fully-funded phd
A PhD is the most advanced academic degree you can achieve. Source: AFP

The journey to obtaining a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is a long and expensive one.

From completing a diploma or A-level programme to getting a bachelor’s degree, the journey only gets more expensive as you embark on a three to seven-year journey of obtaining your PhD. 

It’s why competition for a fully-funded PhD can be fierce.

On average, the total cost of a PhD programme is somewhere between US$30,000 to US$40,000 per year, depending on where you enrol. This expense does not include the cost of living if you are moving to a different city or country to study.

Multiply that with the number of years it’ll take for you to complete your studies, and you’ll see why it’s not an easy decision to make. 

Still, there are always ways to pursue higher education at a more affordable cost. While student loans are an option, you might want to aim for a fully-funded PhD instead.

fully-funded phd

Universities are not the only ones funding your PhD. Source: AFP.

What is a fully-funded PhD programme?

A fully-funded programme usually means full tuition reimbursement and a stipend to help cover the cost of living while pursuing the degree.

However, requirements differ according to the university.

Some universities offer a “no-strings-attached” fellowship where they receive funding but do not owe the university anything aside from their research. In many cases, a student will need to work part-time for the university by providing teaching or administrative assistance which might be useful in their professional career.

It’s also important to take note that universities are not the only ones funding your PhD.

Some grants might come from government bodies to support national research objectives and train future professionals to carry them out. Others could come from independent charities that have similar goals or businesses that see potential benefits to achieve their targets.

fully-funded phd

Financial aid typically does not include the cost of living. Source: AFP.

Things to know before you attempt to secure a fully-funded PhD programme

Before we jump into introducing some fully-funded PhD programmes, let’s take a closer look at how PhD funding starts out. 

  • Seek advice 

Reach out to an academic advisor or supervisor for advice on the next steps to take. Chances are that they can provide suggestions or even recommendation letters. Otherwise, they can leverage on their own knowledge and networks to redirect you to a better source of information. 

If an advisor isn’t available, try reaching out to the university’s graduates to get a clearer viewpoint from someone with first-hand experience.

  • Research

Many PhD projects are actually advertised with generous funding, and this is particularly so for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) projects. 

However, it doesn’t mean you won’t find funding in other subjects like education, sociology or even English. 

Be sure you don’t single out universities in your search. Explore opportunities with external parties, such as business or industry partners too. 

  • Build a funding portfolio

Getting into the PhD scene is competitive, more so when you’re looking to score a fully-funded PhD. To help secure funding, put together a portfolio to make your case as strong as possible. 

Similar to a resume, your portfolio should outline what you plan to study, how long for, and above all else, why you wish to take the PhD. 

This demonstrates your commitment and understanding to the subject and its industry field.

  • Living costs and expenses

Not all funded PhDs offer to cover your living expenses, especially if you’re an international student. But even if they do, it’s a good idea to set aside some funds for your day-to-day life.

Some fully-funded PhDs offer accommodation for up to a certain amount of years, so if you intend on staying on for a longer period of time, it may be wise to have some finances ready for living on your own.

  • Determine your timeframe

It’s common for PhD students to work while studying. Part-time study offers that flexibility, but it also stretches out the length of your PhD and increases your maintenance expenses. 

Carefully consider your options before deciding on a part-time or full-time PhD, especially if you’re employed or have other commitments.

  • Branch out

Don’t feel discouraged if you’re nervous about your chances of securing a fully-funded PhD. There are many other universities and programmes that readily offer generous funding and high stipends, such as MIT and Stanford University.

These stipends often cover tuition, living expenses, and healthcare, so don’t count them out.

10 fully-funded PhD programmes to check out

1. University of Debrecen

Stipendium Hungaricum provides fully-funded scholarships for international students to study their undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at the University of Debrecen. This programme was designed to support the internationalisation of higher education institutions in Hungary, as well as strengthen relationships with those abroad.

The university is one Hungary’s best, home to almost 30,000 students from over 70 countries and territories. It offers a whopping amount of over 23,000 courses with over 600 degree programmes, so you’ll be sure to find what you need here. 

Apply here.

2. University of Iowa

The Tippie College of Business at the University of Iowa offers a fully-funded PhD programme in fields such as accounting, economics, business analytics, and marketing. 

