To UKRI: enough is enough, it is time to fund student extensions

Subject: To UKRI: enough is enough, it is time to fund student extensions
From: The Postgraduate Researchers of the NINE doctoral Training Programme
Date: 14 Jan 2021

To Sir John Kingman, Chair of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI),
Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, Chief Executive, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI),
Professor Rory Duncan, UK Director of Talent and Skills,
Professor Jennifer Rubin, Executive Chair of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC),

We, the undersigned, represent postgraduate research students from the NINE doctoral training programme based across Durham University, Newcastle University, Northumbria University, Queen’s University Belfast, University of Sunderland, Teesside University, and Ulster University.

There have been several attempts on behalf of postgraduate research students and doctoral training partnerships to negotiate a fair response to the pandemic from UKRI since the beginning of the crisis in March 2020. The volume of these attempts escalated in December 2020 following the announcement of the UKRI's phase 2 ‘funding extensions’ policy. At the time, many of us argued that this provision was inadequate, but to no avail. However, in light of the most recent lockdown imposed by the UK Government (January 2021), we argue that the provisions made by UKRI for PGRs in phase 2 of their funding plans are now inarguably inadequate to deal with the escalating scale of the crisis. It is clear that decisions about funding extensions have been made under the assumption that the first lockdown was the sum total of interruption to be imposed upon our studies. It is now very apparent that we should shift our understanding of the pandemic to one attuned to the more open-ended, contingent, and unpredictable set of disruptions that characterise the events of the past 12 months.

Phase 2 of the UKRI’s funding policy was designed specifically to prioritise some extra time for some people, i.e. those finishing before September 30th 2021, those with caring responsibilities, those who have disabilities or long-term illnesses, and those with neurodiversities. Further, it was designed with the intention of replanning their projects in light of a reduced timetable and limited fieldwork possibilities. Specifically, it was NOT designed to make up for time lost. Finally, the decision was made to allot an inadequate sum of money to the Universities directly, rather than to the DTP to distribute. One DTP representative explained that the funded extensions were likely to be between 1 and 3 months based on this allotted sum.

At the time of publication, PhD students, supervisors, and the wider academic community argued the revised funding policy was insufficient - moreover, the policy was antithetical to the findings produced in UKRI-funded research examining the impact of Covid-19 on PhD students. In this report, it was estimated (in June 2020) that “77% of non-final year students required extensions of an average of 5.1 months”; most commonly-cited reasons were lack of access to facilities and resources (74%), disruption to data collection and fieldwork (54%), and health and wellbeing (36%).

With this in mind, the conditions of the phase 2 extension plan—outlined above—seemed to us inadequate then and wholly unacceptable to us now. In the first place, this is a crisis that causes disruptions over a much more extended period of time than first thought; prioritising students finishing in September 2021 does not begin to address the issues for those of us finishing after this date who are now losing large amounts of time. Many of us have had our fieldwork significantly interrupted as a result of the pandemic: the UKRI’s advice to simply “adjust and adapt . . . in order to within [our] original period of funding” is inadequate. Methods and fieldwork take months of significant research and planning - to suggest that they can be altered without significant additional funded time is to undermine the importance of a rigorous methodology, and places an expectation on PhD students to complete their thesis within an unreasonable time frame.

Secondly, it is good that the UKRI has acknowledged the impact on those with caring responsibilities, health concerns, disabilities and neurodiversities. Nonetheless, there are other issues that may limit capacities to produce theses in time – issues regarding the increasingly difficult circumstances of those from low-income backgrounds, women, queer people, and people of colour, that seem to be unaddressed. Finally, those affected with ‘long COVID’—a situation in which symptoms such as exhaustion persist long after the initial infection—could be ill for longer than the 13 weeks of sick pay we are provided with. Beyond this though, it is essential to acknowledge that the pandemic crisis is one that, whilst uneven in its effects, has significant impacts no matter our circumstances.

