Cambridge SU demands university give £2.1m of Covid-related funding extensions to postgraduates

The proposed scheme would provide for 570 doctoral students, who would each receive £3,684

Cambridge SU have called for the University of Cambridge to urgently provide £2.1 million in funding extensions for doctoral students whose work has been disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

This proposed extension scheme, which would take place in Michaelmas 2021, would help address the funding crisis by providing 3-month extensions for 570 doctoral students at the University’s postgraduate admissions maintenance rate (£1,228 per month). The scheme is intended to “relieve pressure” on the University’s postgraduate hardship funding.

Students who started their course before Michaelmas 2020 would be eligible, with priority given to self-funded students and others who are ineligible for any other source of extension funding.

The demand made by the Cambridge SU’s Postgraduate Officers, Aastha Dahal and Siyang Wei, for funding extensions is informed by the SU’s Postgraduate Funding Survey, and is part of the SU’s ongoing campaign to “tackle the postgraduate funding crisis” and “aims to address the gap in extension funding for self-funded students”, according to a post on their website.

The SU have asked that the University establish this fund as a separate scheme to hardship funding, “enabling students to access both types of funding according to need,” as was stated in an email sent to students by the SU yesterday (26/05).

The proposal is also intended to “relieve pressure” on the University’s postgraduate hardship funding, which is currently the only route of additional funding for many self-funded students, despite the application process and low maximum amount available for hardship funding making these kinds of funds unsuitable for those in need of a funding extension.

The SU have said that their negotiations with the University on these funding extensions are currently underway and that they will continue to update students on their progress.

The Postgraduate Funding Survey was launched in February after a motion to address the issue of PhD extension funding was passed by Student Council. The survey was completed by over 600 students and although the SU have said they will publish a full report on the data in June, initial findings indicate the “severity of the crisis” for self-funded students in particular, which has “necessitated more urgent action.”

The survey found that almost 60% of self-funded doctoral students had had the completion of their course delayed by the pandemic, meaning that hundreds of these students are “currently experiencing or in danger of severe financial difficulties that could derail their studies and careers”, according to the SU’s website.

While students receiving funding from bodies like UKRI or private corporations may have access to Covid-related extensions via those routes, 20% of the University’s approximately 1000 doctoral students are self-financing, leaving them without funding beyond the period for which they initially budgeted, and ineligible to apply for extensions.

Feature image credit: Jessica Graham