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“When I was an undergraduate I had no idea what a PhD was. You’d see postgraduates around but you wouldn’t know what they were doing or why they were there.”

Having completed her doctorate in Theology and Religious Studies in 2015, Caroline Starkey now has a clearer understanding of the role postgraduates play in Leeds research. In labs and libraries  and on fieldwork around the world, they are engaged in a concentrated process of discovery, evolving from being the guided learners they were as undergraduates into being the creators of new knowledge.

PhD students contributing to new discoveries include researchers like Kulveer Mankia who is studying the early stages of rheumatoid arthritis and Dominic O’Key who is engaged in a comparative study of German and South African literature. But neither receives funding from a research council, a charity or from industry. Without the support of donors like you, neither would be able to study at Leeds.

Yet PhD work is critical, both in developing talented young academics and making a telling contribution to research. Without it, research progress would be slow, and great ideas would be left undeveloped, their potential impact wasted.

“A PhD is a unique opportunity,” says Professor Andy Challinor, who supervises postgraduate researchers in food security and climate research. “They have time and space to get to the heart of a particular problem. I only have so much time. Without PhD students I wouldn’t be anywhere near as productive.”

PhD researchers play a vital role in our success. And in every faculty of the University, PhD students are working on research which has only been made possible through the support of our donors, work which is creating new knowledge and changing the way we see the world. These brilliant young people are helping us to engage with real-world issues and provide real-world solutions.

At the same time, they are making a fundamental contribution to our aim to be an outstanding research university.

But our ambition to grow this community is held back by a lack of public funding. Research Council funding for doctoral work is increasingly rare – it accounts for less than one in five PhDs – and though Leeds does have many postgraduates funded by this route and many funded by industry, we need your help to ensure that our capacity for research can keep pace with our ambition and our ideas.

The University’s ambition is to increase the number of PhD students from around 2,200 today to 3,000 in 2020 – a figure that will take us into the top ten in the Russell Group. Philanthropic donations will be crucial to achieving this ambition and will help us recruit high-calibre postgraduates who will be the research stars of the future.

Donors have already provided funding for almost 40 PhD students whose success has redoubled our ambition to do still more. With your help, we can make a difference to the lives of talented young people, so that in turn, they can make a difference in the world as they tackle ‘big questions’ from cancer to climate change, food security to clean energy.

Making a World of Difference


"Leeds is the perfect place for my research."

Travel bursaries strengthen our research

Joining a world-leading team

"It makes me excited to come to work."

Philip Antwi-Agyei

A Commonwealth Scholarship enabled Philip Antwi-Agyei (PhD Earth and Environment 2013) to come from his home in Ghana to study for his doctorate at the University of Leeds. Here he talks about the value of the scholarship, and the work he is now doing to embed this learning for the benefit of farming communities in Ghana.

Michelle Wantoch

“It’s about arming patients’ own cells against cancer.” Supported by a PhD scholarship, Michelle is working with a team in the Leeds Institute of Molecular Medicine investigating the use of viruses to fight back against tumours.

Matthew Holmes

A gift to the Campaign has enabled Matthew Holmes to study for his PhD, testing the efficacy of viruses for the treatment of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph nodes which can offer a very poor prognosis to patients.

How you can help

Your support for PhD study will provide a life-changing opportunity for an exceptional student. And because the University is a charity, UK taxpayers can make their gifts go further. Gift Aid enables the University to reclaim the basic rate of tax on the value of the donation, while higher rate (40%) and additional rate (45%) taxpayers can reclaim the difference between their rate of tax and the basic rate.

The cost of PhD Scholarships varies between disciplines. The examples below are an illustration of the costs – and how these can be reduced through Gift Aid and tax relief.

Donors may also choose to support travel bursaries to enable PhD students to strengthen their research through fieldwork. The net cost of a gift of £2,000 to support travel bursaries would be £1,200 (higher rate) or £1,100 (additional rate).

Donors may choose to make their gift in instalments

Area of researchSocial Sciences and the ArtsMaths, Chemistry and PhysicsBusiness, Biology, Engineering, EnvironmentMedicine and dentistry
You give£26,000£28,000£32,000£50,000
The University claims Gift Aid£6,500£7,000£8,000£12,500
The University matches your donation£32,500£35,000£40,000£62,500
Full value of gift £65,000£70,000£80,000£125,000

If you are a Higher Rate (40%) taxpayer:

You claim tax relief (2)£6,500£7,000£8,000£12,500
Net cost to you£19,500£21,000£24,000£37,500

If you are an Additional Rate (45%) taxpayer:

You claim tax relief (3)£8,125£8,750£10,000£15,652
Net cost to you£17,875£19,250£22,000£34,375

You may also choose to make your gift in instalments.

Gifts from £2,000 upwards would support travel bursaries to enable PhD students to develop their research through fieldwork.

  1. Added at the basic rate of tax.
  2. Higher rate relief is the difference between basic rate and higher rate tax.
  3. Additional rate relief is the difference between basic rate and additional rate tax.

Further information on tax-effective giving and eligibility click here

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