Finally, the policy of shifting the focus of extensions away from the time that we have lost puts us in a position where the gap between the amount of time we have lost and the amount of time we can claw back through extensions is only going to get wider and wider as this crisis persists. The very presence of this growing gap exacerbates all of the conditions outlined above by adding a great deal of mental, emotional and physical duress in the form of stress and anxiety. Unless there is a greater level of intervention to alleviate the problems of time lost—material, emotional, mental—there is a significant chance that many of us will not complete in time.

In order to remedy the situation we make clear, fair and unambiguous demands:

1. For a blanket 6 month funded extension to ALL UKRI funded PGRs (or the equivalent for part-time students). With renewed disruption, all of us need the extra time in order to prioritise our wellbeing, the wellbeing of our loved ones and to successfully rework our projects in the face of increasingly uncertain and chaotic conditions. Crucially, this should be used to alleviate the emotional, mental and physical cost that comes with the stress of time lost. This should be handed out on the basis of the possibility of opting out, rather than the added burden of collecting evidence and undergoing means-testing. There is always the possibility that those who don’t need the extension can opt out or end the extension if they finish ahead of time. However, if we are required to evidence our difficulties there is a significant risk that those who need it most simply won’t have the means or energy to apply for it.

2. For an additional 3 months of funding to be made available on demand for students with disabilities, health issues including ‘long COVID’, caring responsibilities, and neurodiversities, as they require it. This would go some way to recognise the uneven costs of the Pandemic.

3. To create a grant system for students experiencing increases in the cost of living, through the electricity, heating and water necessary to work from home. Currently, we are not compensated for this increased provision.

4. Any future recommendations regarding PGR funding or coronavirus-related support, are overseen by a panel of student representatives. This panel must be made up of students that represent the entire PGR community, including students who have protected characteristics or come from marginalised socio-economic backgrounds. We are those experiencing the impact and it is vital that we have a meaningful say.

Signed (NINEDTP PGR students):

