Show me the money: how to fund your PhD

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Worried about how to fund your PhD? With the demands that pursuing a PhD entails, funding for students and would-be researchers is a perennial issue. Let’s look at some of the supports that are currently available:

PhD programme rates vary, of course, from institution to institution, but an average cost is likely to be somewhere between €4000 and €6000 per year (approx.). Some fields are traditionally much higher in terms of costs, with some very technical business or medical programmes costing as high as €30,000 per year. Those are rates for EU students, with international students charged significantly more, typically in the region of 10-15% more on average, but, of course, it’s vital that you check anything relating to fees with your chosen institution directly.

The primary source of funding for those seeking to pursue a research-based PhD is the Irish Research Council. It has three main funding supports in place for researchers.

The Employment Based Postgraduate Programme

This programme provides students with the opportunity to propose their research ideas to an employer, with their concept supported by a relevant higher education institution. If the researcher is hired by an employer, their wage is supplemented with €24,000 from the Irish Research Council, with the employer having to contribute at the very least €8,000 more toward the researcher’s salary. The programme typically opens in February each year, with deadlines throughout April and the result of the application is generally known by the end of July, with the term of employment starting at the start of the following October.

The Enterprise Partnership Scheme

The Irish Research Council’s Enterprise Partnership scheme provides funding for successful awardees to bring their ideas into business, known as an enterprise partner, with the support of their university. The enterprise partner can be a business, company, registered charity, a not-for-profit organisation or semi-state or state body. Awardees receive an annual package of €24,000 including a scholarship contribution of €16,000, a fee contribution of €5,750 and a research expense fund of €2,250. The programme normally opens toward the end of July, with deadlines throughout September before the result of application which is normally known by the end of November ahead of the Scholarship start date in March of the following year.

The Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholarship

This Scholarship provides awards for excellent, individual research directly to the applicant, providing students with the opportunity to take ownership of their research at an early-career stage in their chosen area of interest with the support of a supervisor. The programme offers a stipend of €16,000 per annum and a contribution to fees up to €5,750 per year. Students who apply successfully for the scheme are also eligible for direct research expenses to the value of €2,250 per year. The applications for this scholarship are extremely competitive and demanding, with an average application success rate of 19% over recent years. The programme normally opens in September each year, with deadlines throughout November before the result of the application being known by the end of March the following year and the scholarship starting in September of that year.

The Irish Research Council regularly changes dates, terms and conditions and stipulations for these programmes due to the amount of interest in them and the amount of applications that they receive. It is vital that you regularly monitor the Council’s website, for up to date information. Also, speak to your careers service and postgraduate applications centre for up to date information on any aspect of possible PhD funding. Individual institutions, designated fields of study and EU-based organisations frequently announce funding rounds across a number of areas so it’s up to you to stay informed about current, or upcoming developments.


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