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How to Fund a PhD

Planning on studying for a PhD but wondering how to fund it? If you’ve been researching PhDs, you’ll likely have discovered that unfortunately money exists, and similarly to most other postgraduate qualifications, they cost quite a lot of money indeed. Unless you have a winning lottery ticket somewhere or extremely rich and generous relatives, it is fairly unlikely that you will be able to fund all of your study on your own. Luckily, there are a variety of methods available to help students fund their course fees, and many students will follow one or a selection of these avenues to do so. 

Doctoral Loans

In 2016, the Government introduced loans for postgraduate students similar to the ones that most undergraduate students would receive to study. This includes the Doctoral Loan, which can be used to fund a postgraduate doctoral course, such as a PhD. Using this loan, students can receive around £27,000 divided equally across each year of their course to cover fees and living costs. The amount that students receive is not based on family income, though to be eligible to apply for a doctoral loan, you must fulfil various qualifying requirements.  

Bursaries and Scholarships

There are a number of bursaries and scholarships available to those wishing to pursue a PhD, most of which are assessed not only on your potential research project, but on previous academic merit. Before applying for any of these funding options, you should always check that you meet the eligibility criteria. Take a browse our Postgraduate Funding section to explore the options available for your study.

1. Research Councils

Organisations such as the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Medical Research Council, the Economic and Social Research Council and Science & Technology Facilities Council all offer specialist funding opportunities to those wishing to pursue a PhD and currently subsidise over 19,000 students in the UK. This is because a PhD is a research-based course, and quite often any work that you do will contribute towards overall knowledge within a specialist field, which research councils are always eager to promote.

2. Charitable Organisations

There are also a number of charitable organisations that will offer funding opportunities for those wishing to study at PhD level. Some charities will sponsor students whose research will benefit the organisation’s goals, and there are also some charities that provide student funding because their mission is to promote knowledge amongst groups of people where there may be a number of barriers preventing learning. Those who may be applicable for such grants include those from ethnic minorities, those with disabilities or those from a low income background. In some subjects, like STEM subjects, there are even funding options that specifically target women in order to create diversity within the field.

3. Universities

A university’s reputation will not only encourage new students, but also has the potential to secure future funding. As a result many universities offer scholarships and grants to students who intend to conduct groundbreaking critical research as part of their course and who have demonstrated previous academic excellence.


Many independent companies or organisations will fund the study of students whose research has the potential to be advantageous and who they wish to employ post-graduation. This is particularly the case for those studying subjects like medicine. Having your PhD study included as part of your employment will not only be helpful for funding your course, but will also be beneficial for gaining industry experience in your field.

Part-time Work

Although part-time work may not provide you with the money to fund your course fees, it may help you cover the costs of your living expenses – particularly during your first year. A PhD requires a lot of time dedication, but it is possible for students to pick up evening and weekend work in the retail or food and drink sector.

In the second year of their PhD, many students will be expected to take first year undergraduate lectures and seminars. The good news is that you will be paid for this, and the hourly wage should – depending upon your university ­– be significantly higher than the minimum wage, and is likely to be flexible.

One final possibility to consider is the opportunity for some PhD students to take on freelance work tutoring younger students for their exams – a possibility which can be quite lucrative. This can sometimes be done through the university itself or work can be picked up through word of mouth.

Next: Search for PhD Courses or for Postgraduate Funding


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