Ben Bowsher, Newcastle University
Tom Shrimplin, Newcastle University
Lucy Johnson, Durham University
Rachel Reay, Durham University
Liam Devereux, Newcastle University
Jessie Kelly, Newcastle University
Niamh Lear, Newcastle University
Daniel Jones, Newcastle University
Catrin Noone, Durham University
Rachel Clamp, Durham University
Harriet Cansino, Newcastle University
Daniela Morgan Alvarez, Newcastle University
Zara Babakordi, Newcastle University
Heather Proctor, Newcastle University
Melisa Maida, Newcastle University
Heather Mew, Newcastle University
Jocelyn Hickey, Newcastle University
Hannah Sellgren, Durham University
Leah Edwards, Durham University
Andrea Lambell, Durham University
Victoria Jones, Durham University
Jane Wardle, Teesside University
Rachel Kurtz, Durham University
Peter Mason, Durham University
Teresa Garrido Tamayo, Newcastle University
Daniel Whitehouse, Durham University
Ben Hildred, Durham University
Matthew Shahin Richardson, Newcastle University
Will Lloyd, Durham University
Alice-Amber Keegan, Durham University
James Todd, Durham University
Aikumis Raissova, Durham University
Gareth Fearn, Newcastle University
Charlotte Rhodes, Newcastle University
William Hughes, Newcastle University
Matilda Fitzmaurice, Durham University
Sally Watson, Newcastle University
Andreas Krug, Newcastle University
Libby Morrison, Newcastle University
Ana-Maria Cîrstea, Durham University
Robin Watson, Durham University
Heather Mullender-Ross, Newcastle University.
Joe Herbert, Newcastle University
Melissa Whitaker, Newcastle University
Luke Green, Newcastle University
Philippa Carter, Newcastle University
Sebastian Prost, Newcastle University
Ben Rosher, Queen’s University Belfast
Christopher Little, Newcastle University
Julius Nchor, Newcastle University
Florence Darling, Newcastle University
Lucy Carolan, Newcastle University
Bing Zhai, Newcastle University
Robert Bailey, Newcastle University
Monika Brandić Lipińska, Newcastle University
Julie Monroe, Newcastle University
Jodie Hill, Queen’s University Belfast
Alicia Hannah Souter, Newcastle University
Rachael Black, Queen's University Belfast
Dale Pankhurst, Queen’s University Belfast
Courtney Neal, Newcastle University
Paula Nerlich, Newcastle University
Ciara Gorman, Queen’s University Belfast
Nathaniel McGrory, Queen’s University Belfast
Siobhan McAteer, Durham University
Phoebe McKenna-Plumley, Queen’s University Belfast
Katie Robins, Newcastle University
Chris Hotz, Newcastle University
Natalie Bamford, Newcastle University
Katrina Rose, Newcastle University
Zena Agha, Newcastle University
Steve Ward, Newcastle University
Katherine Neate, Newcastle University
Angela Plessas, Newcastle University
Charalampos Paraskevopoulos, Newcastle University
Gemma Molyneux, Newcastle University
Nichola Williams, Newcastle University
Laura Chambers, Newcastle University
Richard Freeman, Newcastle University
Linda Arrighi, Durham University
Jessica Baggaley, Newcastle University
Isobel Miller, Newcastle University
Haoran Sun, Durham University
Dan Nicholls, Durham University
Hester Hockin-Boyers, Durham University
Beth Brewer, Durham University
Josie Tulip, Newcastle University
Olivia Kate Outhwaite, Newcastle University
Ellie Donnelly, Durham University
Emma Maslin, Durham University
Louise Luxton, Newcastle University
Suzanne Froggatt, Durham University
Paul Burgum, Durham University
Emily Wray, Queen’s University Belfast
Áine Poland, Queen’s University Belfast
Laura Prato, Newcastle University
Evie Heard, Queen’s University Belfast
Claire Louise Boden, Newcastle University
Harry Cross, Durham University
Sarah Clowry, Durham University
John Shayegh, Queen’s University Belfast
Peter Hebden, Newcastle University
Ella Dyer, Newcastle University
Anna Gruszczynska, Durham University
Newby McCabe, Durham University
Francesca Speed, Newcastle University
Lynne Cairns, Durham University
Helen Woolley, Newcastle University
Laura McGuire, Durham University
Jessica Miller, Newcastle University
Michael Priestley, Durham University
Meghan Hoyt, Queen’s University Belfast
Raphaela Berding, Newcastle University
Daniel Barwick, Newcastle University
Zoë Bell, Newcastle University
Niall Robb, Queen’s University Belfast
Nafisa Insan, Newcastle University
Elle McWilliam, Newcastle University
Arabethan Lecuyer, Durham University
Muhamad Ali Alsheikh Muhamad, Newcastle University
Angus McVittie, Newcastle University

We the undersigned represent supporters of the NINEDTP PGRs and we list the capacity that we are signing this with next to our names.

Signed (supervisors, DTP staff, non-DTP PGRs):

