Disclaimer : Please consider I'm in Europe, and this is for European funding

I've been accepted to do my PhD. I've been told in writing something along the lines of "You'll work for Prof. A doing project X for T years". My professor sent me his proposal and told me that even though it was done in 2016 he still has money for a PhD student.

However if I look for the project online, the funding agency stops giving funding on 2022.

So I'm worried about this divergent information (what my professor says vs what the funding agencies say) and I'm wondering whether I should ask my professor by email if he indeed has money for me to work on that project and also about how funding agencies really interpret their end date. I see this as possibly inappropriate because he already told me in writing that he can fund me for that project, and I don't want to sound like I'm questioning his word especially at this early stage.

How do funding agencies interpret their end dates? I mean, is a professor only meant to hire PhD's several years before the end date? This seems odd because one doesn't know exactly how long it'll take for a student to graduate.

  • 2
    Thanks for accepting my answer, though it might be better to leave it unaccepted and wait for some other answers, especially if you want one more Europe-centered. Of course people can still answer even with one accepted, but it might also discourage some. I'm in the US and wrote my answer before you clarified Europe (you might want to be more specific though; there's a lot of variability in Europe).
    – Bryan Krause
    Apr 7 at 17:47

It's common for funding to end during a prospective PhD student's expected stay, especially in places where a PhD takes 5 or more years. If grants are for about 3-5 years then this is almost a certainty. It's not unusual to get a student late in a funding cycle - maybe there wasn't an appropriate student for the role until now, maybe a prior candidate went someplace else or left early.

However, yes, it's a bit of a short window to have this funding already expiring within the next year. Sometimes there are other funding streams for a lab, sometimes there are possibilities for non-competitive extensions. You don't have enough information to know this is a problem.

All these uncertainties make it an uncomfortable but also necessary conversation to have. A PI should be comfortable talking about funding plans and contingencies and you should definitely ask about it. PhD programs should also have information about what they do when there are funding issues. For example, is there some department funding that can help cover a student if there is a gap?

Definitely ask your professor about funding. Avoid being accusatory and alleging any sort of misrepresentation, and just go in with questions you have: how long is funding actually secured for? What are the plans when it runs out? What happens if those plans fail?


Definitely talk to your professor. As Bryan Krause says, not in an accusatory tone. Just inquire.

You can say that you read that the project expires ini 2022 and you'd like to inquire what the plans are for that project or any follow-up projects. Maybe the project will get an extension (which might still not be enough to finish a PhD). Or maybe a follow-up grant is in the works? Or maybe the professor is counting on other means. However that may be, they should be counting you in for 3-4 (or even 5) years, depending on field and country. It's normal to worry about funding and plan for the future, and it's also normal to want to know what the plans are for the continuation of a project. You might be interested in the environment you will be working in, e.g. will there be other PhD students and postdocs, etc.

I had a co-supervisor who had a student leave because he was hired for a project that would run out in 2 years and was told something along the lines of "We're sure there will be money/we can always find money somehow for the other two years" without ever being given a guarantee. He found that a bit uncertain and took a position that had 3 years of funding guaranteed.


In some countries, offers come from universities, as opposed to individual researchers, and the university guarantees the funding. You should ask other students, or the graduate chair if there is one. In any case, it's a good idea to clarify this with your supervisor.

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