If you decide you want to become a PhD student in the United Kingdom you will almost cretainly need some help with your funding.
There are lots of funding options available, but some might restrict your research areas or leave you less independent than self-funding your studies might do, so it’s important to have a full understanding of what funding you are applying for.
As you are no doubt aware, the UK is a popular place for students to undertake their PhD studies as it offers a great selection of world-class universities and plenty of outstanding research supervisors. From this table you can see that the number of PhD students in the UK is slowly increasing:
So if you are planning on joining their ranks let’s take a look at some of the PhD funding options that could be available to you.
UK Government Loans
The UK Government pays loans to PhD students who can receive up to £25,700 over three years. Students qualify for loans if they are normally resident in the UK, however moving for study does not count as being normally resident. Students who receive or are eligible for other sources of funding are not eligible for a UK Government Loan even if they do not apply for the funding and students who are gaining a PhD by Publication are not eligible either. Loans are repaid in the same way as other UK Government student loans through salary payments after the student has completed the course.
Being paid to study is an ideal situation and many PhD students gain their PhDs this way, especially those doing their research in the field of science. PhD studentships sometimes come with other responsibilities so it is important to make sure you know what is expected of you, but they are advertised and applied for like most other academic vacancies. Many universities advertise these positions on their websites like this at the University of Manchester, or on academic jobs sites like jobs.ac.uk and you'll also hear about them by keeping in contact with all those people you met during your courses or when you were networking.
Scholarships & bursaries
Many universities and institutions offer PhD scholarships and bursaries that will cover specific aspects of your study or offer small amounts of money to help with financing your PhD. Other organisations like the UK Research Council offer to fund for PhD students, as do institutions like the NHS who offer bursaries to qualifying students. Spending time searching for scholarships and bursaries well in advance of when you might need them is always advisable as some can be competitive and others need time to make decisions and access applications. And don’t forget that once you have been offered a place on a PhD course you will be eligible to apply for one of our Postgrad Solutions Study Bursaries worth £500.
If you've been very careful in your financial planning and been considering a PhD for several years, then you may be in the lucky position of being able to fund your PhD entirely yourself through your savings. This will keep you independent from other organisations and institutions and allow you to focus entirely on the subject area of your choice rather than participating in some other larger research project. If you've not got the savings, then think about asking a trusted family member for help with your funding. You've got be confident in your relationship with them and if they are lending the money to you and expecting it back, then it’s a good idea to ger a little legal advice to keep everything above board.
Earn while you learn
Perhaps studying your PhD part time is the solution to funding issues. This will allow you to work and continue with your studies. Many students start their PhDs with part-time study and then as they get more funding they can move to full-time study.