Partial scholarships and full time PhD study


Hi all,

I have recently been offered a partial scholarship (fee waiver) at a British institution. While I feel very privileged to have been so, I am coming across significant problems with the University's attitude towards how I am to seek sufficient maintenance funding to sustain myself.

While I am seeking maintenance grants, the offer did not arrive to after many of the application deadlines closed. The university is not willing to allow me to study part-time in order for me to also work part-time and sustain myself, even for a year until the funding-applications come around again. They want the 'products' of the PhD to be published within 4 years. I am also expected to teach undergraduates several hours a weeks within the department (and spend time preparing accordingly) to offset the fee-waiver.

From my perspective, without a maintenance grant the expectation for me to work sufficient hours to gain enough income to sustain rent, food, bills etc (say 20 hours), give at least 12 hours/week to teaching, and then still find enough time to meet the demands of full time post-graduate study (say min 35) seems at best short-sighted and at worst immoral. I am getting nowhere trying to argue this point, with most responses boiling down to: "well PhD student have to make sacrifices". I am more than willing to work long and hard to gain a PhD, however demanding circa 70 hours weeks seems insane.

Does anyone have knowledge of similar experiences or practices? Am I being unreasonable? And if I do end up going ahead with their proposed structure, is it actually feasible?

Thanks for any advice!

Avatar for Noctu

Sounds like they're trying to take advantage of you to get some grunt work teaching and publications out of you. I wouldn't bother - you'll be exhausted, or have dropped out, in 3 years.
Easy for me to say as it's not my life or career, but I'd wait until the next lot of funding calls come out. Plus it will strengthen your CV to have had a fully funded PhD place.


Honestly I would turn it down, but with the caveat that this might be the best offer you will ever get, with funding in the humanities being as it is. I think the only way deals like this are really feasible is if you can live rent-free somewhere e.g. family in same city. I do know someone who did this, but it was a hand-to-mouth existence and she spent unbelievable amounts of time applying for small pots of money from foundations etc - from her experience, there simply aren't any sources that will pay your full maintenance costs. The one thing that she did do that made it slightly better was to work as a live-in warden for a university hall of residence - that covered her rent reliably at least. My own take on it several years post-PhD and seeing how we all got on afterwards, is that it is not worth getting into debt to do a PhD. If you are eligible for a full AHRC grant, I would try again next year and apply to as many places with the full funding as possible.
As to whether it's moral - a fee waiver probably isn't that much more of a cost than paying someone to do that teaching when you add on the extra NI contributions etc. So yes I think you're right to be cynical. Universities are more like businesses than anyone cares to think, and they know humanities applicants are desperately chasing very few fully funded places.


The situation you describe is very common in the US, but I agree with Noctu and bewildered, it's unrealistic and unsustainable.

Another thing to consider though is that you probably won't really spend 35 hours per week on your PhD anyway... My supervisors always tell us students that 15 hours a week on pure research is enough!... although in reality if I told them I was only going to attend uni 15 hours a week they would not be happy!

I don't know how many other people on this forum will agree with me, but although we may be in the office/lab for 35 hours a week or more, actual time spend at the lab bench, reading or writing (ie doing research and not surfing internet, chatting, teaching, marking, attending seminars, going to conferences etc) is a lot less than this. It's really all about time management and working productively. You could probably cope with the scenario you have described, but it will mean cutting out some academic things and certain aspects of student life.


Hi John,

I agree with bewildered: Universities are businesses, and I don't think that the offer they make you is fair. They need someone to take all this work for very little money. It's not worth going into dept and driving yourself to exhaustion for a PhD. If I were you, I would keep applying for funding.

Keep in mind that every PhD project is different. I was involved in a very labor-intensive PhD. I was probably not doing hardcore "writing"- "thinking" research, but I spent at least 50 hours a week for two years doing fieldwork, transcribing questionnaires and organising massive databases, and there was no way around it.

Good luck!