How to fund your PhD with a scholarship

Becoming a doctoral candidate has never been on my agenda. Right now, I can’t wait to become employed instead of being a long-term student any longer. A PhD seemed out of my reach, because I thought it would not be financially manageable for me. The Research in Europe event has however brought attention to some scholarship and funding opportunities for PhDs in Europe.

Firstly, I want to tell you that I am in no way affiliated with any third parties or companies mentioned in this blog post. I visited the Research in Europe event last Thursday and I want to share the insights I got (and I’m not paid for doing so). The reason I want to share my knowledge about this is because I think some infrastructures and institutions aren’t advertised enough, and as this event changes places every year, you might not have been able to attend.

Concerns before the event: Never good enough for a scholarship

The biggest problem I had before I participated at this event was that every other advertisement for funding or scholarships focused on STEM. STEM means science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Currently, every institution seems to load all the funds on STEM subjects to counter the alleged shortage of specialists. Alas, social sciences are classified as the Bachelor/Master or Arts, even though we’re doing empirical research from the first day on. Hence, I didn’t really credit a STEM scholarship for students like me. As I just mentioned before, there have been other obstacles why I never thought of applying for the enrolment as a doctoral candidate. But whether or not I fit the criteria, I will only see if I really do apply for the scholarships presented.

Similarities of the presented scholarship opportunities

There have been many similarities of all the scholarship opportunities. The main focus of this event laid on international / European research projects that you may be funded for. Most of the times, you would work in an international team of researchers and switch places of residence often. To help you understand whether you could actually apply for these scholarships, here’s an estimated list of similarities of the funding opportunities. Similarities include:

  • being interested in international exchange and researching abroad: most of the programmes presented
  • working in a research team: most of the programmes
  • taking at least 3 years to complete your PhD: most of the programmes
  • being a STEM student: some of the programmes
  • being an excellent student with top grades: some of the programmes
  • needing a full enrolment as a doctoral candidate: some of the programmes
  • being employed as a research associate instead of a doctoral candidate: some of the programmes
  • having done research for only a few years yet: some of the programmes presented.

Of course, the different funding opportunities differ from each other in details. You definitely need to evaluate all the different scholarship opportunities single-handedly. If you’re not a STEM student, just like me, try to search for scholarships which are open for all study fields. Or maybe you’ll even find a scholarship specialised on your study field?!

The funding programmes

So, with no further due, here are some of the institutions which offer scholarships for doctoral candidates and/or already enrolled PhD students. Keep in mind that these programmes specialise on European researchers, or researchers from abroad studying in Germany.

Some platforms you should have a look at:

  • the KoWi website: a portal to find and get help for your scholarship application
  • the EURAXESS portal: a portal to find opportunities
  • your own university: hopefully, your university supplies advice on funding proposals and research funding from the European Union and other international organisations.

Institutions working as scholarship funders:

There are companies and industrial associations offering scholarships as well, which I didn’t include due to their association with brands. However, you can find them if you look for big companies’ foundations.

Under the headline of focusing on research in Europe, of course these programmes oftentimes require applicants to be mobile in their place of residence. But it really showed the Horizon 2020 programme of the European Union, enabling the institutions to give away these scholarships in the first place. During the event, I very much enjoyed the understanding of research as being internationally interconnected. Or, to be more precise, the intention to connect research better. I work in a H2020 related project at work as well, meaning I experience the plan to interconnect researchers on a daily basis, which I think is great.

scholarship PhD funding doctoral candidate research groups Europe

Advice for a research career

Sometimes, the impression can occur that as soon a certain field expands globally, it becomes harder to get a hold of, or get opportunities in the first place. During one of the presentations, the lecturers gave some amazing advice for a research career that I am enthusiastically sharing. Not only is it great advice, but it also reflects the study and science field I want to dwell in and am passionate about. The lecturer’s advice for a research career contained:

  • to develop an own and independent research profile and specify on a certain study field or topic
  • to publish your research results, both independently and in your research group
  • to try for as many scholarships as possible and just do it in the first place.

Whether or not I will endeavour enrolling as a doctoral candidate or not, this advice will follow me on my career path nonetheless.

Any questions?

If you have any questions on how the institutions presented themselves at the event or how my personal impression of the possibilities offered are, just let me know in the comments or via Instagram. If you liked this post, maybe consider to share it to help your research fellows see it.

Picture Credit

Photo by from Pexels

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