UKRI publishes an analysis of COVID-19 PhD student support

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UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has today published data on the take-up of COVID-19 support by its funded PhD students.

The statistics, broken down into demographic groups and research councils, reveal the numbers of UKRI-funded PhD students who received support in phase one of the programme. The programme was announced in April last year.

Phase one offered up to six months of supported extensions for UKRI students whose funded period would have ended between 1 March 2020 and 31 March 2021.

In autumn 2020, research organisations contributed to a UKRI survey of its final year students who received and also applied for an extension, which were collated into today’s report.

Phase one outcomes

Key findings were:

  • research organisations awarded 5,315 extensions to UKRI PhD students, with approximately four-fifths of eligible students requesting an extension
  • the average length of an extension awarded was 4.9 months
  • a lack of access to research resources and facilities was the most common reason for requesting an extension (cited by 82% of all students)
  • increased caring responsibilities were cited by 17% of all students as the reason for requesting an extension
  • PhD students who are female, from an ethnic minority or older on average required slightly longer extensions.

UKRI updated its policy in November 2020 and March 2021 to enable all UKRI-funded students who are in need to apply for support from their research organisation or grant holder. £19 million was made available to support these applications, along with increased flexibility for training grant holders to redeploy existing funding.

In March 2021, UKRI announced that £7 million, earmarked for phase one which had not been allocated, would be available via research councils to doctoral students on grants that have limited flexibility to fund extensions.

Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, Chief Executive of UKRI, said:

This detailed analysis of the first phase of our support programme builds further our understanding of the needs of our PhD students, who are facing very challenging circumstances during this pandemic.

As the situation continues to evolve, we are endeavouring to take an evidenced-based approach to using the resources we have available. This is to support the many people across the research and innovation system, who will be so important to rebuilding the economy as we emerge from the pandemic.

Response to report

We have also today responded to a report from the campaign group Pandemic PGR.

Read Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser’s response to Pandemic PGR (PDF, 242KB).

Top image: Credit: recep-bg / Getty Images

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