How to fund your PhD
The costs of studying for a PhD can be met in several different ways.
- Through funded PhDs, commonly known as PhD studentships, which cover the cost of your research degree and often provide a stipend to cover living expenses.
- Self-funding your PhD, covering the costs yourself or through other sources
- Applying for PhD scholarships, grants and bursaries, which may cover all or part of your fees and help towards other expenses
- Working alongside your PhD.
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 £4750 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.
Postgraduate Doctoral Loan
The Postgraduate Doctoral Loan of up to £25,700 can help with course fees and living costs while you study a postgraduate doctoral course. The amount you’ll get isn’t based on you or your family’s income.
You will have to repay your Postgraduate Doctoral Loan at the same time as any other student loans you have. The loan will be paid directly to you and you will receive the first payment after your course start date, once your University registration has been confirmed. The loan will be divided equally across each year of your course.
The deadline for applying depends on when you start your course. You need to apply within 9 months of the first day of the last academic year of the course. The academic year is a period of 12 months.
Your course can be full-time or part-time. You must be under 60 on the first day of the first academic year of your course.
You will not be able to get a Postgraduate Doctoral Loan if:
- You’ve received or will receive Research Council funding (for example, studentships, stipends, scholarships and tuition fee support)
- You’re receiving a social work bursary
- You’re eligible to apply for an NHS bursary (even if you’re not receiving it)
- You’re already getting payments from student finance for another course that you’re studying
- You've received a Postgraduate Doctoral Loan before - unless you left your course due to illness, bereavement or another serious personal reason
- You already have a doctoral degree, or a qualification that’s equivalent or higher
- You’re receiving a doctorate by publication
- You’re behind in repayments for any previous loans from the Student Loans Company.
Your course must:
- Be a full, standalone doctoral course (not a top-up course)
- Last between 3 to 8 academic years.
If more than one university delivers your course and one is overseas, you’ll still be eligible for the Postgraduate Doctoral Loan so long as:
- The UK university is the lead institution
- You spend at least 50% of your study time over the whole course in the UK
It can be taught or research-based, or a combination of both.
You can apply for a loan if your doctoral programme includes an integrated master’s degree (even if you already have a master’s degree).
You must register for a full doctoral degree.
You will not be able to apply for a separate Postgraduate Master’s Loan.
Your nationality or residency status
You can get the Postgraduate Doctoral Loan if all of the following apply:
- You’re a UK or EU national, or have ‘settled status’, so there are no restrictions on how long you can stay
- You normally live in England, and did not move there just to study
- You’ll have lived in the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man for 3 years before starting your course.
You may also be eligible if you’re an EU national and all the following apply:
- You’re living in England on the first day of the first year of your course
- You’ve normally lived in the European Economic Area or Switzerland for the past 3 years (this is also known as being ‘ordinarily resident’)
- You’ll be studying at a university in England.
You could also be eligible if you’re:
- The child of a Swiss national
- The child of a Turkish worker
- A refugee or a relative of one
- An EEA or Swiss migrant worker, or a relative of one
- Under humanitarian protection or a relative of someone who has been granted it
- 18 or over and have lived in the UK for at least 20 years or at least half your life.
The earliest you start repaying the loan is when your annual income is over £21,000.
For further information, please visit Gov.UK.