Applying for a PhD

a PORT for Modern Languages tutorial

4 applying for grants

4.1 Identifying funding bodies

The first problem is actually to find out which grants are available and from whom. Broadly speaking there are three categories of awards:

Grants open to everyone resident in the UK
The Arts and Humanities Research Council (the AHRC) should be your first stop in applying for grants. They are the main organizing and funding body for research in the Humanities in the UK, and also the most prestigious award to have on your CV. They run a doctoral competition to provide fees and maintenance for both full and part-time doctoral students. Of the 5500 applications for postgraduate awards they receive each year (including MAs), about a third are successful (1800). To be eligible for a full award. A full doctoral award covers both the cost of tuition fees, and a maintenance grant. To be eligible for a full award, you must show that you have a relevant connection with the UK, usually through residence. A fees-only award provides payment of tuition fees, but not a maintenance grant. To be eligible for a fees-only award, you must have been ordinarily resident in the EU for the three years immediately preceding the start of the academic year in which your award will commence. 

Grants linked to a particular university
Many universities and departments offer studentships. These studentships are specifically for courses at that university. If you know where you want to apply, you should check the website or telephone the department to see whether the department or university that you are interested in offers any and whether you are eligible to compete for them. They are also advertised when they come up and you can find them on the

  • web pages of the academic institutions
  • Graduate School/Admissions Office/International Office/Finance Office of the academic institutions
  • The Guardian (Tuesdays)
  • The THES (Times Higher Education Supplement on Fridays)
  • postgraduate fairs organized by an individual university or a consortium of universities
  • books

Most studentship applications are made at the same time as applying for a course. You might be asked in the course application form whether you want to be considered for a studentship or not. Make sure you tick the relevant box and take advantage of this automatic inclusion in the selection process. Most studentships require that you simultaneously apply for grants open to everyone. Only if you fail to get one of these will you then get a studentship. 

Grants for EU/international students
This type of grant is only available to EU or International students. Home/UK students are not eligible. While still in the country of origin you can try to find out what scholarships are available for studying abroad. Usually there is a National Research Centre or a State Scholarship Foundation that administers scholarships.

The British government also offers scholarships to EU and International students for studying at a British academic institution. You can apply before coming to the UK in some of these cases; for others you may have to prove residence. Make sure you are clear about the parameters of your grant-giving body. Your local office of the British Council may also be approached in person for guidance on awards, details of recruitment fairs in your area and upcoming visits by representatives of UK universities. 

List of grant-giving bodies and search engines
Here is a by no means exhaustive list of grant-giving bodies or search engines helping you to find grants: