There are seven government-funded research councils that offer financial support to postgraduate students. The majority of the awards made by these councils are to students undertaking research degrees, though there are a few awards available to students on taught programmes.
All seven of the UK research councils support academic excellence in their own specific field. As a result of this, research council awards for postgraduate study are regarded as some of the most prestigious postgraduate awards available in academia, and as such are highly sought after; competition is extremely fierce.
Research council awards for postgraduate study are available to home and EU residents, those with EU Migrant Worker status, and individuals who are deemed to have normal residence in the UK. Some research councils may also fund overseas students in exceptional circumstances.
Full research council awards will cover the cost of tuitions fees and also provide a maintenance grant to support you during your study. Depending on your residency status and the research council you apply to, some EU students may be eligible for a fees only award. The value of fees and maintenance grant support that you receive is defined by Research Councils UK, the governing body for all seven of the UK research councils. For 2011–2012 this is set at a fee rate of £3,732 and a standard annual maintenance grant of £13,590. A standard research council award will provide you with three years of funding for a PhD, and one year’s funding for an MA, MPhil, or MRes. Research council awards are available on a full or part-time basis.
In addition to the basic maintenance grant and fees support, some research councils also provide other opportunities for training for funded students, such as a research training support grant, overseas institutional visits, overseas fieldwork, collaborative awards with industry and public sector partners, difficult language training, conference attendance, and work and research placements.
More information about the research councils is available from the Research Councils UK website.