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Major UK funders commit to increase PhD stipend


Handful of funders commit to increasing or reviewing support for postdoctoral researchers amid rising inflation

Major funders including the Royal Society and the Leverhulme Trust have agreed to raise the stipend for PhD students in light of the cost of living crisis.

The news comes after UK Research and Innovation announced it would increase the minimum PhD stipend by 10 per cent for the 2022-23 academic year, following a backlash from students over the previously announced lower rise.

From 1 October the minimum stipend for UKRI-funded PhD students will be £17,668—a 10 per cent increase on the previously announced 2022-23 level.

Following the announcement, the Leverhulme Trust was quick to confirm that it would match UKRI’s stipend.

“If you have submitted an application recently that includes PhD students, you do not need to do anything,” the trust said on 5 September. “You will be advised on the process if your application is successful.”

Royal’s Society’s 13% uplift

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Royal Society told Research Professional News it had already approved a 13 per cent uplift to the stipend for PhD researchers supported by a Royal Society grant back in August.

Postgraduate researchers funded by the learned society will now receive a stipend of £18,150 with a £2,260 London weighting if applicable.

“We are in the process of communicating this to all our grant holders and any uplift will be backdated to 1 September,” a spokesperson for the society said.

The director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, Susan Kohlhass, also confirmed that the charity had increased its PhD stipends back in July to £19,000 for grants outside of London awarded in the current financial year.

“This is an increase from £16,000 the last time we funded PhD studentships a couple of years ago,” she said.

A spokesperson for the British Heart Foundation said the charity’s stipends were already “amongst the highest in the UK and we currently have no plans to increase this”.

Since October 2020, PhD students funded by the foundation receive a stipend starting at £19,919 and increasing to £23,298 in the third year of study. Students based in London receive between £22,278 and £26,057.

Impacts of crisis ‘will reach far and wide’

Asked if Cancer Research UK would be increasing their stipends, the charity’s director of operations and communications, Dan Burkwood, said they were “looking into this issue and will announce any changes to our rates within the next few weeks”.

“We know that the impacts from the cost of living crisis will reach far and wide within our research community, particularly affecting those PhD-level researchers who are just starting out in their careers,” he added.

A spokesperson for the National Institute for Health and Care Research also confirmed that the funder was “reviewing whether an increase is possible” to its PhD stipends.

The Wellcome Trust did not respond to requests for comment.

Ansh Bhatnagar, a PhD researcher in theoretical particle physics at Durham University and organiser for the PGRs Against Low Pay campaign—which has called for an increase in support for PhD students during the cost of living crisis—said UKRI should ensure all funders match its minimum stipend.

“As a campaign, we will continue to organise for every postgraduate researcher to receive the support they need to make it through this crisis,” he said. “Nobody will be left behind.”