How difficult is it to get PhD funding for the Humanities in the UK? Specifically, let's say I am targeting top-tier universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, and UCL for the Humanities. I got a First and have already done some graduate work on a masters level. However, I am not exceptional, i.e. I do not have Firsts/A+ in every subject. Is there an approximate number of how many people who get admitted to Oxford then also receive funding? How many international students receive funding (in %), etc. as opposed to EEA (which I am)? Anything like this would be helpful.

In case it's relevant, assume that my PhD thesis topic is interesting, but not of exceptional value to society or exceptionally novel (novel enough for a PhD, but not revolutionizing the field say).

  • What kind of answer are you looking for? "Very difficult" vs "not very difficult"? "8 out of 10 difficult"? Also, this will probably depend on exact specialization, how flexible you are on the specific university (would any university do, or only Oxbridge), the quality and relevance of your previous work, etc.
    – dimpol
    Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 14:53
  • you are right, I will specify things further. Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 15:47
  • To be clear, are you an EEA student? This will determine whether the answer to your question is "very difficult" or "almost impossible".
    – MJeffryes
    Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 16:16
  • I am. However, with the Brexit happening I am not sure whether this will mean as much in the coming years? Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 18:42

1 Answer 1


To be blunt and clear, if your PhD topic is neither particularly novel nor of exceptional value, you are almost certainly not going to be awarded PhD funding in the Humanities in the UK: not at Oxbridge, not anywhere. It simply will not happen. PhD funding in UK humanities is limited at best, cutthroat in reality, and non-existent at worst. We have to turn down scores of projects that are truly important and valuable due to lack of funding for students: a mediocre topic has no chance. This is the same at Oxbridge as it is the same for everywhere else in the UK.

If a prospective student has everything else in line (e.g. they have a first, they have UK/EU student status so they can go in for UKRI funding), they need to work on coming up with an exceptional project. Even if they are spectacular otherwise, an exceptional project is needed.

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