Acceptance of PhD studentships
STFC strongly recommends that prospective students should not be placed under undue pressure by departments to accept PhD places within short timescales. Therefore students should not be compelled to accept offers of PhD places prior to 31 March each year. Any prospective student subjected to pressure to accept a PhD place prior to the 31 March deadline is advised to email the Studentships Section.
In the efficient matching of students to available PhD places it is unhelpful if students keep multiple offers open until the 31 March deadline. Students should therefore aim to decide promptly (within two weeks) when they receive more than one offer and reject all but the one most favoured at that point. The rejected studentships can then be offered by Departments to other students without having to wait until the deadline.
Established UK residency
These eligibility criteria are based on the Education (Fees and Awards) Regulations 1997 and subsequent amendments, covering England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Candidates for awards are required to have a relevant connection with the United Kingdom. A relevant connection may be established if, at the date of application/nomination:
- the candidate has been ordinarily resident in the UK throughout the 3-year period immediately preceding the date of an award
- has not been resident in the UK, during any part of that 3-year period, wholly or mainly for the purposes of full time education
- has settled status in the UK within the meaning of the Immigration Act 1971 (i.e. is not subject to any restriction on the period for which he/she may stay)
EU nationals who are resident in the UK only need to follow criterion (a) from the above list (EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for 3 years immediately preceding the date of an award for the purpose of full time education are now eligible for a full grant.)
British citizens are not subject to immigration control but only those other nationals who have been granted written permission to stay in the UK permanently are considered to have settled status.
It is important to note that residential eligibility is based on a physical presence in the UK. British citizenship in itself does not satisfy the residential eligibility requirement.
A UK citizen may have spent an extended period living outside the UK, either for study or employment. Most candidates in these circumstances will be able to show that they have maintained a relevant connection with their home country and therefore claim that the absence was temporary. "Temporary" does not depend solely on the length of absence.
For the purposes of eligibility, a period of ordinary residence will not be treated as being interrupted by an absence which is caused by:
- the temporary absence abroad, by reasons of training or employment, of the candidate, the candidate's spouse or parents
- the temporary full time education abroad of the candidate or spouse
You may be asked to provide copies of temporary contracts of employment and/or other documentary evidence to prove temporary absence.
An expatriate, or the child of an expatriate, who may have been born in the UK or abroad, and appears to have returned to the UK for full time education, is required to establish temporary absence. In order to be eligible, it must be shown that:
- the absence abroad was involuntary, and attempts were made to remedy the breach with the UK at the earliest opportunity
- there was no individual intention to sever links with the UK
- links have been maintained through visits and vacation work
It should be noted that anyone who is resident in a country, is normally subject to the residence and tax conditions of that country. A resident may or may not acquire other rights by virtue of living there, but birth or long-term residence does not automatically confer similar rights to those of the citizens of that country. If a candidate has opted for full citizenship of a country other than the UK, then the candidate will be ineligible.
UK Armed Forces personnel on active service abroad and their children and spouses are regarded as ordinarily resident in the UK.
Refugees and asylum seekers
A candidate who has been granted full refugee status by the Home Office, or is the child or spouse of a refugee, has settled status and is eligible on residence grounds, provided that he/she has not ceased to be resident since being granted asylum or refugee status. Such candidates must provide documentary evidence of their status, usually in the form of a letter from the Immigration and Nationality Department of the Home Office.
Candidates who are 'asylum seekers' are required to demonstrate settled status to be eligible.
Indefinite leave to remain
Candidates who have been granted Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILTR) by the Home Office have been given the right to reside in the UK, and thus have settled status. ILTR is usually given to those who have already spent a period in the UK, and are looking to take up British Citizenship. A candidate who holds ILTR must nevertheless, establish a relevant connection as set out in the Introduction above. Documentary evidence will be required.
Exceptional leave to remain or exceptional leave to enter
Candidates who have not been recognised by the Home Office as meeting the terms of the 1951 United Nations Convention on Refugees may be granted Exceptional Leave to Remain (ELR) or Exceptional Leave to Enter (ELE). The granting of ELR recognises that the current situation in the candidate's country of origin makes it impossible for him/her to return home. Thus, the holder of ELR may be allowed to settle in the UK if the home situation does not improve. Also, he/she is entitled to work in the UK and claim unemployment benefit and, after a certain period in residence, may be able to apply for ILTR, and subsequently British citizenship.
