Deciding to pursue a PhD is a big commitment that requires careful planning and consideration of the costs involved. With UK university fees for doctoral degrees ranging from £4,000 to over £20,000 per year, finding an affordable PhD program is essential for many prospective students.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: There are several ways to reduce the cost of a PhD in the UK, such as applying for scholarships and studentships, looking for programs with lower tuition fees, doing a PhD part-time while working, and attending a university in a less expensive city.

In this comprehensive guide, we will cover various strategies and tips to help you find and fund an affordable PhD in the UK, including:

Understand the Typical Costs of a PhD in the UK

Before embarking on a journey to get a PhD in the UK, it is crucial to have a clear understanding of the typical costs involved. Pursuing a PhD is a significant commitment, both in terms of time and finances.

By knowing the expenses associated with a PhD, you can plan your budget accordingly and explore ways to make it more affordable.

Tuition fees

Tuition fees for a PhD in the UK can vary depending on several factors, such as the university, the specific program, and whether you are an international or domestic student. In general, international students can expect to pay higher tuition fees compared to domestic students.

It is important to research and compare the fees charged by different universities to find the most affordable options.

Additionally, some universities offer scholarships, grants, or funding opportunities that can help offset the cost of tuition. It is advisable to explore these options and apply for any available financial assistance to reduce the financial burden of pursuing a PhD.

Living expenses

Living expenses are another significant aspect to consider when calculating the overall cost of a PhD in the UK. These expenses include accommodation, transportation, groceries, utilities, and other daily necessities.

The cost of living can vary depending on the location of the university and your personal lifestyle choices.

It is recommended to research the cost of living in different cities or towns where universities are located to determine the most affordable options. Additionally, exploring student accommodations or shared living arrangements can help reduce housing expenses.

Budgeting wisely and managing your expenses can go a long way in making your PhD journey more affordable.

Bench fees in STEM subjects

In STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) subjects, there may be additional costs known as bench fees. These fees cover the cost of laboratory equipment, consumables, and other resources required for research.

Bench fees can vary depending on the nature of the research project and the specific requirements of the field.

It is essential to discuss bench fees with your potential supervisor or research group to understand the financial implications and explore any funding opportunities available. Some universities or research institutions may offer scholarships or grants specifically aimed at covering bench fees.

Remember, pursuing a cheap PhD in the UK doesn’t mean compromising on the quality of education or research opportunities. It simply means being proactive in exploring funding options, managing your expenses, and making informed decisions.

By understanding the typical costs associated with a PhD in the UK, you can plan your finances effectively and embark on this academic journey with confidence.

Look for PhD Programs with Lower Tuition Fees

When it comes to pursuing a PhD in the UK, finding a program with lower tuition fees can make a significant difference in your overall expenses. Here are some strategies to consider:

Attend a university outside of London and the South East

One way to save money on your PhD program is by considering universities located outside of London and the South East region. These areas tend to have higher living costs, which often translates to higher tuition fees.

By exploring universities in other parts of the UK, you may find more affordable options without compromising on the quality of education.

Consider universities in Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland

Another option to find a cheaper PhD program is by looking into universities in Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland. These regions often offer competitive tuition fees and cost of living, making them attractive destinations for pursuing higher education.

Additionally, these areas have renowned universities that maintain high academic standards.

Search for programs with institutional or departmental fee waivers

Many universities in the UK offer institutional or departmental fee waivers for PhD students. These waivers can significantly reduce your tuition fees or even eliminate them entirely. It’s worth researching and reaching out to potential universities to inquire about any available fee waivers.

This can be a great way to save money and make your PhD more affordable.

Remember, when considering the cost of a PhD program, it’s essential to evaluate the overall value and quality of the education you will receive. Don’t solely focus on the tuition fees but also consider factors such as research opportunities, faculty expertise, and the university’s reputation in your field of study.

Apply for PhD Studentships and Scholarships

One of the most common ways to get a cheap PhD in the UK is to apply for PhD studentships and scholarships. These opportunities can provide you with financial support to cover your tuition fees and living expenses while pursuing your doctorate degree.

Research Council studentships

Research Council studentships are funded by various research councils in the UK, such as the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

These studentships are highly competitive but offer generous funding packages for successful applicants.

University scholarships and bursaries

Many universities in the UK offer their own scholarships and bursaries specifically for PhD students. These scholarships can be based on academic merit, research potential, or financial need. It is worth researching the scholarships offered by different universities and contacting their respective scholarship offices for more information.

External/charitable funding bodies

There are also external funding bodies and charities that provide scholarships and grants for PhD students in the UK. Examples of such funding bodies include the Wellcome Trust, the British Academy, and the Leverhulme Trust.

These organizations often have specific research areas or eligibility criteria, so it is important to carefully read their guidelines and requirements before applying.

