I am a masters student in mathematics in an Asian country and I am applying for Phd position in Europe.

While looking at website of one university in UK I came across this question which need to be answered by phd candidate

An outline of How you intend to fund your studies

If university doesn't gives me funding then I am ready to do some part time jobs during weekends( eg working in some restaurant or anything like that)

Also, my parents say that they could arrange for possibility of education loan and as my parents are government employee , there would not be much problem in that.

Considering that I am really enthusiastic to do research in the field I like, I have no problem in doing some jobs during weekends or going for the option of loan if my parents agree.

But the problem is what exactly should I write as an answer to this question in the application form ? and what should I not write.

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    Check carefully with the math department (it should be on their website) how their specific department handles funding for phd students. Funding can be very different between departments at the same university. I personally applied for a phd at a US institution in math and this question was on the general application form. However, the math department committed to funding all their phd students, so in my case the answer was 'the math department will pay for me'. – quarague Dec 20 '19 at 12:30
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    I would caution against saying "my family can pay for me". I had a family member say that to a particular PhD program (health sciences), and the department took that as an opportunity to string them along as an unpaid worker for several years, and not actually take steps to award them a degree. My family member ultimately had to quit that department with no PhD. – Daniel R. Collins Dec 20 '19 at 22:18
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    The correct answer is "If the university doesn't offer me funding (through an assistantship or fellowship) then I will go elsewhere." – JeffE Dec 21 '19 at 0:04
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    @JeffE That may be the right answer in the USA, but it is definitely not the right answer in the UK, and is highly likely to lead to immediate rejection of the application. – David Loeffler Dec 21 '19 at 13:34
  • @David Loeffler then what should I write and what must not be written? – Yannic Muller Dec 21 '19 at 13:36

For PhD studies in the UK, funding and admission to the program are usually separate steps. Funding opportunities will generally marked explicitly as such, and many of them are only available to UK/EU citizens resident in the country. If you are just applying for admission to a PhD program, there is an expectation that funding is taken care of separately.

The "ideal" answer for such the question regarding the funding source in a UK PhD application takes the form "I have been awarded the following competetive scholarship which will cover all my funding requirements". Other good typical cases are "My employer (company or government agency) really wants me to do a PhD and will foot the bill". These answers strengthen the application, because they show that someone else is sufficiently convinced of the whole PhD thingie to put a significant amount of money behind it.

"Neutral" answers are "I/my parents are rich and we can just afford this" or "I'm getting student loan from XY". Be prepared to provide evidence of claims like this! These answers mean that funding is taken care of, but don't add to the application beyond that.

"I'll get a part-time job" is NOT a good answer. University regulations typically restrict how much work PhD students are allowed to do, and with that number of hours it is probably not even feasible to cover cost of living, not to mention university fees. Anyone who needs a student visa to come to the UK is subject to even stricter regulation, which will actually be enforced. For the universities, the rationale is that PhD students who spend a lot of time working for a living, and a lot of energy worrying about how to make ends meet are far more likely to underperform or even fail than PhD students focused on research.

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    Is "I'm a self-made millionaire" also neutral? – Allure Dec 20 '19 at 23:32
  • @Allure If it's true, that would take care of the funding issue and thus should be accepted. Be prepared to provide proof though, it's slightly above neutral I suppose. – Mast Dec 21 '19 at 9:32

The main purpose of this question is not to receive your detailed answer on where you will get funds from. It mostly to receive a confirmation from you, in a form of official statement in your application, that you are aware that PhD is going to cost you money and you have a sensible plan where the money will come from. This is mostly to prevent late complaints such as:

No-one told me I will have to pay for this, surely PhD is more like work and it is University who should be paying me.


My friend did a PhD with you last year and they payed for the first year OK but then they got these classes to teach which covered years two and three, and I expected the same deal to be available for me.

From University point of view, candidates who are likely to drop out early due to financial problems are best to be avoided. Hence, Universities always prefer candidates who come with external funds (stipendship) covering tuition fees and living expenses and providing some reasonable accommodation for parental leave or long-term illness. In general, such funds are very competitive and hard to get.

Failing that, a candidate can fund their own studies themselves. Often there is no need to explain in details where the money are going to come from. Saying "I'm going to work part time" is not going to make your chances much better than a brief statement "I will fund studies myself" or "My parents will support me". Both are less than ideal, but your PhD application is not likely to be rejected just because of this.

  • can you please give a rough idea how many% of enrolled phd students are not funded? – Yannic Muller Dec 20 '19 at 18:58
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    @user686624 it depends hugely on the discipline, the country and the profile of the university. Also, note that in many countries (US and UK are exceptions from the list) PhD students don't pay tuition fees and may actually get stipend/salary from the country/University. – Dmitry Savostyanov Dec 20 '19 at 21:45
  • your answer is also very informative but I can only accept one for green tick. Thank you very much. – Yannic Muller Dec 21 '19 at 17:26

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