PhD Funding Around the World | Top Universities

PhD Funding Around the World

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Hasna Haidar

Updated May 03, 2022



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There are several avenues you can explore for PhD funding. Of course, you can self-fund if you have the resources (if so, mentioning this in your application can be beneficial), and some students may find it easier to take their PhD part-time, which reduces tuition fees and also frees up time in which to earn money if no external funding is available. Nonetheless, many PhD students enroll on the basis of scholarships, research/teaching assistantships, and grants which are made available for PhD students.

Sources of PhD funding 

The Ministry or Department of Education in your home or host country is a good starting point for many forms of educational grants. There are also many charities and trusts that offer financial help to specific demographics – and sometimes very specific indeed! For example, there are scholarships for women and students from particular countries or subject areas, but also more ‘niche’ grants, targeting everyone from vegetarians to the spouses or children of grocers, pharmacists or carpenters.

Some organizations may also offer financial support for existing employees who wish to begin PhD studies during their employment. Candidates wishing to ask their employer to help fund a PhD must usually explain how their studies will benefit their personal and professional development.

When applying for any sort of funding, always make sure to adhere to the often very strict deadlines, and to apply as early as possible to avoid disappointment (and to make up for slow application processing times). You may also find it takes a considerable amount of time to get all the required materials, essays, personal statements and references ready before you can apply to a funding opportunity.

Keep reading for an overview of PhD funding options around the world…

PhD funding in the US

In the US, PhD students are discouraged from engaging in external employment. Universities instead offer a tuition waiver and an annual stipend. Ivy League and other larger institutions are typically more able to offer PhD funding than smaller private institutions. Students studying online courses are also less likely to receive funding. The source of funding and amount varies between subjects and between universities, but a good starting point is the Fulbright programs run by the Institute of International Education.

Many PhD students in the US work as teaching assistants or research assistants to supplement their income. These are both usually offered as yearly contracts between the student and the institution, renewed if the student maintains specified academic standards. Some graduate schools may ask students to obtain fellowships (funding with no strings attached in terms of career obligations) or take advantage of their supervisor’s research grants from government agencies such as the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

PhD funding in Canada

In Canada, PhD students may work outside the university (or through student jobs within the university) but some programs stipulate that students must not work for more than 10 hours per week outside of their studies, particularly if they have been granted PhD funding. The Canadian Government runs a scholarships website which you can use to explore available funding opportunities such as the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships, available to Canadian and international PhD students.

Competitive PhD scholarships include those run by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR). Some universities give a tuition deferral or waiver which is equivalent to part of or the entire tuition amount for the first four years.

Find out more about studying a PhD in Canada >

PhD funding in the UK

In the UK, there is a range of funding options for PhD students. Many universities have a limited number of studentships or bursaries made specifically available for postgraduate applicants. The amounts provided could range from covering tuition costs, covering living costs or simply covering costs for textbooks and research materials.

Government-funded Research Councils provide tax-free bursaries which include tuition fees and a stipend of around £15,000 (US$19,600) or over per year for three years. Scientific studentships are offered by organizations and charities such as Cancer Research UK, the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), and the Wellcome Trust which start at around £19,000 (US$31,725) and rise each year (tax and National Insurance free).

UK Research Councils include the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Economic and Social Science Research Council (ESRC), the Medical Research Council (MRC), the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).

There are also regional scholarships such as the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan for Commonwealth students to study in other Commonwealth countries. PhD students in the UK may also take part in tutoring, work as a research assistant, or deliver paid lectures.

Doctoral Loans are another popular way of funding postgraduate study in the UK, and allow you to borrow up to £25,000 (~US$32,450) for your course fees and living costs, paid in three installments throughout the year. The earliest you’ll start repaying the loan is when your annual income is over £21,000 and it’s either the first April after you leave your course, or the first April four years after your course started.

PhD funding in France

In France, the French Ministry of Higher Education and Research has specific funds for research, which they use to provide a short-term employment contract (not tax free) called a ‘doctoral contract’ for the PhD candidate, regardless of nationality. This stipulates that the candidate will be working for the institution at which the PhD is based. The contract is for three years, renewable for one year and sets out the legal framework befitting a normal work contract, including minimum salary level and activities the candidate may be involved in.

You may also apply for bursaries from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the Ministry of Higher Education and Research (MESR) which offers the Eiffel Excellence Scholarships aimed at international students. PhD students can also apply for funds from a private-sector research company which can host them at its own premises; notable scholarships of this nature include the Conventions Industrielles de Formation par la Recherche (CIFRE). Another option is a scholarship based on co-tutelle which allows PhD students to undertake a research project between two institutions – this is called a Joint-PhD. A range of regional and city projects and associations are also in place in France to provide funding for PhDs.

PhD funding in Australia & New Zealand

Australian citizens are not charged course fees for their PhDs, but are charged the student services and amenities fees (SSAF) set by each university. International students must pay course fees or use a scholarship such as the Destination Australia awards for funding.  

All international PhD students in New Zealand are eligible to pay the same fees as local PhD students. Students can apply to dedicated scholarship schemes run by their university, ask their supervisors for advice on funding schemes that are not widely publicized, or use one of the government-run scholarships such as the International Doctoral Research Scholarships (NZIDRS). You may also apply through funding bodies such as the MacDiarmid Institute.

PhD funding in India

There are a range of funding options in India for PhD students, including scholarships and grants provided by the Indian government, governments of other countries specifically for Indian students, scholarships from the universities themselves and scholarships by private and public organizations. One example is the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) which provides grants for independent researchers, which includes PhD students.

International PhD funding

The European Union provides grants to promote the exchange of students and academic staff within Europe, such as the Erasmus+ programs and the European Commission (EC)’s awards to students from developing countries. The Organization of American States (OAS) and the OAS Special Caribbean Scholarships Program (SPECAF) grant full PhD scholarships for tuition within member states.

PhD studentships

PhD studentships (such as teaching assistantships and research assistantships) are a popular source of funding. Not only do they bring in a considerable amount of money, they are also good experience for students who wish to go into academia or research careers after their degree. Some programs may also require all PhD candidates to teach under the supervision of a member of staff. PhD studentships are more common in science, technology, engineering and medicine (STEM) subjects, and each stipulates its own application process and entrance requirements.

Most opportunities for PhD studentships are advertised on the institution’s website, but some are offered internally after the student has applied to their degree program. Externally funded PhD scholarships and studentships are not offered directly to students by the organization, but are instead allocated to departments and supervisors who then advertise for candidates.

You may also secure a funding opportunity that is not advertised at all. If you can identify an appropriate supervisor who is impressed with your research experience and proposal, s/he may be able to personally help you identify sources of funding (even from their own or their department’s research funds), so it definitely helps to be proactive when trying to secure funding.

This article was originally published in February 2014. It was updated in May 2019.

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