European and international scholarships

For international students, there are also scholarships available specifically for those coming from outside the UK. The UK government, through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, offers various scholarships for international students.

Additionally, there are scholarships provided by international organizations, such as the Fulbright Commission and the Chevening Scholarship program.

It is important to note that the availability and eligibility criteria for these scholarships and studentships can vary. It is recommended to thoroughly research and apply to multiple funding opportunities to increase your chances of success.

Websites like FindAPhD and Scholars4Dev can provide valuable information on available scholarships and funding options for PhD studies in the UK.

Consider Part-Time or Distance Learning PhDs

If you’re looking to pursue a PhD in the UK but are concerned about the cost, one option to consider is pursuing a part-time or distance learning program. These options can often be more affordable than full-time programs, allowing you to achieve your academic goals without breaking the bank.

Benefits of part-time PhDs

Part-time PhD programs offer several benefits that can make them an attractive option for those seeking a cheaper alternative. Firstly, they allow you to continue working while pursuing your degree, which means you can maintain a steady income and avoid taking on excessive student loan debt.

Additionally, part-time programs often offer more flexibility in terms of scheduling, allowing you to balance your studies with other commitments such as work or family responsibilities.

Challenges of part-time PhDs

While part-time PhD programs have their advantages, it’s important to consider the challenges that may arise. One of the main challenges is the longer duration of the program compared to full-time options.

It can take several years to complete a part-time PhD, which requires a significant amount of dedication and perseverance. Additionally, balancing work and study commitments can be demanding and may require effective time management skills.

However, with the right mindset and support, these challenges can be overcome.

Tips for completing a PhD while working

If you decide to pursue a part-time PhD while working, here are some tips to help you successfully juggle both commitments:

  • Set realistic goals: Break down your research and writing tasks into manageable chunks and set realistic deadlines for yourself.
  • Establish a routine: Create a study schedule that fits around your work commitments and stick to it consistently.
  • Seek support: Reach out to your supervisor, colleagues, or fellow students for guidance and support throughout your journey.
  • Stay organized: Use tools such as calendars, to-do lists, and project management software to stay on top of your tasks and deadlines.
  • Take care of yourself: Prioritize self-care by maintaining a healthy work-life balance, getting enough rest, and engaging in activities that help you relax and recharge.

Remember, pursuing a PhD while working is a challenging endeavor, but it can also be incredibly rewarding. Don’t hesitate to explore part-time or distance learning options to make your academic dreams more affordable and accessible.

Lower Your Living Costs as a PhD Student

While pursuing a PhD in the UK, it is essential to find ways to minimize your living costs. Here are some practical tips to help you save money and make your journey towards a cheap PhD more affordable.

Live with roommates or family

One of the most effective ways to lower your living costs as a PhD student is by sharing accommodation with roommates or living with your family. By splitting the rent and other expenses, you can significantly reduce your monthly housing costs.

Additionally, living with others can create a supportive and collaborative environment, where you can share resources and ideas with fellow students.

Cook meals at home

Another way to save money as a PhD student is by cooking meals at home rather than eating out or ordering takeaways. Eating out can quickly add up and become a significant drain on your budget. By planning your meals, shopping wisely, and cooking at home, you can save a substantial amount of money.

Additionally, cooking at home allows you to have control over your diet and ensure that you are eating healthy and nutritious meals.

Limit leisure spending

While it is essential to take breaks and enjoy leisure activities during your PhD journey, it is equally important to be mindful of your spending. Look for free or low-cost entertainment options such as visiting local parks, attending community events, or exploring museums and art galleries.

By limiting your leisure spending, you can allocate more of your budget towards your education and research-related expenses.

Buy secondhand items and furniture

Furnishing your accommodation can quickly become expensive. However, you can save a significant amount of money by buying secondhand items and furniture. Websites such as Gumtree, Freecycle, and eBay offer a wide range of pre-owned items at affordable prices.

Additionally, consider checking out local charity shops or thrift stores, as they often have inexpensive and unique finds.

By implementing these cost-saving strategies, you can effectively lower your living costs as a PhD student in the UK. Remember, being mindful of your expenses and finding ways to save money does not mean compromising on the quality of your education or experience.

It simply means being resourceful and making smart financial choices.


Though PhD programs in the UK can be expensive, there are myriad ways for dedicated students to reduce costs through financial assistance, strategic program selection, part-time study, and frugal living.

With proper planning, resourcefulness and some sacrifices, it is possible to obtain a quality British doctoral degree on a budget. The long-term benefits of having ‘PhD’ after your name make the temporary thriftiness worthwhile for most students.

By following the strategies outlined here and doing ample research beforehand, you can make your dream of an affordable PhD in the UK a reality. Don’t let tuition fees deter you from advancing your education and career.

With flexibility and persistence, you can find the perfect low-cost PhD program and achieve your academic goals.

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