I completed master's of mathematics in Asia in June 2020. I had written to some professors for PhD positions in number theory in December 2019 . One of the professors in France said yes to me but he said that I should look for other sources of funding as his university didn't have PhD funding at that time. So, I began to look for some funding options but I missed applying for a funding opportunity that is open to anyone whose university would be in that region of France. (I came across on it on web at a date after last date).

Then there was a scholarship application from my country and I began applying for it in mid-March of 2020 but for that a confirmation letter from my prospective guide was required that I was selected for the PhD program. When asked for the letter, the professor didn't reply to my emails, but I can understand that happening due to COVID.

So, then I thought that I would apply to Europe again in December and began studying more topics to improve my knowledge and didn't contacted that professor.

My questions:

  1. Is it common in French universities that a professor says yes for PhD but tells the student to look for funding opportunities by himself?

  2. Is it common in European universities that a professor says yes for PhD but tells the student to look for funding opportunities by himself?

Please guide!

  • What does "December 2019 (last week)" mean? Commented Dec 1, 2020 at 10:13
  • 1
    @DanielR.Collins it means last week of December 2019.
    – user135061
    Commented Dec 1, 2020 at 10:22
  • Why do you want to know whether this common? What do you mean by common, 20%, 50%,…? Do you want to know whether there are positions in Europe that are funded and how to find them? Commented Dec 1, 2020 at 13:00
  • @user2705196 by common I mean atleast 50% .
    – user135061
    Commented Dec 2, 2020 at 11:41
  • @user2705196 Regarding your 2nd question "Do you want to know whether there are positions in Europe that are funded and how to find them?" If there is some website or some online resourse and you are willing to tell it will be of great help. What I do now is that I go on the website of universitities in which I want to apply, see in number theory group that are there profs with which my interest aligns and then I mail them my CV individually.
    – user135061
    Commented Dec 2, 2020 at 11:44

2 Answers 2


Its certainly normal in the UK. Very few universities fund any PhD students themselves (where would they get the money from?). Most students are funded on government scholarships. How these are awarded varies from field to field and I don't know what the norm is in mathematics. In biology they are awarded to centers called Centers for Doctoral Training (CDT/DTPs), which often cover several universities. Each year professors compete for the right to recruit a student, which they will then advertise for.

Until now, these scholarships have only been open to "home" students (that is British or EU students). Any overseas students have to obtain a scholarship from their own government, or an NGO or charity of some sort, or pay themselves out of pocket. Most profs will take most students who can bring funding/pay their way.

This year things are changing. CDTs/DTPs will now bed allowed to offer up to a third of their scholarships to overseas students. BUT, they will only pay "home" fees, which are generally less than overseas fees. How this difference is handled is varying from Uni to Uni. Some will say that they will charge full overseas fees to overseas students recruited to these scholarships, and the student would have to find the difference (on the order of £10k a year). Other universities are offering to waive the extra overseas fee.


I don't know what "normal" means but I have done it, and I'd expect that it is common practice. There are many universities that admit but don't fund PhD students, or only fund a handful but are open to admit more if they come with their own funding. (I have never worked in France though.)

On the other hand it's not the standard - Europe has many countries and even in a single country there may be big differences between regions and universities (private and public in particular).

Just to give you some stats - I have worked for four universities in Europe. Number 2 and 4 funded most of their PhD students (actually that was the standard way to do a PhD there), although number 2 would admit students who had their own funding, number 1 hired them as research assistants as a standard, meaning that they'd have money but would be expected to work part time for the department, besides of students who came with their own funding (maybe a third up to half of them), number 3 had a few (three or so) funded PhD positions each year but far more PhD students, so the majority was self-funded. Funding regimes change a lot over time though.

  • I meant common by normal
    – user135061
    Commented Dec 1, 2020 at 8:30

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