Ami Nisa, PGR, Northumbria University
Josh Bowsher, Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, Brunel University
Richard Lambeth, PGR, Newcastle University
Robert Cronin, PGR, Newcastle University
Stuart Frazer, PGR, Northumbria University
Gillian Salmon, PGR, Newcastle University
Kieran Cutting, PGR, Newcastle University
Alex Bowyer, PGR, Newcastle University
Dr Robert Shaw, Senior Lecturer in Geography, PGR Supervisor, Newcastle University
Jonathan Pugh, PGR Supervisor, Newcastle University
Matt Benwell, PGR Supervisor, Newcastle University
Prof. Harriet Bulkeley, PGR Supervisor, Durham University
Dr Emma Ormerod, Lecturer, PGR Supervisor (non-NINEDTP), Newcastle University
Prof. Rachel Kendal, Durham University (NINE supervisor)
Dr Matej Blazek, PGR Supervisor (NINE DTP), Newcastle University
Rebecca Liubicich, PGR, Durham University
Sally Street, PGR Supervisor (NINE DTP), Durham University
Dr Caleb Johnston, Newcastle University (PGR NINE supervisor)
Dr Olivia Mason, Newcastle University (NINE DTP Postdoctoral Fellow)
Katy Smith, PGR, Newcastle University
Vicky Blake, President, University and College Union (UCU)
Carl Olsson, PGR, Newcastle University
Dr Donna Marie Brown, PGR supervisor, Durham University
Professor Alison Stenning, Newcastle University (PGR Supervisor, NINE DTP)
Siobhan McGrath, Associate Professor, Durham University, PGR Supervisor (non-NINE DTP)
Dr Paul Chazot, Durham University (2 current PGRs Supervisor, NINE DTP)
Dr Sara L. Uckelman, Assistant Professor, Durham University (PGR supervisor)
Dr Adam Brandt, Senior Lecturer, Newcastle University (PGR supervisor)
Dr Diana Contreras, Research Associate, Newcastle University
Olivia Turner, PGR, Newcastle University
Dr Alison Atkinson-Phillips, Lecturer, Newcastle University
Prof. Caroline Walker-Gleaves, PGR Supervisor, Newcastle University
Dr. Tom Smulders, Newcastle University (UKRI PhD Supervisor)
Hugh Garner, PGR, Newcastle University
Prof. John Wildman, Newcastle University (PGR Supervisor)
Heather McGrath, Research Administrator, Newcastle University
Hanna Burdorf, PGR, Newcastle University
Dr Rachel Stocker, Research Associate, Newcastle University
Dr Lisa Garforth, GPS PG Director, Newcastle University
Katie Fannin, PGR with NWSSDTP, University of Manchester
Prof. Susan Chilton, UKRI GCRF Researcher
Dr Michelle Carr, Newcastle University (PGR Supervisor)
Dr David Stewart, Newcastle University (UCU Branch Chair and PGR supervisor)
Professor Francis Jones, Newcastle University (PGR Supervisor)
Charlotte Boulton, Postgraduate Officer, Newcastle University Students’ Union
Ted Schrecker, Professor of Global Health Policy, Newcastle University
Dr Hanneke Jones, Newcastle University (PGR supervisor)
Ghada Khattab (PGR director and supervisor), Newcastle University
Professor Liz Todd, Director of the Institute for Social Science and PGR supervisor, Newcastle University
Dr Jemima Short, Lecturer, Newcastle University
Dr Caspar Hewett (PGR supervisor, Member of Operational Management Group, ONE Planet DTP), Newcastle University
Laura Braunholtz, PGR, Newcastle University
Dr Gethin Rees, Newcastle University (PhD Supervisor)
Dr Martí López-Andreu, Senior Lecturer, Newcastle University
Dr Anjam Khan, DSenior Lecturer, Newcastle University
Professor Nick Megoran, Newcastle University (PGR supervisor)
Dr. James O’Keeffe, Newcastle University
Dr Lewis Turner, Lecturer, Newcastle University
Prof. Tim Kirk, Newcastle University (PGR Supervisor)
Bethany Little, PGR, Newcastle University
Peter Glick, PGR, Newcastle University
Professor Graham Smith, Newcastle University (PhD and PGR supervisor)
Dr Sara Heitlinger, Lecturer, City, University of London
Dr Eric Tourigny, Lecturer, Newcastle University
