When I was thinking about doing my PhD, I started looking into my funding options and got overwhelmed quite quickly. There are a lot of different things to think about and sometimes the explanations and information can be lacking. I’ve put together some advice that I wish I’d got when I was originally starting out on my PhD journey.
PhD funding sites can be complicated
Some funding websites give you a bit of an information overload, but you still can’t find what you’re looking for. FindAPhD has a handy guide to funding that explains the terms for you. I found it to be a really good starting point to avoid getting stressed about my options.
Who to ask for advice
I was a bit nervous about asking for advice about funding my PhD because I didn’t want to bother people or ask the wrong person, but it turned out that sending a few emails was the best way to find out about options I had no idea about. I did my Masters here at York and I kept the same supervisor for my PhD, so she was the person I was the most comfortable asking. If you don’t have a PhD supervisor yet, the Student Hub has some good advice, and you can speak to somebody there via email if you aren’t in York.
Your department may also have staff who can help you with research proposals. I am part of Arts and Humanities, and the Humanities Research Centre here at York has a dedicated support team to help with getting research grants.
The university has a webpage for postgraduate research funding, which shows each award, the amount of funding available, eligibility information, and the application deadline. It’s also a good idea to check your department’s grant and scholarship information, and you can find those pages in the drop-down box on that page, too.
Organising your options to avoid being overwhelmed
When looking for funding options, in my experience, I found it easier to look at one thing at a time. Looking at every option and opening every single tab at once can get very stressful and confusing!
In my experience, starting to look around early and taking your time is beneficial, especially as some funding has deadlines. For example, I started my PhD in November and lots of the scholarships and studentships available to me had deadlines of January, so I had to think about how I was going to fund my PhD until I found out whether I would get funding from those options, and what would happen if I didn’t.
Making a list of your options and your research into them can help you to keep track of things. I’ve put together a pros and cons list of some of the funding opportunities available to PhD students below, so you can see how I weighed my different options.
Pros/cons of different funding types
These figures are accurate for the year 2023.
- An annual sum paid in three instalments over the course of the academic year.
- In 2023, you could receive up to £27,892 over the duration of your course.
- Not all students are eligible for a doctoral loan.
- You will start paying this money back once you hit the threshold for repayments.
- Working can help you earn money while you study.
International students may be eligible to work part-time during their studies, depending on their visa.
- Lots of departments hire Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) to teach while they study, this can be a good option to earn while still working in your field of study.
- May take away time from your studies.
- You may be limited in the number of hours you can work, either due to visa restrictions or how much time you want to spend on your studies.
- You usually do not have to pay this money back.
- Some are per annum, meaning you get the money each year of your studies.
- Some are larger amounts of money.
- Not available for everyone – some are project or course specific, or not open to international students.
- Sometimes the deadlines may not line up with when you’re applying for your PhD.
Make sure to note as well that you don’t necessarily have to pick just one kind of funding. For example, I have a doctoral loan, but I also work part-time to boost my income. If you have a studentship or scholarship, check the information carefully to see if you are allowed to ‘stack’ it with another kind of funding.
Whichever options you choose, good luck with your funding and your PhD!