How to survive doing your PhD when you have no funding? (2)

If you don’t have a scholarship, a student loan or a family who can support you, but you still wish to do a PhD, you’ll be facing several dilemmas. Obviously, you will need to fund yourself somehow, but doing your research, writing a thesis and struggling financially at the same time can be very challenging. However, it’s not impossible and one day when you finish your degree, it’s highly likely you’ll leave the world of academia armed with an excellent CV and amazing work experience.

In the first part of this blog post, I emphasised that navigating the funding opportunities at the same time while preparing your PhD application requires an incredible amount of time, especially if you are an international student and you have no previous experience with the higher education in the country where you are applying for. If you fail in securing funding, your PhD journey suddenly becomes much tougher than expected. Moreover, if you are a student with a disability and/or a student whose government provides no scholarships or student loans for students doing their degrees abroad, your chances for success are much lower. Although this may seem pretty pessimistic, doing a full-time PhD with no funding is extremely hard, but far from impossible. You will depend solely on yourself and this means you need to think about each possibility that exists.

1. Think about partial funding

Explore all funding opportunities, regardless of how small the amount of money you can actually win really is. There are charities and societies that offer partial funding or grants, although the criteria can be very selective. Apply for many as possible because winning one of them can help you with securing another! This will also demonstrate that you are persistent and you are making progress.

2. Check out all possibilities for cutting down your expenses

Think carefully about your expenses, especially those that can be cut or entirely eliminated. This doesn’t include only buying in a cheaper store, avoiding eating out or choosing the most basic mobile plan. In every city, areas with cheaper accommodation can be found, but be aware of travel expenses as well. It’s better to live within a walking distance from campus and pay a little bit more for the room. This will save you money and time. Apply to join the Residential Life Team. The work is unpaid, but you will save loads on rent.

3. Don’t forget paid opportunities within your department

Every now and then, departments are looking for PhD students to teach certain undergraduate modules, or to work as a research assistant on some projects. This will also help you with networking, future paid opportunities and career prospects.

4. Is studying part-time an alternative?

Studying part-time could be a good option for some students, especially those with families. This will give you more free time to focus on your personal life, wellbeing, and, of course, work.

5. Joggling with part-time jobs and online jobs

The last option is working part-time or even full time, although this requires excellent organisational skills and careful time management. Make sure you register with Warwick’s employment agency Unitemps and check the website regularly. New opportunities have been advertised on an everyday basis not only on campus but also in the local area. Also, check out the Human Resources website and explore part-time jobs at Warwick Student Union. Also, don’t forget that in the 21st century there are many job (and freelance) opportunities online, starting from Fiverr where you can offer your services, such as translation or IT skills to Etsy, where you can get really creative and even start your own business. You can start with something really small and slowly build your customers’ network. Encourage your clients to leave feedback because this will help you with getting new customers.

If you are motivated enough, it’s possible to complete your PhD as a self-funded student although be aware of a harsh reality that includes sleepless nights and highly likely several part-time jobs. Whatever you do, don’t forget to take care of yourself and remember that the turmoil of being a self-funded PhD student will be over one day. Armed with an excellent CV, tremendous work experience, extraordinary organisational and survival skills, and resilience, you will be fully equipped for the world outside the academia in your after PhD life and quite appealing to the future employers.


Are you a self-funded student? How do you manage with balancing your research and employment? Tweet us at @ResearchEx, email us at, or leave a comment below.


Blanka Matkovic is the 4th year PhD candidate in Politics and International Studies at the University of Warwick, where she previously completed an MPhil degree in History department. Her MPhil thesis was published in the USA in 2017. Blanka’s primary interests are peace and war studies, conflict resolution, migrations and diaspora, human rights violations, the Second World War and war crimes, and dealing with the past and memory. She is the Blog Editor for the PhD Life and the Study Blog. Blanka can be contacted via email and followed on Twitter at @bmsplit.


Cover image: money-finance-business-success-2696234 / nattanan23CC0 1.0

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