Coleen Murty, PGR, Newcastle University
Dr Dimitris Skleparis, Lecturer, Newcastle University
Dr Joanne Sayner, Senior Lecturer, Newcastle University
Dr Helen Underhill, Research Associate, Newcastle University
Dr Ella Mershon, Lecturer, Newcastle University
Dr Duncan Wright, Newcastle University
Matthew Marshall, PGR, Newcastle University
Dr Matt Davies, PGR supervisor, Newcastle University
Dr Nicola Clarke, Lecturer and PGR supervisor, Newcastle University
Dr Alison Copeland, Lecturer and PGR Supervisor, Newcastle University
Dr David Walker, Senior Lecturer, Newcastle University
Dr Martina Balagovic, Lecturer and PGR Supervisor, Newcastle University
Dr Pamela Woolner, Senior Lecturer, PGR supervisor, Newcastle University
Dr Kirsten MacLeod, Reader and PGR supervisor, Newcastle University
Layla van Ellen, PGR, Newcastle University
Alberto Murru, PGR (Northern Bridge DTP), Newcastle University
Aileen Hoenerloh, PGR, Newcastle University
Rosanna Bellini, PGR, Newcastle University
Dr Jacqui Close, Lecturer, Newcastle University
Dr Alison Williams, Reader and PGR Supervisor, Newcastle University
Arlind Reuter, PGR, Newcastle University
Kahina Meziant, PGR, Northumbria University
Stuart Middlemiss, PGR, Newcastle University
Dr Laura Tisdall, Leverhulme Early Career/NUAcT Fellow and PGR Supervisor, Newcastle University
Wezi Thamm, PGR, Newcastle University
Carl Bonner-Thompson, Lecturer, University of Brighton,
Professor Jill Clark, PGR Supervisor and NINEDTP Education pathway leader, Newcastle University
Dr Kate Manzo, Senior Lecturer, Newcastle University
Dr Jonathan Lee, Senior Lecturer, Newcastle University
Dr Susanna Phillippo, Senior Lecturer, Newcastle University
Samantha Finnigan, PGR, Newcastle University and Research Fellow, Northumbria University
Sunil Rodger, PGR, Newcastle University
Al Husein Sami Abosaleh, PGR, Newcastle University
Vasileios Ntouros, PGR, Newcastle University
Alexandra Tzanidou, PGR, Newcastle University
Dr Joss Hands, SACS, PG Director, Newcastle University
Lorenza Ippolito, PGR, University of Brighton.
Jonathan Smith, PGR, University of Manchester
Nichola Strandberg, PGR, University of Southampton
Nicola Thomas, PGR, Swansea University
Matthew Ingham, PGR, University of Manchester
Oana Dragomir, PGR, University of Southampton
Salomé Ietter, PGR, Queen Mary University of London
Yara Shennan-Farpón, PGR London NERC DTP, University College London
Alex Kirby-Reynolds, PGR, University of Sheffield
Michael Pritchard, PGR, Aston University
Eleanor Munro, PGR, University of Birmingham
Alex Nicol-Harper, PGR, University of Southampton
Charlotte Young, PGR, Queen Mary University of London
Marysia Tarnowska, PGR, University of Nottingham
Rosie Baillie, PGR, University of Aberdeen
Joshua Branson, PGR, University of Roehampton
Liz Ackerley, PGR, University of Manchester
Rebecca Slatcher PGR, University of Hull
Bethany Gollan, PGR, Newcastle University
Professor Cathrine Degnen, Newcastle University (PGR supervisor, NINEDTP)
John Clark-Corrigall, PGR, Newcastle University
Fiona Potter, PGR, University of Manchester
Jessica Streets, PGR, University of Nottingham
Caleb Day, PGR, Durham University
Alexandra Payling, PGR , University of Sheffield
Hope Doherty, PGR, Durham University
Anastasia Shaw, PGR, University of York
Katherine Crofts-Gibbons, PGR, King’s College London
Professor Rachel Hammersley, Newcastle University
Dr Paula Salgado, Newcastle University
Dr Rosario Aguilar, Lecturer, Newcastle University
Prof. Bartosz Gebka, Newcastle University (PGR Supervisor)
Prof. Kate Hampshire, Durham University (Head of Anthropology)
Dr Stephen Blenkinsop, Newcastle University (PGR Supervisor)
Alexandra Tomkins, PGR with NWSSDTP, University of Manchester
Dr Damien Hall, Newcastle University (PGR Supervisor)
