How to find funding
Applying for research funding is always a competitive process and your likelihood of success will depend on your qualifications, experience and research aspirations.
Investigating potential funding sources and preparing postgraduate research applications is a lengthy process, so you should allow plenty of time. It is not unreasonable to start looking one year before your proposed start date.
When looking at your personal timeline for applying for a PhD, please note that you can usually only apply for funding once you have made an application or have an endorsement from the University.
Funded projects or studentships
Fully funded PhD projects are usually well advertised; however, you should be prepared to spend some time researching your options and checking the details of any project you are interested in.
Projects are usually listed on our PhD projects page. These tend to be in the STEM subject areas, however the arts, humanities and social sciences may also have some projects available.
These projects are often funded by the UK research councils and usually have an early deadline (around January and February) to tie in with the allocation of research council funding from the UK Government.
PhD projects may also be listed on individual school and department websites. These lists often include projects that already have confirmed funding; projects where funding may be available but is not guaranteed; and further projects where there is no funding source is automatically available (and you would be expected to source your own funding).
Some funders have closing dates early in the year so it is a good idea to start the application as early as possible (up to a year before your proposed start date). You should thoroughly read the project details to check whether funding is only available for programmes at certain universities, or if it is only available to a limited set of nationalities.
Scholarships and loans
The University of Edinburgh offers scholarships and student funding opportunities. You will usually need to have applied to study with us first, before you can apply for a scholarship or funding.
If you are a UK national, you may also be eligible for a postgraduate loan from the government.
You should also check the websites of individual schools and departments within the University as they may have extra funding resources.
In the UK, one of the main sources of funding is the UK research councils. You can look at the relevant research council in your field and see if they have any opportunities available:
- Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
- Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
- Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
- Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC)
- Medical Research Council (MRC)
- Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
- Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)
Funding bodies support PhD students in different ways. Some will pay tuition fees only; some will include a stipend (maintenance/living costs) or travel expenses; while others will simply be a one-off award to ease the financial burden of further study.
Similarly, each funding body will have its own criteria for eligibility, including how long you have been a resident in the UK. At PhD level, funding will tend to be awarded on academic merit; however there are some awards that take into account financial background and other criteria such as gender (such as in the case of the British Federation of Women Graduates).
Other sources of external funding
Funding may be available from external funding bodies such as trusts and charities, research foundations, government agencies, the private sector or your home government. Your prospective supervisor and previous undergraduate/masters study advisors may have sources of knowledge in this area.
If you are currently studying at a university, your institution may have access to these funding resources, but these will only be accessible through your university’s IT network:
Vitae is an organisation that aims to help researchers with their professional development and can offer advice on finding sources of academic funding.
- The Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding is a popular resource helping all postgraduates, regardless of subject or nationality, to find funding for PhD, Masters, and PGCE study.
Your own funds / working part-time
If you are planning to work part-time while you study, you should make sure you are eligible to work in the UK. Check the conditions associated with any offer of study, any loans or scholarships you plan to take, and your visa (if you are an international student).
The University sometimes offers part-time employment to full-time postgraduate research students, but the hours of work are limited to an average of nine hours each week across the academic year. We recommend you apply this limit to any employment outside your studies, in order to ensure you still have enough time to focus on your research.
Employers and the private sector
If are planning to studying a subject that is related to your current job, then your employer may be willing to sponsor you.