Is it normal to do self funding for a PhD


I am going to spend my own money for the PhD while most of friends that i know are funded. I think it is a good investment but still think i am abnormal to use my own money for it. So i wonder how many percentages of people go for a PhD with their own money roughly? How about you?


I think if you can find some funded opportunities then it is certainly worth applying for them, as surely it would be a massive benefit to be funded (saving you money and also impressive to prospective employers later, as obtaining PhD funding has some similarities to obtaining research grants).

If on the other hand you have tried to get funding (unsuccessfully), or there are no opportunities in your chosen location/field, and (most importantly!) you can afford it, then there is certainly nothing wrong with self-funding. That's my view anyway. Have you considered other funding options?

My self-funded friend did amazingly in her PhD and is now a lecturer in her home country. I think she chose to self fund as she couldn't find funding opportunities for international students at her chosen location and in her chosen field.


I have just read your other thread and now this one makes more sense to me. If you have been applying for a long time with limited success and you can afford it, then self funding sounds like a great option. This is pretty much what I said before. It would be good if you could get some views from other students in the same boat as well. Good luck with everything :-)


I was self-funded and felt as if I was some kind of failure because I suppose by getting funding (which is hellish competitive if you are talking research councils). But in the end, I lived at home and saved at alot as during 2006 to 2011, I paid about £3,300 a year in fees. Only issue was I was working one year part time registration because I had two part time jobs - I quit one job after my 3rd year.

I did get chance to get a deal where if I went to a Northern university, they would pay my full costs for 1 year and just fees for another two years. But I was studying market towns and worked out I would need to buy and insure a car and take on a lot of part time work. Also, I thought I would take 4 years, so I would have one year struggling (I took about 4 years, 9 months). So although the offer semed sexy, I would be better off being at home. There was no chance for a working class kid like me to get given ESRC funding (Reserach Council funding), I know a lot of people who have their applications fully written by a Professor so I could not compete with this middle class corruption (who you know not what you know).

What I would say is if you compromise your research topic, there are funded PhD projects out there with few applicants sometimes - but the issue is doing something you may not have a passion for. On the flip side, I am no longer reseaching market towns so you don't have to be so rich about sticking to the research topic you 100% want (Be flexible)


Thank you Tudor Queen and Craigwhizz for sharing. I have an offer already, but i dont know what source of scholarship i can find in the UK. There is not much funding from my country Government, so i think no hope for scholarship. The ones that i intended to apply for were all closed and even if they are open, i don't think that i can be successful as my Master was a Pass (with >60 on average). I was applying at about 30 universities and after 4 months, only 1 accepted me as a self funded student. I don't know what PhD student life is, some told me there is not much to do but the others look very stressful. I am looking for opportunity to work at the university while doing the PhD but not so sure if it is easier for PhD students. I email my supervisors but he did not response anything. My tuition is for overseas so it is 3 times higher than UK/EU students.


hi, it is very hard to do a phd without funding, especially for non EU-students. First of all, living expenses, there's also internet, utilities to pay for. Plus accommodation here does not usually come with furniture and white goods. Although I had a studentship during the phd, the amount was really not enough. Non-Eu students also cannot live in student accommodation because it would close during the holidays, where would we go then? I also could not afford to fly home for holidays.

Foreign students can only work up to a certain number of hours per week. The pay at that time was £6-something per hour, even that would not cover my house rent. By the time you finish working, you'd be too tired to look at your phd.

I had a friend from Bangladesh, he had borrowed money to be able to stay on and complete his thesis in the UK. I really wondered how he was going to pay back all that money. He actually started his phd in 1994 and then he took a long break and then in 2010 he was back in the UK trying to finish, living a very frugal life. I also had another friend from China but he was young he definitely worked more than 20 hours per week and yes he was not caught of course, he was doing his BA when I met him and he didn't care about grades, all he wanted was to pass the degree, at the same time make some money, go and see Europe before going back to China. Another friend of mine from Uganda had to borrow money from his brother just to pay for his visa fees (I think he was doing an extension to stay). On top of that he had brought his wife to the UK, and he was also on the same stipend as me, I really don't know how they survived.

Please consider carefully before coming to the UK to do your phd if you haven't secured funding.


Quote From craigwhizz:
There was no chance for a working class kid like me to get given ESRC funding (Reserach Council funding), I know a lot of people who have their applications fully written by a Professor so I could not compete with this middle class corruption (who you know not what you know).

I have to say that in my experience class, colour, or creed matters not... as long as you make good connections somehow (usually through the undergraduate degree) so that you can get some good references (and have a strong academic profile too of course). I don't know anyone whose applications were fully written by their supervisor (just to balance the picture a bit), and I know several people whose parents did not go to uni and yet who have successfully obtained ESRC funding.

Not that this is that relevant to Huubte. As an international student I think there is a completely different picture about self funding. The only funded non EU and non UK PhD students I know are funded by the government of their own country. The others self fund. Apart from the large personal financial cost, I don't think there is any disadvantage or perceived stigma for an international student who is self funding.


I agree with you that you won't get discriminated against if you are great and have a great profile. But that is the issue in itself - you have to be bloody incredible. About the application writing, I was told by friends that they had more than significant help with applications because it was so competitive. The reason many Chinese plagiarise, for example, is because of the extreme pressure to succeed from parents back home who have sold everything to get their kids educated. Who you know is still important and not everyone can forge the right networks.

In Geography, the year I applied, I think 8 students got scholarships across 80 odd geography departments (through the funding competition) . My friend, who was from a private school background, had a mother with a PhD and a father who was good at proofreading. Her boyfriend helped extensively with technical aspects of her PhD - even with this network of support, she too did not get ESRC funding (she was close). I never met an ethnic minority Geography PhD student until I went to another university for a travel grant. I was based in one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the UK!

True, I know some people form working class backgrounds in academia, but it is becoming increasingly stratified. As an international student, you need to have some scholarship; the cost of living is so high. However, other European countries (Denmark maybe Germany) have been doing a lot to get international students in. Again, cost of living is a factor (which is why I had to live at home).

For comfort, I averaged in the 60s and applied to my own university for self-funding. I am surprised you did not get more offers as most places are looking to take on PhD students (funded or not) .


I just finished a partially self-funded PhD in the UK (partially because my tuition fees were covered under my research grant) and I haven't met any other self-funded students in my time, so I'd say that percentage is rather low. Though there might have been some as others never really noticed me as being self-funded. If it ever came up then the answer to it was a unanimous 'wow'.
I agree with you in seeing it as a good investment. Before agreeing to it, I made an extensive finacial plan of how much money I had, how much money I was getting on a regular basis etc. and gave myself a generous monthly budget (£800pm, generous as in the end I averaged on £730pm) making sure that at least 10k would be left over in the end as an emergency fund. I do not know about you, but I had all the required funds from the start. I would not have started the PhD if I would have had to rely on part-time income or taking on a loan or if the fees hadn't been covered as I would not have been able to do so without breaking the first two reasons. The part-time demonstrating I did at the university were nice little extras.
I would not think of myself or you as being abnormal! If at all it shows that you are or will make you more determined. When it got rough (it will) and I doubt myself it was the thought of having wasted £40k+ that helped.
The basic question that helped in the decision making after considering the financial situation was whether I would regret not taking the opportunity and the answer was yes. The funding situation of others should not matter. As long as you are determined to work hard and live a very frugal life (in my case living below the minimum living cost in the UK of £1120pm), go for it.