When a professor is awarded a grant, what happens next?

Does the professor get the money?

Does the school get the money? If so, why?

Is it extra income for the professor?

How about when there are multiple professors on a project? Is the money theirs? Do they split the money?

How about when a graduate student gets funding from an agency? Does the student get the money? Does the school get it?


1 Answer 1


This answer is for the United States, though I believe that it works in a similar way in Europe.

The money goes to their university, not to them. The terms of the grant say what the money is allowed to be used for. The university either pays these expenses themselves or reimburses the professor if they pay out of their pocket. Everything is documented by things like receipts, and universities periodically get audited by granting agencies.

Sometimes the grant includes money for salary (in mathematics, it is common for NSF grants to include 2 months of summer salary), which is dispensed by the university as part of the professor's paycheck.

In mathematics, the typical things that a grant pays for in addition to salary include travel, books, and graduate students, though often there are other things as well (for instance, my current grant has money for a summer program for high school students I run).

  • 3
    Also, most US faculty only get 9 months of salary from their institution. Sep 13, 2017 at 19:27
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    Note that if a grant provides for salary, that money replaces/is used instead of what the university pays you. So you don't get normal salary plus salary from the grant.
    – mkennedy
    Sep 13, 2017 at 19:50
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    @Mark: I'm not saying the professor/postdoc can't use the money, I'm simply stating that the actual paycheck still comes from the university/school. The professor/postdoc does not pay their students out-of-pocket, nor does the granting agency (usually) pay the students directly either.
    – tonysdg
    Sep 13, 2017 at 19:53
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    @AlJebr: Trust me, there are usually far more things you want to spend the grant on than there is money in the grant, so it doesn't come up. If for some reason you leave money in the grant at the end of the granting period, either you are given a no-cost extension or the money reverts to the granting agency. Universities do receive a cut of the grant in overhead money, which is used to pay for things like heating the office, maintaining the computer network, paying the secretarial staff, supporting graduate students of faculty who are not supported by grants, etc. Sep 13, 2017 at 21:43
  • 1
    (but there are definitely rules about how they spend the overhead money, so it isn't just free money for the university). Sep 13, 2017 at 21:44

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