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It can be difficult to secure funding for your PhD, particularly if you’re an international student intending to study in the UK. The good news is that international students studying in the UK have a plethora of PhD funding options. Funded PhD opportunities are typically offered by universities, charities, or government agencies. 

The two primary forms of funding that you can apply for are covered in this guide. These consist of PhD grants and studentships.

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PhD studentships

One of the best and most competitive types of PhD funding is a studentship. This funding is typical of STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and medicine) and is tied to a particular PhD project. Nonetheless, there are studentships offered in other fields, like the humanities. 

The reason this type of funding is so well-liked is that a studentship typically pays for both living expenses and tuition. An annual maintenance stipend of approximately £15,000 is provided by fully funded PhD studentships, which are tax-free. 

The PhD application process is a lot like the job application process. Should you be approved for any of these projects, you will receive funding in exchange for a “salary” for completing the work. 

How are PhD studentships funded?

Funding for PhD studentships can come from a variety of places, such as government agencies, universities, and charitable organizations. PhD students may occasionally receive funding from their universities through grants. 

However, they are mostly funded by research councils, which are part of the UK Institute of Research and Innovation (UKRI). There are seven research councils, each covering a different subject area. For instance, the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funds arts and humanities PhD programmes.

UKRI-funded studentships provide a minimum annual maintenance stipend of £17,668 and pay for at least £4,596 in tuition. The annual award amount rises in accordance with inflation. 

Are PhD studentships available to international students?

PhD studentships were previously restricted to students in the United Kingdom. A partial “fees-only” studentship, which did not cover maintenance costs, was available to EU students.

However, all international students are now qualified to apply for full PhD studentships as of the 2021–2022 academic year. Thus, this funding will be beneficial to you if you’re an international student hoping to pursue your PhD in the UK!

It’s crucial to remember that most universities charge foreign students more in tuition than they do domestic students in the UK. International students, however, will only receive funding sufficient to pay for their home tuition fees plus a maintenance stipend. This implies that you will either have to pay the difference yourself or locate additional funding elsewhere. 

International PhD students receive about 30% of the UKRI’s studentship funding. This may lead to intense competition for studentships. In spite of this, one of the greatest choices for an international student seeking a fully funded PhD in the UK is a studentship.

How to get accepted for a PhD studentship as an international student 

You need to get great grades if you want to improve your chances of getting accepted for a competitive studentship. If your grade is below a 2:1, you will probably be disqualified from consideration early in the application process.

A strong research proposal is another essential component of an application that will make a difference. You should describe how the research of your potential PhD advisor has inspired and motivated you. Getting experience in pertinent research can also help you stand out from the competition.

Lastly, English language proficiency tests like the IELTS, can help demonstrate your suitability for a UK PhD.

You can easily look for PhD studentships through sites such as Find a PhD.

PhD scholarships and grants

Grants and scholarships are other options for funding a PhD if studentships are not available in your field of study. These are typically not connected to any specific university or PhD program. International students typically receive PhD scholarships from the UK government or private charities. 

#1. Commonwealth PhD scholarships

The UK Department for International Development (DFID) is responsible for funding these scholarships. They are available to citizens from eligible (‘least developed’) countries in the Commonwealth. 

Every scholarship includes a monthly maintenance stipend, tuition, approved travel, and a family allowance if you have dependents. 

You need to provide the application form with a supporting statement from a potential supervisor in the UK and at least two references from the educational field.

#2. Other UK PhD Scholarships

International students studying in the UK can apply for several additional PhD scholarships. Many of these are funded by charities and trusts

#3. Newton Fund PhD Scholarships

These scholarships are available to students from partner countries and funded by the British Council to undertake PhDs in the UK. Usually, these are found in STEM fields. You must apply to the Newton scheme linked to your country if you are a citizen of one of these partner nations. 

Newton PhD scholarships typically pay for living expenses, tuition, and other expenses like visa fees. 

#4. Carnegie PhD Scholarships

The Carnegie Trust supports PhD research at universities in Scotland. Students from abroad are eligible to apply. All you have to do is have completed your undergraduate studies at a Scottish university with honors.    

A living stipend, UK home-rate tuition fees, and a research allowance are all included in this scholarship.

#5. Gen Foundation grants

The goal of this Gen Foundation’s establishment is to foster an international exchange of cultures between Japan and other countries. However, these grants are open to all nationalities, as long as you’re a food science or technology student.

Rather than being a scholarship, this is a grant, and the amount given depends on each application. Typically, the sum falls between £500 and £5,000.     

#6. Country-specific funding 

Additionally, a sizable number of PhD grants and scholarships are available exclusively to students belonging to specific nationalities. Finding appropriate funding for your PhD can frequently be accomplished by searching for funding that is specific to the nation in which you currently reside.

For instance, the Australia Day Foundation offers Australian citizens studying in the UK grants of up to £10,000. Materials and course fees are covered by this grant.

#7. University-specific funding 

Certain grants and scholarships are contingent upon your acceptance to a particular UK university. Usually, the universities themselves or outside charities pay for these. Additional limitations on the funding could include nationality or minimum grade requirements.

For instance, the Saïd Foundation provides full scholarships to citizens of Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, or Syria, covering both living expenses and tuition. If you are a citizen of these countries and pursuing a PhD at Cambridge or Oxford, you are eligible to apply. In order to qualify for this scholarship, you also need to have held a teaching position in your nation of origin in the past. 

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  • Okechukwu Liberty is a graduate of Mass Communication and a content writer for AfterSchoolAfrica. He is dedicated to researching scholarship and empowerment opportunities to students looking to study abroad.

    Content Research Writer