Professor Rachel Woodward (PGR supervisor) Newcastle University
Dr Jonathan Wistow (PGR supervisor) Durham University
Jack Kennedy, PGR, Newcastle University
Ashley Wilkins, PGR Newcastle University
Holly Middleton-Spencer, PGR Newcastle University
Kate Brown, PGR Newcastle University
Francesca Caloro, PGR Newcastle University
Amy Green, PGR, Newcastle University
Sam Mutter, PGR, Newcastle University
Sean Heath, PGR University of Brighton
Lindsey Furnss, Newcastle University
Jennifer Manuel, PGR (EPSRC CDT), Newcastle University
Samuel Graham, PGR, Newcastle University
Fleur Martin, PGR, University of Warwick
Sabina Sallis, PGR, Newcastle University
Shannon Leakey, PGR, Newcastle University
Alex Hoyos Twomey, PGR, Newcastle University
Charlotte Clayton, PGR, Bournemouth University
Marta Paglioni, PGR, Bournemouth University
Alem Oyarmoi, PGR, Newcastle University
Ann Hemingway Prof Public Health Bournemouth University PGR supervisor
Alex Gough, PGR, Newcastle University
Jack Holt, PGR, Newcastle University
Aleksandra Zaforemska, PGR, Newcastle University
Emily Marsay, PGR, University of Exeter
Adrienne Attorp, PGR, Newcastle University
Caitlin Halfacre, PGR, Newcastle University
Dr Ross Stirling, Newcastle University (PGR supervisor)
Jess Hepburn, PGR, Newcastle University
Sven Berendsen, Newcastle University
Liam Keeble, PGR, Newcastle University
Professor Markus Hausmann, PGR Supervisor (NINE DTP), Durham University
Linda Lidborg, Teaching Fellow, Durham University
Dr Sarah Metcalfe, Former NINE-DTP PGR and Postdoctoral Fellow, Durham University
Dr Stacey Aston, Research Associate, Durham University
Ellie Hemingway, PGR, Durham University
Professor Daniel T. Smith, PGR Supervisor (NINE DTP), Durham University
Dr Dorothy Cowie, Durham University
Merve Ozturk, PGR, Durham University
Natalie Partridge, Newcastle University
Denise Foresteire, PGR, Durham University
Prof Marko Nardini, Durham University
Nikolina Sarcevic, PGR, Newcastle University
Prof Hartmut Behr, Newcastle University (PGR supervisor)
Hazel Dixon, Newcastle University (non-NINEDTP, UKRI funded PGR)
Dafydd Sinden, Newcastle University (Northern Bridge/AHRC-funded PGR)
Dr Ulrik Beierholm, Durham University (PGR Supervisor)
Jamie Cockcroft, University of York (PGR)
Martin Heslop, PGR (Northern Bridge DTP funded), Newcastle University
Dr Ella Dzelzainis, PGR Supervisor, Newcastle University
Dr Hannah Durkin, Newcastle University
Dr Ian G Johnson, Newcastle University
Elle McWilliam, Newcastle University
Professor Rachel Pain, Academic Director (Newcastle) NINEDTP
Dr Zanna Clay, PGR Supervisor, Durham University
Mark Avery, PGR, Durham University
Professor Tim Rapley, Northumbria University (NINE DTP Supervisor)
Dr Nigel Penna, Senior Lecturer, Newcastle University, PGR Supervisor (non-NINEDTP)
Eder Olivas-Ramos, PGR, Durham University
Prof Alex Hughes, Newcastle University
Prof. Cheryl McEwan, NINEDTP PGR Supervisor, Durham University
James Cummings, Senior Research Associate, Newcastle University
Tereza Kunkelova, PGR, University of Southampton
Luca Galantucci, PGR Supervisor, Newcastle University
Nicola O’Brien, NINEDTP PGR Supervisor
Joe Redmayne, Newcastle University (Northern Bridge DTP, AHRC-funded PGR)
Inga Sirbu, PGR, Newcastle University
Poppy Budworth, PGR (NWSSDTP), University of Manchester
Sarah Alewijnse, PGR (SPITFIRE DTP), University of Southampton
Deepti Patel, PGR, Newcastle University
Elena Bendetti, PGR, Newcastle University
Charloitte Underwood, Student Rep INSPIRE DTP, University of Southampton
Mary-Jane Holmes, PGR, Newcastle University
Sandy Avrutin, PGR, University of Southampton
Alexander Macquisten, PGR (NDL-DTP), Newcastle University
Deepti Patel, PGR, Newcastle University