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I have been accepted to UCL and Oxford for a PhD in anthropology, however I have not been offered funding for either position. I am considering reapplying next year and I would like to know how I can improve my chances of securing funding. I already have experience as a research assistant for my MSc supervisor, and she has acknowledged me in a recent paper. I have also presented at a conference, though I have not published the paper. Would publications improve my chances, even if not in top tier journals? What other things could I do to make my application stand out to funding committees?

I should add that this is my second attempt - I was in the same situation last year when I applied only to Oxford for a PhD, gaining acceptance without funding. I received my MSc from Oxford, with an overall grade of 67 and a distinction in my thesis.

  • Who are you asking for the funds? Research councils? The universities? Have you recieved any feedback on your applications so far? – avid May 30 '14 at 16:12
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    Have you considered going overseas? Especially in the funding-scarce social sciences, the more positions and scholarships you apply for the better. There are a number of countries in western continental Europe that must, by law, employ their PhDs and pay a salary. You might find greener pastures elsewhere. – Moriarty May 30 '14 at 19:09
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Funding is extremely scarce, especially in Britain. Since you have been accepted, I would write to the person who you suspect would be your adviser if you matriculated and ask them for advice. The program clearly has an interest in bringing you in. They may be able to find fellowships or paying jobs within the university that can help you financially.

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Each of Oxford and UCL has an ESRC-funded social-science Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT), which would be a suitable funding route for a new anthropology PhD student.

As a backup plan, consider an inter-disciplinary PhD: apply your anthropology to a subject that is well-funded.

Both Oxford and UCL have inter-disciplinary PhD students. You'd typically have one supervisor from anthropology, and one from your applied subject.

Hopefully there's a subject that really interests you, for which either Oxford or UCL have a CDT; in that case, they'll have funding for PhD students. But be sure to pick a subject you can be really passionate about: remember, this is going to swallow a big chunk of your life and your energy, and you're going to have to be motivated to work 12+ hours a day for weeks or months at a time on it. So don't pick something that just vaguely interests you, or you'll risk never completing.

(disclosure: I supervise inter-disciplinary students in one of the CDTs linked to above)

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