Who provides funding for UK doctorates

Funding for a doctorate (including fees and living expenses) can come from one or more of a range of research funders, including the UK Research Councils, certain charities or other funding bodies, industry, overseas governments or European Union initiatives. Funding can come from the universities’ own funds or a doctorate can be self-funded by the doctoral researcher or funded by their employer.

UK univerities also receive additional funding to cover the costs of supervising doctorates from one of the national HE funding bodies (e.g. HEFCE - the Higher Education Funding Council for England). 

An analysis of the main sources of funding for all doctoral researchers in the UK in 2012/13 is shown below.

Research funding

The biggest funders of doctoral programmes are:

  • Doctoral researchers themselves - around a third of doctoral degrees are entirely self-funded
  • Universities, who provide around 21% of funding for doctoral degrees
  • The UK Research Councils, providing around 15%.

There are lots of cases of partial or shared funding, e.g. where different bodies fund a programme jointly, such as a funder and the university, or a funder and an industry partner, or the university and part self-funding by the doctoral researcher.

How can I find funding for a doctorate?

Several specialist services are available which list doctoral funding sources (these are often referred to as funding for PhD studentships), for example:

How does PhD funding work?

Funding bodies support doctoral researchers in different ways: some will pay programme fees and also a stipend (i.e. to cover your living costs and expenses), some will only pay programme fees and others simply make a one-off award of some kind. Each funding body will have its own criteria for eligibility.

The UK Research Councils make their funding available through the participating universities rather than directly to doctoral researchers. Research Council awards cover university fees (currently about £4,000 per year) and provide an annual stipend for the doctoral researcher of just under £14,000 per annum (2014/15 rate) which is paid tax-free. The 7 UK research councils are:

Arts and Humanities Research Council
Economic and Social Research Council
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Medical Research Council
Natural Environment Research Council
Science and Technology Facilities Council

For more information on additional costs you might encounter, see: How much does it cost to study for a UK doctorate?