I am currently working on my master thesis in physics and mathematics and will finish within a few months. My supervisor told me he would like to continue with my thesis' research subject and asked me if I wanted to be a PhD student in his group. However, he doesn't have any funds at the moment for hiring another PhD student, although his current PhD students are all almost finished.

He is going to look around and obviously will continue submitting proposals for grants. But unless we are very lucky, there won't be a grant within a reasonable time. He offered to help me get a PhD somewhere else and write a good letter of recommendation. I think the chances are good to obtain a PhD position somewhere else. However, I would like to find a way to do a PhD with my current supervisor.

Does anyone have any ideas how to get funding or something else I could do? This is at a university in The Netherlands and a PhD is considered as a job here. Funding is almost never arranged by the PhD student his/herself.

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    Get a funded position at all costs, even if it means leaving your current supervisor. You can still continue to collaborate even if you are not his student. Commented Aug 18, 2020 at 18:25
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    Being in the state of financial hardship seem to drop IQ around 13 points. You don't want that. Reference: science.sciencemag.org/content/341/6149/976 Commented Aug 18, 2020 at 18:30
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    Yes, I am definitely not considering doing this PhD without funds. That's also not really an option in my country, as far as I know. Commented Aug 18, 2020 at 18:33
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    @astronat, if you add more to that comment, it could be an answer. It's almost more than a comment already, as it gives relevant advice. Commented Aug 18, 2020 at 19:49

3 Answers 3


There are -mainly- two options in the Netherlands to arrange your own funding. Get a talent scholarship from NWO. See here: https://www.nwo.nl/en/research-and-results/programmes/magw/research-talent/index.html

Or, as you are in beta science a very good option, is to find a company that will hire you and will allow you to do the phd externally. This allows you to gain some work experience while doing the phd. You will take longer, but you will stay connected to practice.

By the way, in my opinion, to much of this 'yeah i would love to but i dont have funding' is coming from professors. If they really want you, they should only offer you a funded position. But that's from someone who left academia :)


If you are not starting as a funded student then you should assume that you’ll have no funding for the entire duration. Based on that assumption, can you somehow afford 1) tuition 2) living costs 3) auxiliary costs (social, personal, etc) for the duration of the PhD? And, if you cannot, are you willing to take on thousands (tens of thousands?) worth of debt to try and get that PhD?

If you cannot get funding, you may have to find a job to support yourself, but then of course, your time will be divided.

If you are not willing to find a part time job or you are not willing to take on a lot of debt, then you should not be doing your PhD with somebody who is unable to pay you.

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    Thanks! I will definitely not do a PhD without funding, that is not an option. My question was mainly how I could obtain funding (or help my supervisor obtain funding). Commented Aug 18, 2020 at 18:36
  • Simply by applying to funding agencies. You'll just have to do the leg work to identify which funding agencies you can contact. However, your professor probably already knows which funding sources you can or cannot tap, so when he says that funding is very unlikely, he's probably right. Commented Aug 18, 2020 at 19:53
  • PhD candidates in the Netherlands are not students and do not pay tuition.
    – TimRias
    Commented Aug 18, 2020 at 21:01
  • @mmeent Even if they do not pay tuition, my point still stands: Can OP afford all expenses on their own without any source of income from research? Most likely not. Commented Aug 18, 2020 at 23:03

Even if you masters supervisor had funding, you should apply for multiple PhD positions at multiple universities. Accept the best offer you receive.

In physics, I would not recommend an unfunded PhD to anyone who is not already wealthy.

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