Series of Guardian articles by self-funding PhD students


The Guardian today published a series of articles written by self-funding PhD students. Some of them are studying full-time, a few part-time. I found them really interesting, and suspect they might help potential PhD students who are considering self-funding. I was funded from my 2nd year onwards, but self-funding, especially for part-time study, is extremely popular in my subject, history, where there is virtually no funding available.

Avatar for Mackem_Beefy

Without funding, that would be £50,000 I would have had to find given the costs breakdown I saw whilst still back at Uni.

I admire the bravery of anyone who takes on a PhD self-funded.

Ian (Mackem_Beefy)


It would have been interesting if they'd found people several years on from completion or non-completion (given the stats on completion are noticeably worse for self-funders), and seen whether in retrospect people thought it had been worthwhile to self-fund. My suspicion is that you'd find less positive reactions but I don't know. The stats show that most PhDs funded or not, will never get a permanent academic job (even discounting those who never wanted one, I suspect it's still less than half who do), but I think it would be much worse to cope with that reality, if you'd paid so much (not just financially) in the hope of an academic career.


Looks interesting, thanks for sharing. I am a self-funded full-time PhD student, funding through inheritance. I'm doing lots of teaching as well in the hope that will make me more appealing to prospective employers. I have just upgraded and will probably go part-time soon so that I can earn a bit more money and start publishing some of my work. I used to feel a bit inferior as a self-funded student but I've largely got over that now; I am in the social sciences, in an area where funding is virtually non-existent, and I have come to realise that they didn't accept me just because I had money for them. There is still some prejudice shown to self-funded students though, let's hope articles like this give a bit more of an insight.

Avatar for Pjlu

In Australia, the government supports two main tiers of funding-one called the APA (which provides a living grant for Master of Research or any kind of doctorate between 1-3 years or so-with a 6 month extension). As well as this there is Research Training Scheme funding (where the government pays your fees).

Many students obtain the RTS funding (with fees paid) but the APA living stipends (and any other extra individual university scholarship or top up) are really competitive. So there are few more cudos when you get an APA scholarship and into a very elite university. But beyond that, I don't think people really mind.

I would have to agree with Ian, that if I had had to pay full fees for my PhD (even though doing it part-time as a full time paid employee), I would have thought twice about doing it. The fees being paid made this particular study far more appealing than otherwise.However, I have paid fees for all of my other tertiary qualifications including the Masters-so perhaps not.

I also believe, that once you are doing it, it really is the quality of the work that you are doing that matters and the skills and knowledge you gain while doing this. I know that my dissertation research actually really empowers me as a professional in a personal sense-it has made me far more confident in my judgement and abilities as a teacher. I also know though, that unlike Natassia, this year I had to make a decision to focus on my work (paid work) and my part time doctorate and put off any potential articles or similar-simply to create a much needed balance in my life. Luckily, I can do this without worrying too much about the publications this year as I am not expecting to move to academia when I finish. If I did want that goal and felt compelled to publish right now, I think I would really be stretching it.

The link was great Bilbo, thank you.