I have a distinction (first-class honours) in my undergrad degree from one on the top universities in my home country, which sadly is not in the top ratings worldwide. This followed by a MSc in the UK, in one of the top-20 world universities. My grades were very low, I failed two subjects.

I was advised to make up for it by getting research experience. In the year after getting my MSc, I got two research internships in the EU, and also a research scientist position at a university.

My goal is to get accepted to a PhD program at the University where I did my masters. I need overseas funding. Now my background is sufficient for that, and I have enough research experience to succeed.

However, I was told that with low masters grades I have no chance to get the funding, ever. Even if I do another masters elsewhere and graduate with distinction, or get even more experience. The answer I got from my advisor was: "Studentships are allocated fairly schematically based on grades, references, publications. In order to get funding, a student has to tick all these boxes."

Is there any way to deal with this situation? Just the idea of not being able to get there ever, no matter what I do, even if I get another degree with outstanding grades, is too harsh to accept..

closed as off-topic by Ben Crowell, jakebeal, David Richerby, user6726, Enthusiastic Engineer Oct 16 '15 at 19:15

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  • Who told you this? Is it someone involved in the admissions process of the program you want? – Superbest Oct 7 '15 at 20:17
  • Is the UK a hard constraint? Other European countries are more lenient. Specifically, in Sweden your research experience will likely outweigh your grades. – Davidmh Oct 7 '15 at 21:00
  • @Superbest it's my potential supervisor. He was my MSc supervisor, and one of the best people in the area I am interested in. – user3399516 Oct 8 '15 at 15:35
  • @Davidmh Other countries are easier since I'd need less funding. UK is the hardest, and still is my preferred choice, that is why I am asking about the UK specifically. – user3399516 Oct 8 '15 at 15:36
  • @user3399516 Well if someone from the admissions committee tells you they won't admit you, there's no point forcing the issue and wasting the admissions fee. But I doubt all admissions committees have the exact same views. – Superbest Oct 8 '15 at 19:30

Short Answer: Yes you can, however it might take longer time to find a place.

Longer Answer

In the UK, as long as you find a supervisor that is fine with you being at his/her research group, the university does not interrupt the flow of the supervisor get you as a PhD student.

Tricky Parts: Now you need to find a supervisor that find you suitable, please consider the following:

What are your strongest abilities? If you failed in a subject about software architecture for example, finding a supervisor in this area is waste of time; as you can not demonstrate that you will be a good candidate for that. See in what subjects you got a good mark, or even excellent mark; go and talk to the corresponding supervisor. See if he/she knows someone so you can apply for a place.

Supervisor First Then Funding: Based on your question, I'm assuming you are a European national. In this case, there is more likely for you to get a some European-based funding compare to Asian students for example. So, first focus on finding a supervisor, and then talk to him/her about funding; I'm sure seasoned professor, knows how to help you to apply for a funding.

Possibilities In Smaller Towns: You could also try to find a good university in smaller towns, where the price of living is much less than big cities. Also, because the demand is lower compare to big cities, they might have a funding for you.

  • Sadly, I am not an EU passport holder, which basically is the source of the problem. If I was from the EU< I'd most likely get the funding, but being an overseas student, I require much more money. I have advisers who agreed to supervise me, so this is not an issue. The problem is how to get people who decide about the funding persuaded that I'm good, supervisors are already persuaded :) – user3399516 Oct 8 '15 at 15:45
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    @user3399516 if money is the issue, try to find a good university in smaller towns, where the price of living is much less than big cities. Also, because the demand is lower compare to big cities, they might have funding for you. – o-0 Oct 8 '15 at 15:50
  • University fees are a bigger problem than living costs themselves, I need the grant to cover my fees in the first place. But thanks for the advice, smaller towns are a good idea. – user3399516 Oct 8 '15 at 15:58
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    @user3399516 added to the answer. – o-0 Oct 8 '15 at 16:09
  • This is a good and thorough answer for the OP – user42055 Oct 8 '15 at 16:55

You don't indicate what your subject is.

Despite this, I believe it will be possible to get accepted to a PhD program in a very good University in the UK with your background.

My advice would be to contact potential PhD supervisors directly. If you can demonstrate an aptitude in their subject area in conversation and prove your knowledge in other ways they may overlook your grades.

That said, I'm concerned, from your wording, that you are more determined to attend a specific university than pursue a PhD in an area which interests you. This is not something anyone who has completed a PhD would likely recommend and if this is your aim I would ask you to rethink your plans.

  • It's Artificial Intelligence, so you could say CS. No, of course it's the field that matters, and of course I'll be applying to many universities where they have the equipment I need and a supervisor with similar interests. So here's nothing to rethink :) Having said that, the university in question is my first choice since the supervisor there was my MSc supervisor, I am very well familiar with his work and I know already how it is working with him. He is happy with me as a student as well (I am a better at research than at passing exams), buy sadly can't help with funding. – user3399516 Oct 8 '15 at 15:36
  • So sadly it's not the supervisor who decides this. If for him, I'd be accepted. – user3399516 Oct 8 '15 at 15:41

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