Guidance for current EPSRC students

Your university will probably offer some kind of induction early in your studies. This should provide a good opportunity to find out about the university rules regarding your doctorate, who to ask (within the university) for further information and an introduction to some of the relevant people.

It is universities that manage the recruitment and selection of students to EPSRC-funded studentships. For successful candidates, the offer of a studentship will also be from the university and should set out the arrangements for the studentship.

Universities generally have a framework of policies and guidance for research students and your offer letter may provide links to the relevant information. There will also be a route for student advice and support within your university. These routes vary from one university to another, but might be through your department or centre office, a doctoral college or network of postgraduate deans. Your supervisor should be able to recommend suitable routes for advice and support.

Terms and Conditions

UKRI has a statement of expectations for all training grants that all parties should abide by.

The terms and conditions are the formal rules that universities must abide by when administering EPSRC studentships. There are likely to be two types of conditions for EPSRC students, those agreed across all UKRI Councils, and additional, specific conditions for the EPSRC scheme/investment.

Making a complaint against a university

ESPRC does not intervene in disputes between individual students and universities and we do not accept formal complaints relating to decisions by the research organisations that we fund.

If you wish to make a complaint about your supervisor or university, you should approach your university directly. If you are unable to resolve your issue informally, the next step would be to make a formal complaint using your university’s published processes (your university is responsible for making sure you have access to effective complaints procedures). If you are not satisfied with the outcome of a formal complaint, you can ask the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (England and Wales), the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (Scotland) or the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman (Northern Ireland) to review your complaint. The OIA, SPSO and NIPSO provide an independent, free to use scheme which reviews student complaints against higher education providers.

EPSRC is committed to ensuring that our funding is spent in accordance with our terms and conditions. If you believe your university is in breach of these, you can let us know by emailing students@epsrc.ukri.org. This does not constitute a formal complaint and we may not be able to inform you of the outcome of any investigation we may undertake.   

If you need longer to complete your research

EPSRC funding for a doctorate is normally between three and four years (maximum of four years) if you are studying full-time. It is also possible to do a doctorate part-time.

We expect that the majority of students should be able to submit their thesis within their funded period. You should plan your research project with your supervisor with this in mind, and we discourage expectations that a student should work towards their doctorate unfunded.

You should talk to your supervisor if you are worried about the length of your funding. Costed extensions are only available for some circumstances. Your supervisor and the university may be able to agree an extension to funding, to compensate for time unavoidably lost through illness or other absences. The terms and conditions of training grants are available from the Conditions of Research Council Training Grants document on the UK Research and Innovation website.

If you want to do paid or unpaid work

We are happy for you to do demonstration, teaching and other duties in your university department where if they do not interfere with the progress of your doctoral studies.

We recognise that you can gain valuable skills from these activities, but EPSRC stipends are training awards and do not cover payment for duties that would reasonably be considered to constitute employment.

If you do demonstration, teaching or other types of employment in an institution, you should be paid for this as well as receiving the minimum EPSRC stipend. Demonstration, teaching or other types of employment should not be compulsory, and your organisation should provide a range of development opportunities for students.

Any other work that you take on should not stop you finishing your doctorate on time.

The UKRI Training Grant Guidance has some references to employment.

If you want to take leave (including parental leave)

Your university must make suitable arrangements for holidays and other leave, generally following their normal practice.

EPSRC funded students are entitled to parental leave (maternity, paternity and adoptive leave). There is further information in the 'Conditions of Research Council Training Grants' document on the UK Research and Innovation website (see paragraphs 56 to 62), and the UK Research and Innovation Training Grant Guide. There is also a briefing on the UK Research and Innovation website that provides a summary. If you receive industrial sponsorship, please bear in mind your obligation to your sponsor in planning holidays.

If you are a carer

If participating in activities related to your studentship involves additional care requirements, your research organisation should be approached in the first instance to meet these costs. If the research organisation is unable to cover the additional costs, then they may be drawn from the studentship. EPSRC does not cover the costs of care requirements that are required to meet the normal requirements of the studentship.

If you become ill

If you need to take time off from your studies due to illness, you should keep your supervisor informed. If you are away a long time, discuss the situation with your supervisor who can advise on the best course of action. You should also talk to your supervisor if your doctor advises that you could benefit from changing your working pattern.

If you are not doing well academically

If you are not doing well and your progress is considered unsatisfactory, it is possible that you might be asked to withdraw from your studies or to transfer onto another track of study.

If this did happen, you should be allowed a reasonable period of notice, which may or may not include any unused leave entitlement. However, you should bear in mind that you may be asked to repay money paid to you in advance for any period after the termination of your studies.

If you wish to continue towards a master's qualification, the funding will continue up to the date the dissertation is submitted.

If you feel that you are not doing well, the best thing is to discuss it with your supervisor at an early stage. The routes within your university for student advice and support may also be helpful.

Expectations

There is a QAA Quality Code for Higher Education that includes a chapter on research degrees. It provides a framework of expectations about research degrees that higher education providers are required to meet.

There is also an UK Research and Innovation statement of expectations for postgraduate training and the expectations on you include:

  • You should be actively involved in managing and directing your research project and training, taking advice from your supervisor.
  • You are expected to develop the higher-level capabilities as outlined in the Researcher Development Statement (available from the Vitae website).
  • Where you have the opportunity to work in a non-academic environment, you should maximise the opportunity by seeking to understand the role of research within the organisation and the wider context.

Your university will provide opportunities for personal and professional development, typically including career advice, advanced training, good research conduct and skills relevant to a range of employment (“transferable” skills). Your routes for student advice and support may be able to help signpost opportunities available to you.

Vitae provides information and advice to help you be a more effective researcher and develop your career in or outside academia. For further information, please see the Vitae website, which includes a helpful section on doing research.

Data

Some data regarding training grants and studentships will be made available in databases such as Gateway to Research (GtR). If you have any questions about this, they should be addressed to your university in the first instance. The 'Conditions of Research Council Training Grants' available from the UK Research and Innovation website will also provide some further information about the use of data provided.

EPSRC uses the researchfish® online system to collect information on the outputs, outcomes and impacts that have arisen from EPSRC-funded research and training. You may be contacted by email about reporting via researchfish®.