Basic Things to Know Before Starting Postrgraduate Studies

If you are considering doing postgraduate studies like a PhD, and you are clueless as I was, read on to get an idea of possible starting points – particularly if you are international student. It’s worth realising that a PhD is not like an undergraduate degree but more like a job (somewhat).


Like anything else, it is the root cause of all problems! For the researchto take place you need money to fund it. This money pays you for your time, for the consumables/ equipment you will use, for travelling to conferences etc. The common ways that I have seen PhD funding is received is the following:

The most common one is when you see fully funded PhD position advertised, where you apply and if successful, you get an interview and once passed…the marathon starts! In this way, the project is often planned, and the supervisor has secured a grant (or money) from one of the many funding bodies like Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and many more.

The second way is when a company, and a university are involved for a joint PhD. Usually, the company fully funds the project and often because they want research on particular topic. In other words, you are restricted to do only what the company wants. For this method of funding the PhD candidates are invariably an employee of that company, and he/she were presented this opportunity. However, there is also the option where the academic supervisor could get funding from a company through research proposals to do collaborative research. Here you might have more freedom as the research is yours and your academic supervisor.

Lastly you can self-fund the project if you have extra cash laying around. Worth mentioning that it can be costly as we are looking around £20,000 per year for international students. Obviously, the price differs depending on universities, departments and nature of the research. This brings me to the next point…studentships!


If you cannot fund the research but you’re reallyyy in love with science and desperately want to do a PhD, then look for potential studentships from universities that can completely fund a project for you or at least reduce the fees significantly. The Doctoral College at University of Surrey funds a number of generous studentships each year, across a range of disciplines, working with our field-leading researchers. Click HERE for more details on the studentship awards available.

Final tip as an international student, you could get funding support from your government but, you are then expected to return home to work in your country because they’ve invested in you. The details of how and where will vary across countries and it may be worth sending emails and start making phone calls!

ATAS Certificate

Amongst the many requirements for visa application, you are required to have Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate. This applies to international students and researchers who are subject to UK immigration control and are intending to study or research at postgraduate level in certain sensitive subjects. It will be valid for 6 months from date of issue giving you time to apply for your visa and it can take approximately 4 weeks to get it. To find out more I encourage you to check out this ATAS.

These are few things I wish I knew more about when I was considering a PhD and what I discussed above is based on my understanding of how I see things happening on the other side of the table. I am sure there are more alternatives, but I hope this gives you a head start.

Next we will disuss things to expect in a PhD and best way to handle it

Good luck!