To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, with reference to the statement of 11 November 2020 from UK Research and Innovation entitled, Doctoral students advised to adjust projects for covid-19, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of allocating additional funding to UKRI to ensure people on low incomes or without financial support can access extensions to their funded period when required.
23 November 2020
UKRI have already acted this year to support PhD students during the pandemic. In March, UKRI worked to ensure that all the students it funds would continue to receive their maintenance stipend during the lockdown and would not have to suspend their studies; UKRI-funded students in receipt of a costed extension will continue to receive this stipend during their extension period.
In April it was announced that UKRI-funded PhD students in the final year and whose studies have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic would be provided with additional support. Subsequently on the 11th November, UKRI provided a further £19.1 million of funding to support students in earlier years, including disabled students, those with long-term illness, those who are neurodivergent, or those with caring responsibilities.
Combined, these two interventions have meant that UKRI has made over £60 million of financial support available to students most impacted by the pandemic. It is estimated that this funding is available for up to 12,000 students (over half of the students that UKRI funds).
We are encouraging all PhD students to discuss with their supervisors how projects can be adjusted to complete their doctoral education to a satisfactory standard. We will continue to monitor how the pandemic is affecting PhD students and the wider research system.