PhD, Masters and other postgraduate funding: Research Council Funding

The subject-based Research Councils in the UK distribute funds under various schemes and allocation methods for postgraduate study, mostly at PhD level, to individual institutions. Those universities then advertise the funding to potential students as they would any other postgraduate opportunity. Intending postgraduates apply to the universities rather than directly to the Research Councils, for both their funding, and for their study.
In most cases, the Research Councils only fund masters level study where this is included as part of a (usually 4-year) PhD.
Research Council funded PhD studentships are usually identified in advertisements either directly, by stating which council has funded the studentships, OR because they include information on the eligibility criteria of the relevant Research Council. Most Research Councils require you to be a UK student to receive the full studentship covering both fees and living stipend, although there are exceptions to this. EU students are generally eligible to apply for the fees but may not receive the living stipend.
Most of the Research Councils use broadly similar schemes and allocation methods which are described below. Although the funding provided for PhD students is similar across the Research Councils, the method through which it is allocated may mean there are more benefits for students under some methods than others:
1. Doctoral Training Centres/Centre for Doctoral Training
These are special schemes which universities have to apply for, and which usually have particular research themes, and a spcific number of studentships awarded each year. These are important schemes and offer PhD students particular support and training, and sometimes additional facilities. They can support 4 rather than 3 year PhD studentships. They may also be described as 'collaborative' or 'partnerships' if they include more than one University, or something else similar.
2. Block Grant, Doctoral Training Accounts etc
This allocation method has a number of different names but tends to be calculated based on the overall amount of academic research funds a particular Research Council has awarded an individual university in their subject areas. PhD studentships funded in this way may not always offer all the additional benefits offered by the DTCs described above but they can be used by the university more flexibly in terms of the subject areas covered.
3. CASE, or Industrial CASE PhD Studentships
These are studentships funded by an individual research council, organised through a university in conjunction with a company or other organisation. These may provide additional funding from the other organisation as well as the normal research council funds. The student spends some of their time at the University and some at the other organisation.
The Research Councils and their main postgraduate funding schemes each have an entry in the PostgraduateStudentships funding database.
You can start looking now for PhD funding.