In a nutshell, as an international PhD student in the UK under a tier-4 visa, you are allowed to work part-time. However, you need to confirm that your university, funding body, and your prospective PhD supervisor agree on a part-time work option. Further, the number of hours you work part-time as well as the kind of work you do highly depends on the rules and regulations proposed by each of these concerned bodies.
The UK is one of the most attractive destinations for international PhD students. However, considering the overall UK is an expensive place to live in, especially if you are thinking about a PhD in London.
Most international PhD students cannot afford to self-fund their PhD in the UK and are looking for any funding opportunities. Apart from this, they are also interested in the kind of part-time work they can do to make some extra money and survive during their PhD years.
There are many concerns of international PhD students who want to pursue a PhD in the UK. One of these concerns is part-time work opportunities during their PhD. So, let’s discuss these concerns and questions one by one.
1. Can international PhD students work part-time in the UK?
Yes, an international PhD student is allowed to work 20 hours a week in the UK. These 20 hours are counted from Monday to Sunday, thus, every week’s hours are considered separately.
You are only allowed to do the works that PhD students are doing part-time for decades. This means you cannot do any online gigs that come under self-employed or business activity.
Also, you can work full-time during the term gap and vacation period during your PhD in the UK. I will discuss it later.
2. Can international PhD students who are fully funded work part-time in the UK?
If you are a fully-funded international student in the UK then the part-time work conditions for you are very different from someone doing a PhD with partial funding.
- You are expected to give all your time to your studies. You may or may not be allowed to do any part-time work because financial support is available for you to focus on your studies.
- Few work hours. The work hours to do part-time work may differ, however, often the grant providers only allow for 6 hours per week.
- No off-campus work. The type of work you can do vary from one funding body to another. However, most PhD stipend providers may not let you work off-campus entirely.
- More permissions for Work. To work part-time you must get approval from all concerned parties. This means you should get permission for any kind of part-time work from your supervisor, university, and the funding body e.g., research councils, commonwealth or university funding, etc.
Check the Research Council Studentship Guidance on PhD Part-Time Work if you are seeking research council (UKRI) funding for your PhD in the UK and need further details regarding PhD studentship terms and conditions when considering part-time work opportunities.
3. Can an international PhD student do a Part-time PhD and work full-time in UK?
No, an international PhD student who is pursuing a Part-time PhD under a tier-4 visa is not allowed to work in the UK. There are numerous challenges in pursuing a part-time PhD and these challenges worsen for international PhD students.
As an international part-time PhD student,
- you are not allowed to bring any dependents.
- you cannot work under a Tier-4 part-time PhD student permit.
- you can only work full-time with a part-time PhD if you are granted a full-time work visa.
- your PhD stipend or any other grant you secure for a part-time PhD won’t be considered income. Instead, you need to prove your full-time job income sufficiency to support you in the UK.
A part-time PhD already comes with several other challenges and these might worsen for you as an international PhD student.
4. Work Conditions for PhD students during term gap and vacation time
As an international PhD student under a Tier-4 visa, you are allowed to work full-time during term gaps and vacations. However, you should note that
- Your university or department may not grant a term gap to postgraduate research students so there can be no full-time work opportunity for international PhD students.
- The term gap and vacation time granted to postgraduate research students may differ from the undergraduate schedules.
- Your supervisor may not allow you to work even during vacations.
- Your grant provider e.g., research councils, commonwealth, etc. may not allow you to work during vacation time.
5. Internships for international PhD students
It is no secret that all PhD students are not being employed in academia. Also, more and more PhD graduates are switching to industry. Therefore internships may be on your mind to get an industry experience during your PhD.
An internship can benefit a PhD student both in terms of exposure to the industry as well as networking opportunity outside of academia. This may help you get an industry job after your PhD in the UK.
However, you should keep in mind the following things when considering a full or part-time internship during your PhD.
- If your internship is relevant to your PhD studies, you may be able to do the internship on your student visa.
- If your internship is not relevant (or integral) to your PhD studies, then your student visa is curtailed for a while and you may need to apply for other types of visa.
- Your scholarship may be paused if the internship is not relevant to your PhD. You can ask your funding provider for more details.
- you should get approval from the university before the internship.
Your university affairs for an international student can guide you on any other complexities and restrictions. You can ask the international students office of your university for any other conditions you may need to fullfill to pursue an internship during your PhD.
6. Can you work full-time after submitting PhD thesis in the UK?
Overall, there are three stages after you submit your PhD thesis.
