How to fund a PhD as an international student In the UK?

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In a nutshell, the two most popular ways to fund a PhD as an international student in the UK are (a) PhD studentships- fiercely competitive for international students and (b) external PhD funding options which can be found both in the UK as well as in the home country.

Please note that by funding I mean a fully-funded PhD, where your international student tuition fee is waived and a modest monthly PhD stipend is granted to you to survive during your studies in the UK.

1. Studentship: PhD project with associated funding

PhD studentship in the UK is a position announced with full funding attached. Such a PhD is focused on a certain project. Some of these PhD studentships are open to applications worldwide, thus, international PhD aspirants like you can apply for these sweet gigs. This usually happens in STEM PhDs in the UK, however, I have also seen such funded projects in social sciences and business.

Funding is almost guaranteed for the duration of your PhD studies. This is because (a) the duration of funding is already negotiated with the grant provider and (b) these projects are well sorted out by professors and researchers proposing the PhD project. Thus, as a PhD student, you may not have to worry about running out of your funding before PhD project completion. Please note that such PhDs can be highly structured and may involve project progress pressures such as deadlines.

For PhD projects with attached funding, the funding body may differ. However, for you as a PhD student, the differences may be little in terms of the stipend amount and the fee waiver you get for full funding. Therefore a PhD student just applies for the advertised project and may not have to worry about other complexities of grant acquisition.

University and UKRI funding for PhD. There are times when a university funds PhD students from its own grant money. Sometimes these PhD projects are funded by the councils under the UK Institute of Research and Innovation (UKRI).

  • Around 30% PhD funding is allocated to international PhD students. A large portion of the funding from the UK Government and UK Institute of Research and Innovation (UKRI) goes to local PhD applicants, and only a third of total funding available to UKRI is granted to international PhD applicants. Still, research council funding is a good option for international students.
  • Usually research councils under UKRI fund only the domestic fee. Thus, you may have to pay or arrange for the difference between an international PhD student fee and the domestic fee.

Industry CASE PhD scholarships. On the other hand, some PhDs are sponsored by the industry in the UK. For example, the Industry CASE PhD scholarships are granted by employers to solve a specific problem for a specific industry. Industry scholarships are usually more highly paid than other funding by government and independent grant providers. An industry PhD is also a good opportunity to get exposure to the UK employment market. Therefore, an industry-funded PhD may turnout more in favor of you if you pursue an industry position after your PhD.

How do I get a funded PhD studentship as an international student in UK?

PhD studentships in the UK are fiercely competitive, especially, for international students. However, there are a few things you can do to increase your chances and stand out from other applicants. In short, as an international student with appealing grades in previous courses, aligning the research proposal with the professor’s research, and relevant research experience you can polish your PhD studentship application.

  1. Previous Grades. Believe it or not, they matter, even if knowing that a PhD is very different project as compared to the coursework for master’s and bachelor’s. Still, PhD advisors and the selection committee need to rely on some indicators that you have the ability to accomplish that funded PhD project. Grades may not be reliable, but an easier way to filter out candidates. Thus, as an international student your grades should be higher than UK 2.1. This is usually equivalent to a score of 63-85 or B+ (GPA 3.0 on a scale of 4.0). If your grades are lower than this you may have to prove your competency in other ways.
  2. PhD research proposal– a document that can make or break your PhD application. Your prospective PhD advisor is the professor whose work is inspiring you. So, make sure you read some pieces of the professor’s research to ensure compatibility in your research proposal.
  3. Research Experience. Obviously, it does matter and can give you an edge over other applicants if you have relevant research experience.
  4. English Language Test Scores. English proficiency measuring tests such as IELTS are helpful in communicating the PhD selection committee that you can easily write and communicate in English.
  What should I do after doing a PhD in the UK?

Where to find funded PhD projects. As an international student, you can look for PhD studentships in the UK in the following places.

  1. findaphd.com
  2. academic positions
  3. post-graduate studentships
  4. EURAXESS UK funding search
  5. Jobs.ac.uk
  6. Vitae
  7. CareersinHE.com
  8. discover PhDs
Easy ways for international students to find a UK Studentship: PhD project with associated funding

2. External Funding: PhD funding from third-party grants

Most of the time there are independent funding organizations that provide grants to international PhD students to pursue their studies in the UK. These scholarships are usually not associated with your PhD acceptance. You may need to apply for these scholarship positions before or after submitting your PhD application. The deadlines of these scholarships may vary from PhD application deadlines.

Criteria to get these third-party funding may vary from one program to another. Some consider PhD application funding on a merit basis others are focused on developmental issues, gender equality, or opportunities for minorities.

These PhD funding grant providers can be from anywhere in the UK or your home country. These organizations may have very specific goals and are interested in certain types of PhD projects. You may have higher chances of acceptance if your PhD proposal is appealing to them.

How do I get an external PhD funding as international student in UK?

To secure external PhD funding as an international student in the UK you usually need to (a) apply for PhD in the UK as a self-funded student and (b) apply for an external grant to acquire a full-funding package for a PhD in the UK.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of popular external PhD funding options for international students in the UK.

