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All research students need to think about how to pay for fees and living expenses that they will incur while studying. Living expenses might include housing costs, utility bills, childcare, travel, food and entertainment. Funding can be obtained from a number of different sources, these are outlined in the following sections.

Research Councils

The seven UK research councils provide fees and maintenance funding for UK students (and fees-only support for EU students) for postgraduate research study. Each research council is responsible for a particular group of subject areas.

Most Research Councils do not consider applications from individual students. The Research Councils allocate research ‘studentships’ to universities in a number of different ways and the universities then recruit individual students to these studentships. Research Councils may also allocate funding linked to specific projects. There is usually a high level of competition for these Research Council funded studentships. The University normally has internal deadlines so that application forms can be submitted by the University to the Research Councils to meet their deadlines.

All Research Council funded students receive a Research Teaching Support Grant (RTSG) which can be used, subject to agreement with supervisors, to support the student's research training. These funds can be used to support attendance at external workshops and conferences.

Some Research Council funded students can also obtain additional support for overseas fieldwork from the Research Council, providing that the fieldwork was included in the original proposal.

Some Research Councils, including ESRC, EPSRC, NERC and STFC, also offer Collaborative Awards in Science and Engineering (called ‘CASE’ studentships) which involve close collaboration with partners from industry, government or a public body.

OU-funded research degrees


The OU offers funded studentships, either wholly or with an element of matched funding from an external partner in industry, government or a public body. Each faculty will have different funds available, and different criteria for eligibility. This varies from year to year. The studentships will have particular terms and conditions relating to Intellectual Property, registration periods, location of study and periods of leave.

OU bursaries are allocated on a competitive basis.

Find out more about our current funded studentships.

Other sources of funding

Other sources of funding include trusts and charities. Your eligibility to apply for funding may depend on your specific circumstances or on the nature of your research. This source of funding is usually attached to advertised projects.

Additionally, some organisations sponsor their employees or other potential students on full-time or part-time research programmes. Your employer can tell you if your organisation would consider contributing to your research degree fees.


Some research students choose to pay their own fees.

From 2018, the UK government will introduce new loans of up to £25,000, for study of doctoral programmes. The loans will provide a contribution towards the cost of study but they will not cover the full fees and living costs. Full details of the products and the eligibility criteria should be available shortly.

Your questions

For advice about applying for a research degree, or sponsoring a research student, send us an email or call +44 (0)1908 654882.