COVID-19 Response

Please find below guidance on how UKRI and the NWSSDTP are responding to COVID-19. The guidance depends on your stage of funding, judged by your current studentship funding end date (including any prior suspensions/extensions that have moved your original studentship end date). If you are not sure what your current studentship funding end date is, please contact your nominated administrative contact.

The UKRI have issued an open letter to UKRI-funded PhD Students.

PhD Students in the Third Year of Funding

Students whose studentship funding end date is between 1st March 2020 and 31st March 2021, who have not submitted their doctoral thesis and whose work has been affected by the pandemic are eligible to apply for an extension to their funding. UKRI will be providing the NWSSDTP with additional funding to facilitate this.

UKRI have been clear that this should not be an automatically applied funding extension. Students will be asked to prepare in consultation with their supervisors a short description (up to half a page) of the case for their extension, including how you and your research have been affected by the pandemic, and the additional time you think you will need (up to a maximum of six months) to complete your doctoral work.

As this is a consistent policy across all UKRI-funded PhD students, the extension request process will be coordinated by your university, not the NWSSDTP. However, NWSSDTP colleagues will be involved in the process within each institution. You will be contacted accordingly by your university. In the meantime, do reach out to your supervisors to start this discussion. If you do not receive instructions from your university by the 8th May, please contact your nominated administrative contact. Your case for extension will be reviewed by an institutional panel and a recommendation then made to UKRI, who will make the final decisions.

For fees-only students, the extension will only cover fees. For part-time students, the time scales and payments will be adjusted accordingly.

Should discussions with supervisors indicate that you do not require the full six months to complete your research programme, partial awards covering a reduced extension can be requested. You do not have to request the full six months.

This funding is only to enable students to complete their doctoral work. It should not be used, for example, to provide additional resources to carry out more research beyond doctoral work or time for writing papers once doctoral work is complete. If students ultimately submit their thesis before or during the period of the extension, in line with current UKRI Training Grant Terms and Conditions, they will receive funding for the remaining quarter and then payment will cease.

PhD Students in the First or Second Years of Funding

This covers students whose studentship funding end date is after the 31st March 2021 and whose work has been affected by the pandemic.

UKRI have stated that extensions for students not in their final year may be granted on a case by case basis, but that costs associated with this will need to come from our existing training grant. This ultimately means that any extensions awarded to these cohorts will result in a reduction of the number of studentships we will be able to offer in the future years of the NWSSDTP. For example, if every current first and second year candidate were to be funded for a 3-month extension, that would cost the NWSSDTP around £700k and result in 12 fewer studentships being awarded in 2021/2022. We are including this information to illustrate that, while we are extremely committed to supporting our current students during these difficult times, we also need to be pragmatic in ensuring that we can continue to fund as many postgraduate researchers in future cohorts as possible.

As such, we would ask PhD candidates in their first and second years to please carefully consider whether they require an extension at this stage. Candidates should keep a record of any impact they feel COVID-19 is having on their progress (be that due to caring responsibilities, ill health or delays to research-related activity) and work with their supervisors to consider revisions to their workplans to mitigate that impact as far as possible.

Where candidates feel an extension will be needed, they will need to follow the extension processes of their home institution. Decisions about awarding extensions will be the remit of your home institutions, and will be assessed in line with institutional COVID-19 policies. We can confirm that any extensions related to COVID-19 that are agreed by your home institution will be funded by the NWSSDTP.

If students ultimately submit their thesis before or during the period of any approved extension, in line with current UKRI Training Grant Terms and Conditions, they will receive funding for the remaining quarter and then payment will cease.

PhD Students Whose Studentships Have Ended

PhD candidates whose studentship funding end date was before 1st March 2020 are not entitled to request a funded extension. However, no cost extensions to your submission date can be requested and you should follow your institution’s processes and policies on this.

Master’s Students

Our current understanding is that Master’s programmes have continued online and we hope that all our 1+3 and 2+2 students will be on track to complete their Master’s programmes and commence their PhDs in October. Please do get in touch to discuss further if this is not the case.

Thank you all very much for your patience during this time. If you have any queries regarding the above, contact nwssdtp@liv.ac.uk Please bear in mind that the NWSSDTP Team is also being impacted by the repercussions of COVID-19, potentially resulting in some delays in response, and we will get back to queries as soon as we are able.

Posted 30th April 2020

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