05.09.2017

Doctoral dissertation funding

How to find funding for your dissertation work?

Forms of funding

Full-time doctoral students need funding (salary or research grant) to cover their costs of living and also potential research costs (research material, equipment, environments, travel costs, etc.). Funding is commonly gathered from various sources and often for several short periods. Dissertation work can be pursued partly on the grant and partly in an employment relationship with the University, which is why individual doctoral students’ rights and duties may vary during the doctoral training. Postgraduate studies can also be pursued on a part-time basis while simultaneously working outside of the University.

The aim is for every full-time doctoral student at the University of Jyväskylä to have a realistic financing plan for four years of postgraduate studies. According to the principles of the University of Jyväskylä Graduate School for Doctoral Studies, the department or faculty and the supervisor collaboratively aim to ensure that the students have sufficient funding for four years. The first year of doctoral studies can be financed with a grant or with the salary of a fixed-term employment relationship of one year. If the studies and research progress as expected during the first year, a new employment relationship will be made for three more years. The student is expected to participate in fundraising by applying for grants and doctoral programme positions recommended by the supervisor and the follow-up group.

Funding options should be discussed with the supervisor already when creating a research plan and postgraduate study plan. As a rule, the right to pursue postgraduate studies does not automatically include funding.

Funding options

University of Jyväskylä’s doctoral student positions and grants

The University finances doctoral training with grants and doctoral student positions. ‘Doctoral student position’ refers to a fixed-term employment relationship with the University, in which the doctoral student is paid a monthly salary in accordance with the national salary system of Finnish universities (YPJ system). The grant is a scholarship paid to the student’s bank account, and it is often taxable income. The University’s doctoral student positions and grants are awarded only to students who have pursued doctoral studies for less than four years on a full-time basis. Furthermore, the University cannot award a grant to a doctoral student who has previously been employed at the University. The faculties provide a yearly application period for these positions – usually in the autumn. For further information, please follow the announcements of your department and/or faculty.

Project funding

Project funding refers to funding granted to research projects, which can be used to hire research staff. A research project can obtain funding from, for example, the Academy of Finland, Tekes, the EU or foundations. A doctoral student hired with project funding is in an employment relationship with the University and is paid a monthly salary in accordance with the national university salary system (YPJ system). Supervisors are responsible for applying for project funding. Project funding can also be used to hire doctoral students who have pursued doctoral studies longer than four years on a full-time basis. For further information on the funding options in research projects, please follow your department’s information channels and contact your supervisor.

Personal grants from foundations

Doctoral students can also apply for personal grants from foundations. These grants are scholarships paid to the applicant’s bank account, and they are often taxable income. The length of the grant period can vary from a couple of months to three years. The Graduate School aims at ensuring that grant researchers receive the same amount of overall funding as those in an employment relationship (e.g. by paying them separately for teaching).The University of Jyväskylä has published guidelines for foundation funding that are useful when preparing an application. Guidelines include for example foundation funding types, information about the funders and guidelines for planning a budget. Funding applied from foundations is external funding. In the University of Jyväskylä, researchers are required to create a project announcement before submitting an application for external funding. 

Scholarship programmes for international students

Offerings of Finnish higher education to international students is presented at Study in Finland website.

Other funding options

In addition to the above mentioned, there are other options for funding the dissertation work. Part-time doctoral students who pursue doctoral studies while simultaneously working outside of the University do not usually need any additional funding for their dissertation work. Possible study leaves or other leaves of absence that enable intensive research and study periods can be funded for example with personal grants from foundations or with adult education allowance.

Funding for research and travel costs

The supervisor or research group often participate in covering doctoral students’ research and travel costs. In addition to a personal grant for full-time research, some grants awarded by foundations can include a small research cost and/or travel grant. Travel grants can also be applied for from the Science Council of the University of Jyväskylä and certain doctoral programmes or foundations, etc. Further information on travel grants intended for international mobility is available in the Internationalisation section.

Applying for funding

Read carefully the instructions for applying.

The instructions for applying vary depending on the financier, so they should always be read very carefully. It is also good to examine the financier’s earlier funding decisions, based on which you can consider, for example, for what purposes and how much funding you can apply for, as well as evaluate your application’s potential success. The colleagues who have obtained a favourable funding decision from a particular financier can give you good advice. In addition, you should always discuss your fundraising options with your supervisor, who is in charge of assisting you in the application process.

Tailor each application to suit each particular financier’s needs.

Applying for funding is a challenging and time-consuming task that should be taken seriously. Nearly all research funding is highly competitive, and in all applications there is some room for improvement. Each application should therefore be tailored to suit each particular financier’s needs, and comments from researcher colleagues should be taken into account. Application processes are also useful in that they prepare postgraduate students for the challenges of research and expert work.

Funding application and its appendices

Consider the content and approach of the application from the perspective of the evaluator.

Funding decisions are based on evaluation. The evaluators usually have to read a large number of applications and rank them on the basis of data collected from the applications and their appendices. When writing an application, it is often useful to consider the content and approach from the perspective of the evaluator. As a rule, all the questions in the application form should be answered and all requested appendices included. Applications that do not comply with the requirements as regards content, length or format may be disqualified just because instructions have not been followed.

Always check the details of the application before submitting it.

Most financiers request the applications to be submitted via application forms. The required appendices usually include at least the research plan, CV and a statement by the dissertation supervisor. In addition, you may be required to append your postgraduate study plan, transcript of records, list of publications, copies of certificates, the department’s commitment, or a letter of invitation from the host organisation (for a travel grant). Depending on the financier, either free-form or very strictly standardised appendices are required. Therefore, before submitting an application, you should always carefully check the details of the application and its appendices. In both of them, even the number of pages may be limited.

Research plan

The research plan is the most important appendix to the application. For example, the Academy of Finland provides good instructions for the structure of the research plan, which can be applied to dissertation research plans. It is also important to check the financier’s instructions for headlining and length. Also remember that the evaluators of research plans are not always experts in the field. Therefore, the research plan should be written so that even a non-expert evaluator will understand the significance of the topic and its contribution to science, society and environment.

Curriculum vitae / CV

The CV appended to a funding application differs from those in job applications, as financiers are usually interested in slightly different things than employers. The main focus here should be on education, experience in expert tasks, and scientific merits.

The Finnish Advisory Board on Research Integrity, the Academy of Finland, Universities Finland UNIFI, and the Rectors' Conference of Finnish Universities of Applied Sciences ARENE ry have together drafted a template for researcher's curriculum vitae that complies with good scientific practice.

List of publications

A list of publications can be appended to the application either as a separate appendix or as part of the CV. The list can be divided into sections, for example, based on the instructions of the Academy of Finland.

Supervisor’s statement

The supervisor’s statement is a short evaluation on the applicant, the dissertation work and its current stage. Depending of the financier, it can be either free-form or written on a form. Please send a request for statement to your supervisor in good time and attach the application and research plan to the request. This allows the supervisor to take into account the financier and content of the application while writing the statement.

Funding decision

When applying for funding, it is good also to take into account the obligations involved in a potential favourable decision: for example, it will be your duty to use the grant for the purpose mentioned in the application and to follow other instructions provided by the financier. Furthermore, you may have to consider issues related to the taxation of your salary or grant, or social security and pension coverage, etc., in the context of grants. Most financiers require a report on the use of the grant at the end of the funding period.