- First, when you are expecting your viva date. Some universities consider this a “vacation period” and some don’t. If your university considers this as the vacation period then you are usually allowed to work until the PhD viva date.
- Second, when you are working on thesis corrections and resubmission. During this period you are expected to work on the thesis correction and resubmission so only part-time or even lesser working hours may be allowed to you.
- Third, when you have submitted the thesis finally after corrections. This is considered as completion of your PhD. Therefore, you may be allowed to work for 3-4 months full-time before your tier-4 student visa expires.
7. What kind of work you can do part-time while pursuing a PhD in the UK?
As an international PhD student, you are allowed to do part-time jobs that pay you against your time.
Can you work for a non-UK employer if you are an international PhD student in the UK?
Yes, you can work for a non-UK employer. The visa and immigration policies do not say explicitly that you cannot be employed by a foreign employer on a Tier-4 student permit. However, the limitations of working hours will be the same as working for a UK employer.
Does the number of employers matter or we can work with multiple employers within 20 hour work week?
No, the number of employers does not matter. As an international PhD student, you just need to make sure that you are reporting the exact hours you work within a week. These work hours should not cross the 20 hours limit.
What if I receive tips and bonuses at work?
There is no limit on what you are paid by the hour. Only the number of work hours matters.
Is stock trading considered work?
Regular buying of stocks, shares, or currency is assumed to be a business activity. Please note that the gap between buying and selling interval may not matter, however, the pattern of buying and selling may be considered by law as business activity. Business activity is not allowed to a PhD student under a tier-4 student visa.
What if I take a remote work?
You can take a remote job unless you are not exceeding the 20 hours work limit. A paid work online or offline where you are trading your time for money should come under a 20-hour work limit.
What type of jobs, in general, I cannot do as a PhD student in the UK?
In short, you are not allowed to do anything that falls under
- Self-employed: Any work (online or offline) that is independent and involves no direct employer is prohibited under a Tier-4 student visa. This means you cannot monetize anything created by you.
- Business activity: Anything that is being bought and sold with regularity or repetition can be considered a business activity. You are not allowed to engage in any business activity under a Tier-4 student visa.
- Professional Work: Any work that requires a particular license may not be allowed on a PhD student visa in the UK. You can ask your grant provider for more information regarding any professional work.
Further reading: Student route caseworker guidance- Working Conditions
What’s the most accurate way to know whether I am allowed to work in the UK or as a PhD student or not?
- First, as an international student who is on some kind of financial support you should ask your funding body/ the grant provider/ studentship provider about the number of hours you are allowed to work.
- Second, you should contact the graduate support office and international student office of your university to know more about any nuances.
FAQs regarding work while doing a PhD in the UK?
In a nutshell, international PhD students are allowed to work for 20 hours a week in the UK. However, if you are getting some kind of funding for your PhD, the additional restrictions on part-time work for you may apply. Some grants for international PhD students prohibit any kind of work and some allow only academic work but for fewer hours (usually 6 hours a week).
Yes, according to UK visa and immigration, you can take part-time work along with your PhD studies in the UK. However, other concerned organizations such as your university, funding institution, or your PhD advisor may restrict your ability to do part-time work in the UK.
No, usually as a fully-funded PhD student in the UK you are not allowed to work part-time. This highly depends on who is funding your PhD. If you are funded by a research council, a commonwealth scholarship, or any other you should ask them about part-time work permission during your PhD.
Yes, you can pursue a part-time PhD as an international PhD student. However, there are many restrictions for part-time PhD students in the UK.
An international PhD student if not fully funded can work for 20 hours a week. A funded PhD student is usually allowed to work 6 hours a week or less.
A part-time international PhD student is not allowed to work in the UK. An international student who wishes to pursue a part-time PhD in the UK must be working full-time on a work visa in the UK.
PhD students are allowed to work full time only during the vacation period and after the submission of their thesis. I discuss this in detail in this blog post.
Yes, you can work more than 40 hours a week during summer break. This is because there is no hours per week limit during the term gap and vacation time for international PhD students in the UK.
No, you cannot work full-time while doing your PhD thesis. As a full-time international PhD student in the UK, you are expected to work full-time on your dissertation. Therefore, only part-time work is allowed during your PhD dissertation.
Usually, international PhD students are provided some kind of financial support to do their PhD. Apart from this financial support, they are also allowed to work part-time to make some extra money.