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Postgraduate Education: Coronavirus

Question for Department for Education

UIN 140273, tabled on 19 January 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of extending funding for all PhD students who have faced disruption as a result of the covid-19 outbreak.

Answered on

27 January 2021

English students eligible for the doctoral degree loan can access one loan up to the maximum amount that was available when they started their course. There is no discretion within the regulations to increase the entitlement where a student extends their study but those who have not accessed the maximum can apply for an additional amount of loan. If a student has withdrawn from their PhD due to compelling personal reasons they may nonetheless be eligible for a further loan for a second full course. Withdrawal as a result of reasons connected to COVID-19 is usually considered to be one such compelling personal reason.

UK Research and Innovation has made over £62 million of financial support available to PhD students in receipt of research council funding most impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. It is estimated that this funding is available for up to 12,000 students.

We are aware of the enormous pressures that the COVID-19 outbreak has had on doctoral students and their ability to conduct their research and recognise that some students may face financial hardship. The department has worked with the Office for Students (OfS) to clarify that English providers are able to use existing funds, worth around £256 million for academic year 2020/21, towards hardship support.

In addition, we are currently making available up to a further £20 million on a one-off basis to support those that need it most, particularly disadvantaged students. The funding is being distributed by the OfS to approved fee cap providers, who will have flexibility in how they distribute the funding to students in a way that will best prioritise those in greatest need. The funding can be distributed to a wide population of students, including postgraduates research students.