Candidates who have been granted ELR/ELE do not have the same entitlements as refugees. They will however, be eligible on residence grounds if they have spent the previous three years in the UK, not wholly or mainly for the purpose of receiving full-time education.
Visas, work permits, etc...
Candidates who are resident in the UK on a student visa, work permit or dependant visa, have restrictions on the time they may stay in the UK, and so will not be eligible on residency grounds.
'Tuition fees only' studentships for EU nationals to study in Great Britain
Candidates from EU countries other than the UK, are generally eligible (subject to their eligibility on grounds of academic qualifications) for awards restricted to the payment of tuition fees only; no maintenance award will be payable. In order to be eligible for a 'fees only' award, a candidate must be ordinarily resident in a member state of the EU, in the same way as UK candidates must be ordinarily resident in the UK.
Currently, the member states of the European Union (EU) are as follows: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, The Irish Republic (Eire), Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, The Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden and the United Kingdom.
Migrant workers (EU nationals)
Articles 7 (2) and Article 12 of Council Regulations (EEC) No. 1612/68 allow for candidates who have established a relevant connection with the EU to be eligible for a full award to include maintenance, as 'migrant workers'. A migrant worker can be defined as an EU citizen who is employed in a member state of the EU who should be treated as a national of that member state. Similarly, a child or spouse of a migrant worker is also eligible to be treated in the same way. However, the following conditions must be met:
- the employment should be full-time and of significant duration. Therefore, a candidate engaged in part-time or short-term casual employment, or who has been effectively unemployed, cannot be considered to hold migrant worker status. Additionally, the employment would be expected to be relevant to the candidate's previous or future course of study, although employment of a 'professional' nature will be considered on its merits
- the employment should not be ancillary, i.e. taken up with a view towards engaging in subsequent studies, or subject to the candidate being accepted for the training for which he/she is to be nominated. An example of this would be a candidate who has been employed as a Research Assistant in a university department where a future award is to be held
- with regard to the children of migrant workers, it must be shown that the candidate's residence is as a consequence of the parent's past or present employment. A child who has not been resident in the UK during the parent's employment, or departed with the parent at the cessation of that employment, will not be eligible to claim migrant worker status
Candidates from European Economic Area (EEA) member states
The arrangements for migrant workers are also extended to candidates who are nationals of EEA countries which are not member states of the EU (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) or Switzerland are not eligible for fees-only awards. Where such candidates meet the migrant worker requirements they will be eligible for full awards.
Residents of Northern Ireland
If you are usually resident in Northern Ireland and can meet the eligibility requirements in the same way as described for residence in Great Britain, you can be considered for a studentship if you intend to study for a STFC PhD in Great Britain.
If you are usually resident in Northern Ireland or Great Britain and wish to study in Northern Ireland, the Department for Employment and Learning, Northern Ireland is responsible for awarding postgraduate studentships. The address is:
Department for Employment & Learning
39/49 Adelaide Street
Telephone 028 9025 7777
Residents of the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man
Students who are ordinarily resident in the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are eligible for a full award.
Candidates must have qualifications of the level of a good honours degree from a British academic Research Organisation. A STFC research studentship requires the candidate to have a first or upper second class honours degree. STFC also accepts qualifications, or a combination of qualifications and experience, which demonstrate equivalent ability and attainment. A less than sufficient first degree may be enhanced to meet the requirements by the acquisition of:
- Masters degree to enhance the first degree by one step, e.g. from 2(ii) to 2(i)
- substantial relevant postgraduate work experience, i.e. a minimum of two and a half years' full-time equivalent to enhance the first degree by one step, five years' full-time equivalent to enhance by two steps. The postgraduate work experience must relate to the discipline of the first degree, a subsequent Masters degree or the intended area of postgraduate study
Research Organisations must ensure and verify that candidates possess the relevant qualifications.