Funder increases stipend by further 10 per cent to £17,668 amid cost of living crisis
UK Research and Innovation has announced it is increasing 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.
This means the minimum stipend level will be over £2,000 more in 2022-23 than in 2021-22, UKRI said on 2 September.
‘UKRI committed to reviewing its funding offer’
“I am pleased to announce this increase in stipend levels as a result of our review this summer of the support we provide our postgraduate research students,” said Melanie Welham, UKRI champion for people, culture and talent.
“As well as raising the minimum stipend now, UKRI is committed to further reviewing its funding offer as part of its current work on the new deal for postgraduate research.”
The increased amount will be provided to students in receipt of a UKRI stipend from 1 October 2022.
The announcement follows a consultation with the research community earlier this year considering the cost of living crisis, which has seen inflation and energy prices soar.
During the consultation, thousands of postgraduate researchers urged the national funder to increase the support further.
The funder had initially planned to increase the stipend from £15,609 to £16,062, an increase of just 2.9 per cent.
‘Work on stipends had to be prioritised’
In a statement published alongside the announcement on the UKRI website, Welham said: “The response from the community to our call for input and the messages we received from students, supervisors, research organisations and mission groups directly and via social media, made it clear that the work on stipends had to be prioritised ahead of other elements of the new deal for postgraduate research.”
She added that the funder’s initial plan had been to provide a “smaller one-off payment to students”.
“However, we have listened to your feedback and worked up our more substantive proposal.”
As part of its work on the new deal for postgraduate research, Welham said the funder was considering the principles by which UKRI funds postgraduate students, as well as how it determines the amount it will pay them in future and how its policies interact with the activities of other government departments.
Rory Duncan, former UKRI director of talent and skills and pro-vice-chancellor at Sheffield Hallam University, told Research Professional News it was a “positive step” to see UKRI provide the additional support.
“I know a lot of people have worked behind the scenes to make this happen,” he said. “I hope that other funders and hosts can match this commitment for the majority of [postgraduate researchers] who aren’t funded directly by UKRI.”
Alex Kirby-Reynolds and Ellie Munro, co-leads of the University and College Union’s Postgraduate Researchers as Staff campaign, who have campaigned for a stipend increase, told Research Professional News: “We are relieved that UKRI has finally announced an initial pay rise for its funded researchers, but we know it will still leave many PGRs struggling to make ends meet.
“Disabled PGRs, those with caring responsibilities and those without independent income will continue to be hit hardest, and face tough choices about whether they can continue their research.
“Now it’s up to universities to ensure at least the same support is extended to all PGRs, regardless of funding source, and to make sure self-funded researchers and international PGRs aren’t left picking up the tab through fees.”
A spokesperson for the Russell Group of research-intensive universities said: “We’re pleased to see UKRI taking the lead in helping the research community deal with the rising cost of living by increasing the minimum student stipend, which will provide much needed financial support to the next generation of researchers and innovators.”
But they also called for more support for undergraduates.
“While this is a welcome move for postgraduate researchers, most of the measures the government has announced so far to address the cost-of-living crisis will not benefit undergraduate students,” they said.
“Universities are therefore stepping up support for their students ahead of the start of the new term, including boosting financial aid and other support programmes.”