There are loans and financial awards available to help pay for fees and living costs while your studying for your research degree.
This guidance is for students studying for an MPhil, PhD or Doctorate at UCL and includes:
- How much does a PhD cost?
- UCL studentships and scholarships
- Charities and trusts
- Government loans
- Funding for disabled students
- Other sources of funding
- Current PhD Students
When calculating the cost of a postgraduate research degree there are two elements to consider - tuition fees and living costs.
The amount spent on living costs may vary greatly from student to student and depend on lifestyle and individual circumstances. Information on the cost of study can be found on UCL's cost of study page.
UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Studentships
UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) are responsible for investing public money in research in the UK. UCL departments apply to specific Research Councils for funding and then nominate the students they believe should receive the awards.
Research Council studentships are open to UK and overseas residents. International students may also apply to a limited number of studentships with 'open eligibility'. This funding will usually pay your PhD fees and may also provide a stipend for living costs, depending on eligibility.
To apply for Research Council funding, contact your UCL department directly and they will confirm their application process.
For further information on eligibility and value, you can check the individual Research Councils' websites:
Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
Medical Research Council (MRC)
Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)
Individual academic departments may offer their own awards (wholly funded by them or jointly funded with an industrial sponsor). You can do a search of the UCL studentships that are currently available by using the UCL PhD Opportunties Search.
UCL's Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) also provide research positions funded by the Research Councils.
You are also advised to check directly with your admitting department for the most up to date funding information.
If you receive a UCL studentship and have questions about how it is paid, please read this page of information about your studentship.
UCL also administers a range of scholarships for research students from the UK and overseas. Use the scholarship finder to see what might be available.
Some large research charities have substantial budgets for scholarships and grants.
Eligibility requirements for some of the major research charities are available through the links below:
Many other smaller organisations provide funding to PhD students. Turn 2 Us Grants Search database contains information on over 3,000 charitable funds offering welfare and educational grants, as well as other support and services.
The Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding Online is a portal for alternative sources of funding - especially charities - which can make awards (fees, maintenance, research costs) to any student regardless of subject or nationality. UCL has purchased a licence to the Guide so it’s free for all students and staff to use. If you are a prospective student who has applied to the university, please contact the Student Funding team to access the PIN.
Lists of charitable grants and awards are kept in the following directories which are held in UCL libraries - see references below:
Charities Digest: Selected charities & voluntary organisations
- 1x Main Library - Reference R 20 CHA
- 1x IOE Library - Reference Collection, Level 4, RF3 HEW CHA
Directory of Grant Making Trusts
- 2x Main Library - Reference R 20 DIR
- 1x IOE Library - Reference Collection, Level 4, RF3 HEW DIR
- 1x Main Library - Ref Collection M, Reference R 20 GRA
- 1x School of Pharmacy Library - Reference Shelves, Pharmacy 378.3 GRA
Guide to Educational Grants
- 1x Main Library - Reference R 20 GUI
- 1x IOE Library - Reference Collection, Level 4, RF3 EDU
Guide to Grants for Individuals in Need
- 1x Main Library - Reference R 20 GUI
Some governments provide loans or finanical support to students at PhD level, so it it worth checking with your home government whether there is any support available.
Below are the governmental loans that the UCL funding team help to administer.
Postgraduate Doctoral Loan from Student Finance
Some students may be eligible for a Postgraduate Doctoral Loan from Student Finance. This loan acts as a contribution towards the cost of study. It is unlikely that it will cover the cost of both tuition fees and maintenance. Students can borrow up to £27,892 (2022/23 figure) for their whole course.
Information on the loan including full eligibility details can be found on the Student Finance Doctoral Loan website.
Please note that you must be doing a full standalone doctoral degree to be eligible for the loan. You will not be eligible for the loan if you are studying on a modular/flexible mode of attendance, or if you enter the second or third year of a doctoral course using prior attainment from previous study towards your doctoral degree under UCL's Recognition of Prior Learning scheme.
How your Postgraduate Doctoral Loan might affect your benefits
If you receive means-tested benefits, 30% of the maximum Postgraduate Doctoral Loan that is available in a single academic year is treated by the Department for Work and Pensions as being for living costs and hence will be considered income when assessing any benefit award. For benefit purposes, you will be treated as having this amount, regardless of whether you actually take up the loan.
Interest and Repayment
You’ll be charged interest from the day you get the first payment until your loan is repaid in full or cancelled.
Find out more about interest and repayment of Student Finance loans on the Student Finance repayment website.
The government has been looking into the possibility of an alternative Sharia-compliant funding system which would be available alongside traditional student loans. However, at present, this system is not yet in place.
UCL participates in the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program (Direct Loans). This is the main U.S. Federal funding available to American students in the UK.
The processing of loans at schools outside the US is different from the process when applying to a school inside the US. Students applying to Direct Loans for study at UCL should follow the instructions carefully as we will not be able to administer your loan unless you submit that application to the Student Funding Office as outlined in the guidance.
Students from Canada may be able to apply for Canada Student Loans and provincial or territorial student assistance.
Postgraduate research students who have a disability, mental health problem or specific learning difficulty and are being funded by one of the seven UK Research Councils can apply for Disabled Students Allowances (DSAs) to help with additional study-related requirements.
You should contact the Disability Adviser or named contact on disability matters at your Research Council for advice.
If you have a disability, mental health problem, or specific learning difficulty and are not being funding by a UK Research Council, you may still be able to access some funding for additional study-related costs from Student Support and Wellbeing.
Disabled students who are not awarded a Disabled Students’ Allowance may also be eligible for a Student Health Association Bursary.
As a student, it is unlikely you will be able to claim benefits unless you have a disability or have children.
The charity Turn2Us have guides on what benefits students may be eligible for.
If you are experiencing problems with your benefits, contact the Student Union Advice Service.
From time to time external organisations contact the UCL Funding team with funding opportunities. We place these on an online notice board. UCL does not administer or take responsibility for any of these schemes.
Some students choose to apply for personal loans provided by private finance companies. UCL is not affiliated with or able to endorse any private loan providers.
Find a PhD has a comprehensive guide on funding a PhD
There are a number of sources of financial support for PhD students who are currently enrolled at UCL.
The Doctoral School Fellowship
The Doctoral School Fellowship is for current research students who, due to unforeseen circumstances, have their funding interrupted or completely withdrawn.
To qualify candidates must be progressing well academically and demonstrate that without financial assistance they would not be able to complete their studies.
The Financial Assistance Fund
The Financial Assistance Fund is for UCL students who fall into unexpected financial hardship.
Short term loans
Limited cash loans of up to £250 are available to students who have experienced a delay in their normal funding being paid.
External grants and funding
Some charities and organisations give financial support to current students studying particular subjects or in particular circumstances.
One of these is the charity Churches Together in Britain and Ireland who have a hardship fund for international students from developing countries who are facing financial hardship in the final stages of their course.
Another is Funds for Women Graduates who have a range of grants to help female PhD students with living costs.
Reduce costs and increase income
If you are struggling to cover the costs of study, you can look at ways to reduce your costs and increase your income.
As a postgraduate student, you have the opportunity to become a Student Residence Advisor and eliminate your accommodation costs completely by living in UCL halls. In exchange, you work in a team supporting the undergraduates who live in halls, dealing with pastoral and disciplinary issues.
Student Residence Advisor positions are advertised on the UCL Jobs site in February for the coming academic year.