To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what (a) guidance and (b) support his Department has provided to PhD students who cannot complete their research due to the covid-19 outbreak; and what information his Department holds on the number and proportion of those students whose research contracts have been extended as a result of the covid-19 outbreak.
2 June 2020
The Government is aware of the consequent pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic on doctoral students and their ability to complete work. This is a difficult time for all post graduate students, academic staff and researchers.
On 9 April it was announced that UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) will offer a costed extension of up to six months for UKRI PhD students due to complete by 31 March 2021 whose study has been impacted by the pandemic. This includes 6,334 of 22,065 current UKRI-funded doctoral students. Those UKRI-funded students not in their final year may be granted extensions on a case by case basis.
On 24 April, UKRI issued detailed guidance to universities on how the policy should be implemented. UKRI has outlined that universities must put in place processes that are based upon the principles of ensuring all UKRI doctoral students are supported to complete their projects and that they should be treated fairly, generously and sympathetically given the disruptions caused to research programmes and individual’s personal circumstances.
UKRI is engaging with the wider sector about the implementation of the extension and to identify and understand future impact, including the numbers of students it funds that are affected. The extension will be reviewed in four months’ time to ensure that any further impacts to doctoral training are taken into account.
The Department does not hold information on the overall number of PhD students – UKRI-funded and funded via other sources – who have had their research contracts extended.