Tuition and fees are covered, and students are provided with a generous nine-month stipend of about US$20,000. On top of that, they are provided with annual adjustments and a fantastic health insurance plan that covers up to 90% of their medical bills.

Want additional funding? Some departments provide funding for research presentations at conferences, summer fellowships and paid time off for independent research. 

Learn more here.

fully-funded phd

Columbia University prides itself on offering guaranteed housing beyond the first year. Source: Columbia University Facebook.

3. Columbia University

PhD students at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Columbia University benefit from a robust compensation and benefits package – not just for themselves, but for their dependents too.

The university provides financial support, full tuition remission, summer stipends, affordable Columbia housing, health and dental coverage, and childcare subsidies. They pride themselves on offering guaranteed housing beyond the first year – Arts and Sciences doctoral students are eligible for five academic years of student housing right from their first day.

Learn more here

4. Washington University in St. Louis

Doctoral students taking computer science or computer engineering at Washington University in St. Louis receive full tuition support and health insurance, among other perks.

The university is home to cutting-edge degrees and offers doctoral students a chance to qualify for one of three fellowships – The Ann W. and Spencer T. Olin – Chancellor’s Fellowship, McDonnell International Scholars Academy, and the Dean’s International Award.

The university provides financial support for up to six years, as long as the student makes progress towards completion of their degree. On top of that, students receive a free Apple laptop in the latest model.

More information here.

5. University of Michigan

The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor offers generous funding to their doctoral students in engineering. Students can specialise in numerous areas of specialisation, such as aerospace engineering, biomedical engineering, macromolecular science and engineering, and robotics.

This fully-funded PhD provides students with guaranteed funding between four to six years, a monthly living stipend and a comprehensive health insurance plan. Additional funding is available from a range of sources, including graduate student instructor positions and fellowships.

Apply here.

6. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Pursuing your PhD at the MIT Sloan School of Management demands a great deal of time, initiative, and discipline from every candidate. Only 19 students are selected from hundreds of applicants, but the rewards are worth it.

The school’s financial package will cover a period of five years guaranteed to doctoral students, given that you stand out academically. This includes a full academic year tuition, 12 terms of fellowship stipend, medical insurance, a new laptop, and a budget for conference travel or ongoing research.

More information here.

fully-funded phd

Assistantship at Rice University could earn you full financial assistance. Source: Rice University Facebook.

7. Rice University

The PhD in business at Rice University is intended for those aspiring to become faculty members at business schools in prestigious research universities around the world. This assistantship could earn you full financial assistance which will come in the form of a tuition waiver and a generous stipend.

The Jones Graduate School of Business houses the PhD programme here where you can choose to focus on various areas of study including Accounting, Finance, Organisational Behaviour, and Strategic Management.

Learn more here.

8. Brown University

Students admitted to any PhD programmes at Brown University are guaranteed five years of support including a stipend, tuition remission, health services fee, and health insurance subsidy.

There are also additional forms of financial aid too like federal loans specially for US citizens and permanent residents, private educational loans for both domestic and international students, and resources for scholarships, fellowships, and grants.

More here.

fully-funded phd

The University of Pennsylvania offers two ways for students to get full funding. Source: University of Pennsylvania Facebook.

9. University of Pennsylvania

There are two ways for Penn Graduate School of Education students to get full funding at the University of Pennsylvania.

The first is through the Dean’s Fellowship and Research Apprenticeship which includes tuition and fees, health insurance, and a living stipend. Students would also receive a fellowship and research apprenticeship package which covers four years of study.

The other is the IES Predoctoral Training Programme which offers financial and skill-building support to selected applicants. This multi-year training programme is designed to prepare PhD students committed to learning rigorous methods for conducting research.

More information here.

10. Yale University

At Yale University, the School of Nursing offers fully-funded PhD degrees to its students. There are three types of scholarships available through programmes namely the Merit-Based Programme, Need-Based Programme, and Community Scholars Programme.

The Merit-Based Programme is awarded through admissions. All incoming students, both domestic and international, can sign up where they will go through a holistic review process. The Need-Based Programme is for US citizens and permanent residents.

Lastly, the new Community Scholars Programme provides complete remission of tuition, fees, and health insurance along with an annual stipend for selected students.

More here.