In September 2016 I started the path which will assign me the Ph.D. title (from Latin Philosophiæ Doctor) at the Department of Mathematics, King’s College London, where I joined the Disordered Systems Group (Applied Mathematics).
One of the most difficult issue that one researcher or student could face when thinking about his academic future is the search of funding. In this article I will talk about my experience about the postgraduate research (Ph.D.) funding; another topic would be the undergraduate studies scholarships or funding, of which I am not an expert, since I obtained my Bachelor’s and Master’s in Italy (University of Trento).
I won a Graduate Teaching Scholarship (GTS) from King’s College London, which covers my living expenses and the University fees for the next four years; it allows me to do full-time research and includes a contract of teaching activity, i.e., three hours per week of frontal lectures and six per week dedicated to marking. This kind of contract is typical in the U.K. Universities, where both Undergraduate and Postgraduate-taught students attend weekly tutorials, one for each module they chose for their Programme.
Generally a certain number of GTSs is reserved to the U.K. students, and others GTSs, usually in the same number, are reserved to the E.U. students. They are both very limited in number and depend strictly on the Department funds, so that they are subject to a very high competition and the actual assignment is based on merit.
However the GTS is just one kind of scholarship for the Ph.D studies: indeed other sources of funding exist. For example, they can be external entities (like industries, other Universities or the E.U. itself, for example through the Marie Curie Fellowship) or coming from the private funding of the Professor you are going to work with. In both situations their calls usually vary in the number and in the period of time you are going to apply. In the end, a few students decide to be self-funded, and to pay the fees and the living expenses on their own, sometimes by taking an extra job and accordingly they switch to a part-time Ph.D. instead of the full-time one (the last usually lasts 2 years less).
Even though there is a really high competitive admission (whatever scholarship you are applying for) for funding the doctoral studies, nowadays and before that Brexit will act there is still the possibility for an EU student to obtain the funding for his Ph.D. in the U.K.. In addition, U.K. Universities are well aware that this possibility benefit themselves too: the best of them, like King’s College London, are every year located at the top of the world rankings, and their strong point is exactly the internationalization. This allows multiculturalism and also guarantees the presence of the best student and researchers from all over the world.
The way that Brexit eventually will act (two years from the referendum results on 24th of June 2016) is still undecided; accordingly the future of the internationalization aspect still remains unknown. However, it is evident that in the worst case where the number of scholarships and contracts reserved to E.U. researchers may see a remarkable cut, the U.K. Universities will face the serious risk to lose their multicultural setting, which has been the very key point of their success. On the other side, the U.K. Universities are strongly motivated to maintain the current status which welcomes European students; consequently, they are working together with the government to find the best strategy on the actual application of Brexit, in order to avoid a dramatic decrease of the level they successfully have been able to reach through the centuries.
Finally, I really hope that the availability of the E.U. reserved scholarships remains as it is today, so that also the future students will have the possibility to circulate and join the top level U.K. Universities, exactly as it has been in my case.
Andrea Marcello Mambuca
Ph.D. Student at the Department of Mathematics, King’s College London, former student at Liceo Lussana.