I'm hoping that with more experienced PhD's here you may be able to help me out, as it's virtually impossible to get a broad range of information on application advice.
I'm based in the UK and have a project ready to go in psychology, I have two senior academics who are willing to supervise and I'm passionate about the project itself. I believe that when finished it should allow me to pursue work in industry or academia (though I'm aware of stats around getting into the academic field).
The issue, of course, is funding.
I'm in the lucky and privileged position of having saved up enough money to cover tuition fees myself, and may even be able to self-fund my maintenance (just) with support from my family, my own savings, and the UK government loan. While I will continue to look for funding opportunities, I know that most have already passed for student intake in September which would push the project back another year. I've wanted to complete my doctorate for the vast majority of my life, and I find myself desperate to start a project now that I'm so close. But I'm aware that this may not be the best move in the long run.
Essentially, my worries boil down to two key areas:
Financial strain for the 1st year (and possibly future years) without funding.
Stigma against being self-funded when the course is complete and how this may impact future prospects.
I would plan to spend the first year applying to funding bodies to ensure the security of the rest of the project, but I also know my planned institution offers teaching work to doctoral students from their 2nd year onwards. Both of these factors may mean that the 1st year is the biggest pain point. That and the possible stigma issue.
Sorry for such a long rant! If anyone has any advice for this naive hopeful researcher it would be gratefully received!
But why use your savings when you could get funding? You could use the year to do other valuable stuff - such as some paid research assistance work (and more saving!) and getting valuable experience etc while also identifying a bunch of opportunities to apply for - so that you have a good chance of getting funding. This would be my strategy. The personal loss (financially) of funding that first year and then the stress and strain of trying to obtain funding for the remaining years... I wouldn't choose this option UNLESS I had tried many times to get funding and failed and was looking for some alternative route in. If that is the case, then I do think that self funding sounds a good strategy. I have one friend who did this for the first year (or it may have turned into more than a year). It was stressful but it got her doing the PhD when she might not have got the funding otherwise, as her grades weren't considered competitive enough. As far as I recall she did manage to secure some bits of funding to help, but it was a lot of stress.
I personally wouldn't pay for a PhD. I rather get a studentship than pay it myself. I remember back in college, a teacher quoted that "PhD as a whole benefit more to the university than yourself. Why should you pay for it?". I would try getting funding first before paying a penny.
I'm sure there is something out there for you.
Thank you for the replies everyone, it's great to see the different perspectives on offer.
I think part of the problem for me is that my project has been stalling for a few years now, with previous funding attempts having been withdrawn at the last second due to circumstances out of my control. It's left me feeling frustrated and anxious to just start, though I know that's ultimately an unwise decision.
The most frustrating part of this though is that many of the research funding options I have been recommended from tutors in the past have closed their applications for 2020, meaning another wasted year before I can start.
I am still searching for as many sources of funding as I can, and will continue to do so throughout the year, I suppose the plan given before is more of a last ditch effort so that I can be sure that I can at least start this process.
Again, thank you for your support, everyone talks about the stresses of study, but rarely have I heard of the stress of actually getting started in the first place!
One option was a studentship from my institution for which I been through the necessary interviews etc. That funding pot was pulled in its entirety leaving me and a few other candidates who had been accepted out in the cold.
The second time was a charity which initially offered funding, but later retracted it citing budget issues, they are still going to provide support through aid with recruitment and dissemination of results though so I don't think that it's lack of faith in the project (or at least I can't see why they would still offer other support if they didn't have faith in it)
Hmm, now I hear more of the context I am thinking why not self fund then? You'd have to be prepared for the stresses of it though. I would still be looking to get funding myself if I were you. But if you are really impatient and want to just get started...
If you pay with own funding this year, no one is going to pay for it next year. It is now or never. PIs want PhD without obligation to pay them. They are not going to search for funding for you. Just wait and apply for a "real" paid PhD.
When they get funding, they may think of other candidates.
Nobody who is wanting to do a PhD for career purposes (rather than just for fun) should be paying for their PhD. Eng is right, why would you get funding for later years if not for year 1? I think if you can't get funding that is a hint about a) you or b) your project. I'd recommend spending a year doing something else to boost your chances and reapplying for funding for next year.
Thank you again for all the thoughts, I'm still desperately spamming as many organisations as I can so hopefully I can cobble together enough for some kind of living stipend for the 3/4 years.
Out of curiosity on this subject, what are your thoughts on the UK Doctoral Loan scheme?
It seems to be a good help if you can use it with donations from charities. I know that it can't be combined with research council funding but I they seem to say that charity and private funding sources are allowed.
Do you want to graduate from a PhD with 30k or more debt? I do not find it a good idea. Search for a real PhD or do something else.
In UK, PhD students are already paid very low (13-14k a year). It is enough just to live as a single person. Do not make it worse by self funding.
Have you considered something in Clinical Psychology? I know at my university the NHS along with the uni funds the degree, it pays pretty well, esp for a Phd (I want to say it's something like £28,000 per year). You have to do work at the NHS as part of it. And you might not be interested in the clinical side of psychology, but if you don't mind it, it might be something to look into.
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