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Agency and Networking

in Researcher Career Development

ERASMUS + Researcher Identity Development


Getting a PhD

Financing the PhD

In most English-speaking countries, completing a PhD is a costly undertaking that can be challenging even for those with scholarships. Unsurprisingly, several participants in our study noted that they only decided to undertake the degree once funding was confirmed. Indeed, like most PhD researchers, many of the participants partially or fully self-funded their degrees. In some instances the financial challenges participants faced slowed down progress toward degree completion. To the extent that it is possible, we recommend working out a 4-5 year budget plan, which needs to include cost of living increases as well as a range of contingencies.


Having a family

Having a family to support can strain personal motivation and energy as well as family relationships. Holly  and 1319 are examples of this situation.


There are students who don’t have other outside commitments, are able to come full-time and just study and focus, and they are able to engage in this …academic community. And then you have people like me who are a full-time parent, full-time worker and …I’m almost never here. In fact, …there have been a lot of times that I have wanted to quit and give up …I mean …I’m a single mom with three kids working full-time and you try and throw a PhD on top of that it was just too much. (Holly)


Another reason why I didn’t do a [PhD] until I was 45 years old was simply money …It took me 20 years to save up enough …to be able to do this [quit his job, support his family and do a PhD.] There is a really good reason why people do a [PhD] when they’re 25 years old. You’ve got a lot more energy …and you have fewer …family obligations …The most significant change to me since starting has been the change from enjoying being in grad school …to wanting to be a former grad student. I need a job, financially. I need to quit spending money and start saving money again. (13196)


If you have family commitments, be sure your financial plans include contingency amounts for pregnancy, childcare costs, and unexpected illness.


Having an international scholarship

In addition to providing financial support winning a scholarship recognises your potential as a researcher. However, you need to be careful when accepting a scholarship in one country that will be spent in another. You should read the scholarship contract in detail to be sure about exactly what support will be provided. Issues to consider include: the cost of living in the host country, likely additional research or personal expenses and the impact of international exchange rates. More than one student has found him/herself in a situation similar to that experienced by Daniel. 


So, once you sign for x amount, it will continue all the way until you are finished. So, if the economic situation changes or if the inflation goes up or down, whatever happens, the amount is exactly the same …It happened to us right in the middle of this financial crisis and rising cost of living and all of that, so of course, eventually, our savings, which were supposed to last x amount of months-… So, since the second year of my studies, I began to look for things to do, you know, minor things at the beginning, and eventually larger things [which ‘reduced my pace’] …it’s just a very…ill-designed way of …supporting …graduate students abroad, not being able to adjust anything, not even be open to discuss changes to the support that you have …even threatening to withdraw the support if you get support from someone else. (Daniel)


Questions to ask yourself

  • Have you carefully and fully examined the financial implications of PhD study? How will you fund four years of study? 

  •  What are your contingency plans if the degree takes longer than expected?

  • Have you taken into consideration currency exchange rates? Have you taken into account the cost of living in the area where the university is located? 

  • Would you be willing/able to take part-time work even if it slowed your progress? 

    • What kind of work would be the best in your situation? 

    • What strategies would keep you focused on your PhD work alongside your paid work? 


Useful resources 

We hope you find some of these links useful.

Mother and Daughter
Man in a Suit
Mother and Child

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Researcher Identity Development (2020).

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