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I earned my Bachelor degree from my homeland country in Computer Engineering. I am now studying for Master of Physics in the same university. Next year I plan to move back to the Computer field and find some university in Europe to study Ph.D.

But I doubt that I'll have any scholarships from my homeland's government. Can I survive if I start to live with my pocket money? Is that enough to live in Europe just for a half year. Are there any available funds that can make me go further (for example TA/RA's salary)?

My main question is:

  1. How to survive if I want to study PhD in Europe without any scholarship from my homeland country?
  2. Which country might provide more money for a foreigner to study at graduate level?

Now, i am interested to Germany and Finland but anyway you could recommend any country to me.

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University systems vary quite wildly between European countries (even if they've been converging during the last few years), as do standards of living. –  finitud Jul 7 at 10:21
@finitud just tell me a story of any country you have an experience. That's enough. –  terces907 Jul 7 at 10:38
"Can I survive if I start to live with my pocket money?" Doesn't that mostly depend on how much "pocket money" you have available? –  xLeitix Jul 7 at 12:46
For some general info on PhDs in Europe see academia.stackexchange.com/questions/23584/… –  Relaxed Jul 7 at 13:11
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4 Answers 4

I only know the situation in Germany:

In order to get a visa, you are required to show that you can fund your PhD study. Either by scholarship, salary, or your personal means.

Usually, at least in CS, PhD students are employees of the university. You don't sign a contract that you are going to do a PhD, instead, you sign a contract that you will work for the university, "and you will be supported for doing a PhD". Your salary will be more than enough to support yourself (and thus for visa regulations).

However, it is also possible to do an external PhD. In this case you will not be an employee, rather a PhD student. What you need would be to find a professor who is willing to advise your work. In this case, you might get some scholarship from institutions like DAAD.

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I would like to emphasize reaching out the the DAAD (I am not affiliated with them). My experience was that they are quite eager to fund foreign students of all levels. –  CuriousCat Jul 7 at 15:19
There are a few exceptions to what gefei wrote. Some universities or institutes offer graduate schools, where students are funded by the school, rather than being employed by the university. They use a formal application proceedure to select students, who will then also be supported with invitation letters for Visa, etc. - so they are quite international. For CS, I know of two such examples in the German-speaking part of Europe: The Saarland University Graduate school of CS, and the IST Austria. –  DCTLib Jul 8 at 11:36
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In Norway, and I believe in other Scandinavian countries, a PhD student is considered as a university employee. The salary is more than enough for you to support yourself, and even your family if you have one. In the UK, a PhD studentship is usually restricted only to UK and EU nationals.

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How about in Germany or Finland? –  terces907 Jul 7 at 10:17
@terces907 I don't know about Germany or Finland, unfortunately. –  adipro Jul 7 at 19:27
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In Spain, enrolling in the PhD programme and getting funding are two independent processes (then there might be visa issues which I do not know about). I am going to tell you about my experience a few years ago (roughly 2005-2010).

Tuition fees for PhD are usually low, and any kind of financial support you can find will usually cover them.

In order to receive funding, you usually need to be enrolled, or at least admitted, in a PhD program, with an advisor and a strong research proposal. The typical PhD fellowship/contract used to be around 1000 euros per month, during a maximum of 4 years. This was just enough to live in Madrid, and a decent salary in many small towns. Both salaries and flat rents have gone down in the last few years, although other costs of living have been going up, but it's a good first estimate of how much money you will need. Sadly, with the crisis, the research budgets have been slashed and it's even more difficult to find financial support than it already was.

Cost of living can vary wildly even between Spanish cities, with Madrid and Barcelona among the most expensive, and smaller towns such as Oviedo or Granada much more affordable.

All in all, while Spain is probably not the best bet in terms of receiving financial support for research at the moment, it does have lower costs of living than other European countries. Since I don't know where you're at the moment, I can't compare how much your money will stretch in comparison.

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As a Ph.D. student in (continental) Europe, you are an employee of the university (or other institution), and so you earn a salary. "Scholarships" are only for undergraduate and Master's students. Normally, the salary will be mentioned in the job postings you apply to (here's a typical one), this answers your question 1.

As for 2, the level of funding varies between positions, depending on available funding at the insitution, etc. This is not country-dependent.

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Anyway, no tuition fee or cheap tuition fee university also help me right? Could you recommend me some of them? –  terces907 Jul 7 at 10:02
@terces907 We don't allow "shopping" for universities here (see this meta post for more details) –  ff524 Jul 7 at 10:17
Not completely true. In some countries/disciplines, it's still relatively common to do a PhD without funding (although not in CS, I think). Furthermore many people do a PhD using money from their home country. You might call it a grant instead of a scholarship but the important thing is that those people come with their own money instead of applying for some pre-existing job. Even if there might be further differences between universities in the same country, all this is very much country-dependent. –  Relaxed Jul 7 at 13:09
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