Funding a PhD

Finding funding for PhDs is competitive, and can be confusing. You may be unsure of where to start or even overwhelmed by the process. However, help is at hand!

If you are seeking funding for a PhD research proposal, this blog is for you. There are a number of resources available to help you navigate the process and increase your chances of success.


Funding can potentially cover all or part of your fees, maintenance, accommodation, and research costs (e.g. equipment, travel etc).

You can secure funding from a variety of sources, including government grants, University funding, and other organisations such as charities or private foundations.

You may find you have to mix and match funding to cover everything.

It’s important to research each option carefully and determine which ones are the best fit for your specific research proposal:

  • Individual Universities and Centres for Doctoral Training advertise what Research Council funding they have available via their own websites, and usually
  • For industry funding you may need to approach companies yourself or your PhD supervisor may have contacts.
  • Use our funding pages for resources and guides to different opportunities or book one of our Intro: Finding and Funding Further Study talks.
  • You can also refer to our Funding further study guide on mycareer, and we have a copy of the 2020/21 Guide to Educational Grants book at 5 Tyndall Avenue – getting old, but can still be useful.


It is possible to self-fund or undertake a PhD part-time while working. Be aware that this can be costly and there is no guarantee how quickly you will be able to finish. Due to the costs involved, this is less common in sciences and engineering than in the humanities, arts, and social sciences.

Doctoral student loans were introduced in the UK in 2018. If you’re a UK or EU student, starting a PhD, you may be able to borrow up to £25,000 to help pay university fees, living costs and other expenses.

It’s difficult, but you can also piece together bits of funding from charities and private employers using The Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding.

Funding resources

When seeking funding for a PhD research proposal, one of the first things to consider is the source of the funding.

There are a variety of options available, including government grants, institutional funding, and external funding sources such as charities or private foundations.

It’s important to research each option carefully and determine which ones are the best fit for your specific research proposal.

Use the following resources to discover further information about funding opportunities:

  1. UK Research and Innovation (UKRI): As its name suggests, this UK Government agency funds research and innovation. Their website provides information on a range of funding opportunities for research across the UK, including funding for PhD students. They also offer guidance on how to prepare a research proposal, how to find potential supervisors, and more.
  2. The British Council: Specialising in international cultural and educational opportunities, this public corporation offers a comprehensive list of funding opportunities for UK students, including grants, scholarships, and fellowships for PhD students.
  3. The Leverhulme Trust: A large UK-based charity that offers a range of funding opportunities for research across various fields.
  4. The Wellcome Trust: Another UK-based charity offering funding opportunities for research in the life sciences and medical humanities.
  5. The Association of Commonwealth Universities: This organization offers a range of scholarships and fellowships for students from Commonwealth countries, including opportunities for PhD students.
  6. This website offers a comprehensive database of PhD opportunities across various disciplines, including information on funding opportunities and how to apply.
  7. The UK’s job site for Higher Education allows you to search for PhD opportunities, as well as academic and professional jobs across the sector.

Other considerations

In addition to researching funding sources, it’s also important to prepare a strong research proposal.

This should outline your research question, methodology, expected outcomes, and any relevant literature or previous research in the field. Your proposal should demonstrate the significance and originality of your research, your qualifications, and any experience. All of these elements will be considered.

Once you’ve developed a strong research proposal, the next step is to identify potential supervisors or mentors who can support and guide your research.

This is particularly important if you’re seeking institutional funding, as many universities require you to have a supervisor in place before you can apply for funding.

Be sure to reach out to potential supervisors early in the process and, be prepared to discuss your research proposal in detail.


When it comes to applying for funding, it’s important to be organised and thorough. Make sure you carefully review all funding guidelines and requirements.

Follow all instructions carefully and be sure to include all necessary documentation. If you’re unsure about any aspect of the application process, don’t hesitate to reach out to the funding organization or University admissions team for guidance.

It’s also important to be persistent and flexible when seeking funding for a PhD research proposal. Be prepared to revise and refine your research proposal based on feedback from potential supervisors and funding organisations, and don’t be discouraged if your first few applications are unsuccessful.

Know that with dedication, perseverance, and a strong research proposal, you can increase your chances of success.