How to Fund a PhD in the UK if You Can’t Afford It

First of all, congratulations! If you’re reading this, we’re assuming you’ve received an offer for a place on a PhD program in the UK. It’s not everyday you get to be rewarded for the ingenuity and feasibility of your research project, and finding a PhD supervisor to agree to mentor your project is definitely a step ahead in the right direction.

If the elation you first felt when hearing the news has already given way to worry over money, hopefully we can help to ward off some of those concerns for you. If you can’t afford to pay for your fees out of your own pocket and haven’t received a university scholarship, here are some other ways to pay the fees.

Explore your funding options both at home and abroad

You may be eligible for funding opportunities both at home and in the country of study, so if you’re coming to the UK from abroad then explore all of your options. If you’re from the US, for example, you could apply for a Fulbright grant. European Union residents could always try to apply for an ERASMUS overseas placement or get funding for a joint degree through Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA).

Shoot a promotional video and set up a campaign on Hubbub

If you’re thinking of going down the crowdfunding route, Hubbub.org is a good place to start. Set up an account either through your university if they subscribe to the site or individually. It’s much more geared toward education than other sites like Kickstarter so your campaign won’t get lost among a sea of artists and entrepreneurs. To promote your campaign, film a promotional video with your smartphone and offer symbolic gifts to donors, keeping them updated on your project. Share a link to your campaign on a dedicated Facebook and Twitter page, with your own hashtag, asking your friends and relatives to share on their accounts.

You could also try to contact your local newspaper, like Oxford University student Genevieve Richardson, who raised over £2,000 for her MPhil in Development Studies after appearing on the Yorkshire Evening Post and BBC Radio Leeds’ Breakfast Show. Depending on the newspaper’s news agenda at the time, they might want to slot you in for an interview and get your crowdfunding campaign lots of extra clicks.

Apply for charity awards

Did you know charities funded PhDs? Well, they do, and you might be able to get a charity or trust to contribute toward your living costs, fees, research expenses, conferences and/or travel. In the UK, there are thousands of organisations offering grants to projects they find interesting or even to students from certain demographics, such as the Vegetarian Charity, who give grants to vegan and vegetarian students, or the Leverhulme Trades Charities Trust, who help students whose parents are grocers, chemists, and commercial travellers.

Consider taking out a postgraduate loan

If you’re from the EU or the UK, you’re eligible to take out a PhD loan of up to £25,000 from the UK government. Repayments are 6% of your annual income when it reaches £21,000.  You would get £8,300 a year on average if your PhD takes three years, less if it takes longer. Obviously, this won’t be enough to cover all your fees and living costs, so you’ll need to consider the full cost of study and where the rest of your money will be coming from.