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UKRI to consult on increasing support for postgraduates

Image: Jevanto Productions, via Shutterstock

Research funder considers boosting support amid rising inflation and cost of living

National funder UK Research and Innovation is considering increasing financial support for its postgraduate research students due to the increasing cost of living.

On 14 June, the funder announced it would consult with the sector “on a range of options” and would communicate its final decision this summer as part of its wider ‘new deal’ for postgraduate researchers.

Currently, UKRI-supported students receive at least a minimum stipend, which is revised in line with inflation each year. In 2021/22 the stipend is £15,609 per year, UKRI says.

In line with this approach, the funder plans to increase the stipend by 2.9 per cent at the beginning of the 2022-23 academic year to reflect the rate of inflation from October 2020 to September 2021.

A decision on the stipend for the 2023-24 academic year would likely be communicated in the spring of 2023, the funder said.

‘Low income affects all PGRs’

The announcement follows calls from the University and College Union to increase pay for all postgraduate stipends to “ensure future pay rises keep up with the rising cost of living”, with ringfenced funding to enable struggling researchers to meet upfront costs in relation to training, development and other research-related activities.

Commenting on UKRI’s announcement, Alex Kirby-Reynolds, a postgraduate research student at the University of Sheffield and the co-lead for a UCU campaign for staff status, told Research Professional News: “Low income affects all PGRs and can cause serious health and social problems, in addition to barriers to research work.

“While many PGRs will welcome efforts to change how annual stipend raises are calculated, this will be of little comfort to funded and self-funded PGRs who are currently considering whether to drop out due to financial hardship.

“It will also be little comfort to those who already need to choose between attending a useful seminar and paying their bills. PGRs need a pay rise now, and they will fight to get it.”

A version of this article appeared in Research Fortnight