A picture of Nausheen Hoosein next to text that reads "Funding your PhD by Nausheen Hoosein"

Funding your PhD, by Nausheen Hoosein

About me

Hello, my name is Nausheen and I am a second year PhD student in History of Art. I research spolia and the reuse of architectural material in Islamic Iberia. In this blog, I will share my experiences with funding a self-funded PhD.

But before getting into the funding, a bit about why I chose to do postgraduate research at the University of York. First, doing a PhD will help me in my career prospects, whether that be working in academia or in museums and the heritage sector. The university and department have provided me with opportunities and experiences that are valuable to this end, including a Research Assistantship and a Graduate Teaching Assistantship (more on this below!). Second, York’s History of Art department is home to the Islamic Art Research Cluster, which provides a forum for the study and research of Islamic art and architecture through workshops, conferences, language study, and exhibitions. All of these experiences have enriched my PhD research and have made studying at York even more exciting and inspiring. 

Finding funding as a self-funded student

A self-funded PhD means that there is not a research council (such as the AHRC or ESRC) funding your tuition fees and living costs. However, it is still very much possible to do a PhD outside of this structure! 


There are scores of organisations, institutes, and charities that support postgraduate students with grants, bursaries, or partial scholarships. The best place to search for these is the Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding Gateway. You will require a Guide Pin, which your university should be able to provide to you. From here you can filter and refine your search based on demographics, your PhD topic or subject, geographical location, etc. 

Through this and other online searches, I was able to find several sources of research funding, including the ARTES-CEEH PhD Scholarship and the Sir Richard Stapley Educational Trust grants. Both of these scholarships have been instrumental to my PhD research and I have also benefitted from the workshops, lectures, and conferences hosted by these organisations.  Other academic institutes may fund fieldwork and conference costs. I have been fortunate to have my fieldwork (in Spain) and conferences (across Europe and the UK) be funded by various organisations, including the Association for Art History, British Archaeological Association, and the YGRS Conference Fund. You may have noticed by now that many of these organisations are very specific to my field of research (art history, archaeology, Iberian and Islamic art and architecture). However, there are similar institutions for other fields of academic research – this may just involve some digging on your end!  

Part-time work 

York is an excellent place for students who wish to work alongside their studies. In my first year, I was appointed as a Research Assistant for the Centre for Medieval Studies and in my second year I am working as a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) in the Department of History of Art. Through these work placements, I was not only able to help fund my PhD, but also gain valuable research and teaching experience. The University also offers additional training for GTAs through the York Learning and Teaching Award (YLTA), which can help support a future teaching career within academia. 

There are other options too, including working as a Student Ambassador, Student Fundraiser, Writing Centre tutor, or in the various on-campus and city centre cafes, restaurants, and pubs. 

My top tips

I hope this has shown you that doing a self-funded PhD is a viable option. There are many ways to fund a postgraduate research degree, but it can be a bit overwhelming. Here are my top tips to help you through the process: 

  • Plan ahead: Many deadlines for grants, scholarships, and bursaries range from January-April. Make a list of the grants you want to apply to in advance and start to organise all of your documents (degrees, writing samples, PhD proposal, etc.). 
  • Speak to your department and supervisor: Most applications will require you to already have been accepted onto your programme. Most applications will also require a letter of recommendation from your supervisor. Plan ahead and plan early!
  • Find a balance between work and studies: Part-time work such as teaching, research, and tutoring can help boost your CV and provide funding for your degree!