other than study
- You're not receiving a full Research Council studentship (those receiving a fees-only Research Council studentship or Disabled Students' Allowances (DSA) will be eligible).