When I reached a professor for potential phd supervision, I got a reply like:"Unfortunately there are no open positions for PhD students in our lab at the moment, or in the near future. There is however always the option to apply for competitive PhD funding (4 years) with XXX (funding bodies). I suggest you take a look on the webpages of these funding bodies." It looks like a rejection letter but with funding suggestions, how do I respond to this email?

  • Unless you intend to try and apply for competitive funding, there is no need to reply at all. Some people feel the need to always send a thank-you note and of course that never hurts.
    – user9482
    Commented Aug 22, 2022 at 5:09

1 Answer 1


You are right that it is a rejection letter with funding suggestions. The situation described in the response is quite common -- an academic often has some ideas they would like to explore, doesn't have the money to hire a PhD student to work specifically on that project, but would happily take on a student who has secured external funding to work on it.

Receiving a response is much better than receiving no response. The professor you mention took some time* to write that response, and has shown you a clear possibility for proceeding. It sounds like they would be open to working with you, but whether or not that happens will depend on your application to the funding bodies they have listed, and thus is mostly out of their hands.

If I were on the receiving end of that reply, I would thank the professor for taking the time to respond, maybe briefly say if one or two of the funding opportunities look particularly interesting, and promise to be back in touch if I obtained any funds from them. Then I would go ahead and apply to those funding bodies.

Of course, only you can decide whether this is an appropriate reply in your situation and bring your personality and style to your reply. All the best!

*Even if it was just the time required to select and send the appropriate templated email reply!

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