UKRI will consult on increase to PGR financial support

The minimum stipend has been criticised by the University and College Union as being too low and unreflective of the cost of living

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) may increase financial support for its funded postgraduate research students (PGRs) in response to inflation.

Current arrangements for the minimum stipend may change as a result, the national funder said.

UKRI-funded PGRs receive a minimum stipend of £15,609. The stipend increases before every new academic year in line with inflation from the previous academic year.

The national funder will, therefore, increase the stipend by 2.9%, in line with inflation during the 2020-2021 academic year, in time for the start of the 2022-23 academic year.

But as “part of its long-term work on the New Deal for Postgraduate Research”, UKRI said it would review its arrangements following consultation with the sector, with changes expected in the summer.

The 2023-24 stipend would be announced in spring 2023, UKRI said.

The University and College Union has campaigned for increases to postgraduate stipends, with ringfenced amounts for training and research-related costs. UCU has also campaigned for PGRs to receive staff status in recognition of research outputs and teaching.

UKRI consulted with the sector between February and May 2022 on a “new deal” for PGR. It wants to address models, recruitment, outcomes, rights and conditions, and funding and financial support.

UCU said that insufficient income was the top concern raised by PGRs after it surveyed nearly a thousand across the UK.

“Our survey suggests that many PGRs view PhD stipends as insufficient to maintain a good quality of life,” the UCU said in response to the UKRI consultation. “It should not be the case that additional paid work is required to complete a PhD, without this requirement being formally recognised and taken into account in workload allocation models funding periods. A better solution, however, would be to provide PGRs with remuneration that is both reflective of their value and the work they do, and which does not require supplementing through additional work.”

Those surveyed also highlighted high workloads and low levels of interpersonal support, training and career development.

According to UCU, 69% of survey respondents think extending staff status to all PGRs was ‘very important’, and 17.2% said ‘quite important’. Those in favour said they expected staff status would give them better employment rights, more respect, more influence on decision-making, better pay and improved access to mortgages and rental agreements.

Read more: UK losing PGR entrants to Germany and Canada, universities warn

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