  1. External PhD funding sources for international students. You have much higher chances to win these external funding options for a PhD in UK. The reason is competition is often less at home country compared to UK where you are going to compete against every applicant around the globe. Remember to note down the requirements and deadlines of these scholarships. Usually the best way to win these external PhD funding options in your home country is to first apply and secure PhD admission in a UK university. and than apply for these funding options.
  2. External Scholarships and Funding Resources. Make sure to filter out those PhD scholarships from this list that are most relevant to you in terms of country, gender or any other criteria. Banking on every edge you have to pursue grant providers to fund you is the best way when it comes funding a PhD in UK.
  3. International PhD Funding for 2022. This list will help you explore other doctoral grants for PhD funding based on your country and region.
  4. 30+ Fully Funded PhD Scholarships in UK for International Students. Most of these PhD scholarships are offered by universities in UK. The recommended way to apply for these scholarships to contact a Professor who is taking PhD students. Make sure you are interested in previous works of professor. If you are able to convince professor that you are the best student for PhD then your chances to secure these PhD funding increase.
  5. 21 Fully Funded UK PhD Scholarships. These scholarships are usually offered every year. Some may consider you simply with your PhD acceptance and for others you may need to apply externally.
  Range of PhD stipends in the US by field of study
How to get a fully-funded PhD in the UK as an international student
Range of Annual Tuition Fee of PhD in the UK (full-time international student)£15,000- £23,000
Average Living cost for a PhD student in a smaller urban area- Durham City (including rent)£17,000
Average Living cost for a PhD student in a bigger urban area- London City (including rent)£26,000
Other expenses e.g., research expenditures may vary due to the research topic
How much does a self-funded PhD cost the UK? More details and stats on What Are The Benefits Of Doing PhD In UK?

FAQs on fully-funded PhD for international students in the UK

Can I get a fully-funded PhD in the UK?

Yes, you can get a fully-funded PhD in the UK. However, as an international student, you are likely to face a fiercer competition regarding PhD funding. That said, the options to get a fully-funded PhD scholarship in the UK for you are also abundant. In short, if your previous grades are appealing, for example, (a) CGPA above 3 out of 4 (considered comparable to a UK 2.1) or equivalent, (b) an overall IELTS score of 7 or equivalent, (c ) a research proposal that can entice your prospective PhD advisor then it is highly likely that you can win a fully-funded PhD in the UK.

How to get funding for PhD in the UK?

For international students, there are two popular ways to get funding for a PhD in the UK. First, You can get PhD funding in the UK by applying for a project advertised by the professor/department with a funding package attached to it. Normally, such PhD project advertisements include details for international student eligibility. Second, you can apply for university, home country, or third-party PhD funding after convincing your prospective PhD advisor that you have good potential to do a PhD.

How much funding do PhD students get in the UK?

PhD funding in the UK usually involves tuition fee waiver as well as a monthly stipend that is modest and maybe e enough to go by your monthly expenses. this stipend is usually enough for a single person to survive during their PSC studies. the amount of PhD stipend may change from one year to another due to inflation however usually this PhD stipend is between 15000 euros and $18000.

Is a PhD in the UK fully funded for international students?

No, not all PhD students are fully funded in the UK. However, as an international PhD applicant, you can apply for various fundings both in the UK and in your home country. A fully-funded PhD funding package is to pay/ waive your tuition fee as well as provide a modest PhD stipend.

Can PhD students work in the UK?

Yes, PhD students are allowed to work during their studies in the UK. You can work for 20 hours a week. However, you cannot work as a freelancer, passive income, or do any kind of business on your work permit as a PhD student. Please note that if you are doing a fully-funded PhD your University may not allow you to work outside your campus.

Is proof of funds required for a UK student visa for PhD?

Yes, a proof of fund statement is required if you are an international student pursuing a PhD in the UK. Usually, you can submit a letter of sponsorship for funding given to you by your university or any third party which is offering you funding for your PhD. If you are self-funding your PhD you may have to prove to immigration officers that you have enough funds for a year.

What are the basic requirements to get a fully-funded PhD in the UK?

Basic requirements to even be considered for a fully-funded PhD as an international student in the UK are (a) higher previous grades than UK 2.1 or equivalent, (b) relevant research experience, (c) a PhD research proposal that is aligned with your prospective PhD advisor’s work, and (d) good English proficiency score in IELTS (Overall band 7 or higher) if English is not your first language.

Is it worth considering a PhD in the UK in the current atmosphere?

Doing a PhD in the UK is totally worth it if you are an international student with specific goals in mind. A UK PhD has higher chances to benefit you if you are going to join the industry after your PhD, settle in the UK or go back to your home country for any stable academic job. On the other hand, it will take your next 3-4 years for a dissertation that may or may not have a return on investment if you consider it in monetary terms. That said, a PhD only makes sense if you really think you need to explore your field in-depth as well as you need the PhD diploma for your next job.

Is it easy to get funding for a PhD in the UK?

Getting a PhD funding in the UK is competitive and may not be that easy. However, you can increase your chances as an international student if you are interested in a well-paying research area- something for which grant providers are willing to offer their funds. Next, you can prove yourself capable enough to bear the research pressure and uncertainties of a PhD. Lastly, you need to communicate effectively about what you want to achieve with this PhD.

What is the best way to get funding for your PhD as an international student in the UK?

In short, there are two most popular ways to fund your PhD in the UK as an international student: (a) You win a PhD studentship in the UK, although competitive, they are offered by UK research councils as well as universities themselves, (b) you can secure external funding from a third party grant provider from the UK or your home country.

What is a 1+3 PhD studentship in the UK?

1+ 3 PhD studentship funding means you will get funding initially for a one-year master’s. Next, you will be funded for a 3 year PhD if you qualify for the PhD program.