When you are thinking about studying for a PhD, especially as you will be studying for three or four years, the costs, and where you could find funding, are likely to be an important consideration.

What does a UK PhD studentship usually cover?

If you are a UK (and sometimes an EU student) you may be able to apply for full funding for your PhD in the form of a PhD studentship which will pay you a tax free sum to cover your fees, and a living stipend. EU students sometimes receive the fees but not the stipend. You will generally need to be studying full-time to receive a studentship like this. If the PhD studentship comes from University funds it is likely to be for the same or a similar amount. These are tax free sums which pay you enough to live in most parts of the UK – and you also qualify for student discounts.
Some universities also make some PhD funding available for overseas students.

If you will only be partly funded, or you cannot get funding, as well as the fees, here are some of the other costs you need to think about, for each of the years of your PhD:

Living costs – including accommodation and family

If you are living at home your costs will be less than if you have to move and find accommodation. If you do have to do this, the university may have postgraduate accommodation that is not too expensive, or may help you find other PhD students you may be able to share with.
If you are hoping to bring your partner or spouse or a child with you whilst you are studying, it’s always a good idea to check early with the university to see what family accommodation they have available for students.
Most university websites give an indication of the general cost of living, including accommodation, in that area. These costs can be different depending on where you study in the UK.

Travel

Your travel costs will mostly be to and from the campus – either every day or the days you need to be there – and if you are studying away from home these will be additional occasional costs too. If you are travelling by car, you may be able to park for free at the university but they may charge, so it is helpful to check.

Whilst you are studying

As a PhD student, there may well be conferences you either need, or want, to attend whilst you are studying. Very often these have student registration costs which are less than the full cost but you will still need to travel to, and stay at, these conferences. Many academic departments have travel funds for PhD students to attend conferences but the number you can attend and the amount may vary, so always check this first if you are likely to want to attend conferences.

Clubs and Societies

Many universities have specific clubs and societies for PhD students – some social, some that may be related to your subject area, and some that are run to offer general support and to bring PhD students together. These are often run by the Students’ Union but may also be run from your academic department or by a central graduate school. They can be a great opportunity to make friends, but also to look for support and share experiences with other PhD students, and can be a really important part of your time as a PhD student. Some can also help you with networking and development. Some of these clubs and societies will be free, but others may charge a subscription which you will need to take into account.
Discounts

One good thing about being a student is the discounts you get with your student status – remember to get the right cards and registration from the University when you start and find out about the local shops and services where you can use them to reduce at least some of the costs of doing your PhD.

Although the cost of studying for a PhD may seem daunting, the benefits, both whilst you are studying and in the future for your career and development, can be really important, whether you pursue an academic career or move into industry.

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