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Graduate School

Post Graduate Research (PGR) Studentship Awards Financial Terms and Conditions - Revisions January 2017

The following Terms and Conditions apply to all University-administered (including Research Council) Postgraduate Research awards. In the case of externally-funded awards, the rules of the Funding Agency e.g. Research Council, take precedence over those of the University; therefore, in the event of any conflict between these Terms and Conditions and those of the Funding Agency, the latter shall prevail. Students in receipt of an externally-funded award should also familiarise themselves with the Funding Agency’s terms and conditions.

1. Full-time postgraduate research students on a University-administered studentship are not nor deemed to be employed by the University and payments to the student are in the form of a maintenance grant, which is not considered taxable income by HMRC, and recipients are eligible for Council Tax exemption certification. Statutory employment laws do not apply.

2. It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that their registration process is complete well in advance of any due maintenance grant payments, as these will only be paid to students who are fully registered with the University.

3. Student registration is required annually and takes place through the on-line enrolment process. Fully registered means that the registration status for the appropriate academic year within the Student Information System (Banner) is classed as “RE”. The “RE” status has to be maintained in order to retain entitlement to the stipend, and the “RE” status has to be in effect at the date of each stipend payment, in order for the stipend payment to be processed. Students should also be aware that there is a lag between achieving “RE” status and the ability of the University to transfer funds to a UK bank account, and so students are responsible for enrolling in a timely manner.

4. The University’s payment method for maintenance grants is in GBP (UK Pounds Sterling) via BACS (Bank Automated Clearing System) into a UK-based bank account. It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that up-to-date bank account details are held by the University, and that any changes in account details are advised at least one month in advance of any due stipend payment, as BACS payments are set-up in advance of the payment date. From authorisation of a BACS payment being submitted to the University’s Finance Department to the funds being transferred to the recipient account can take up to ten working days.

5. As enrolment for first year postgraduate students, by necessity, generally takes place closer to the start of the academic year, students should be aware that it may not be possible to achieve “RE” status, and for BACS instructions to be issued and processed, prior to the student’s start date. Students should, therefore, be aware of the possibility of a short delay and ensure they have sufficient funds to cover this period. On-line enrolment for students commencing their second (or later) year of study is available well in advance (up to 3 months) of the start of the new academic year and students are encouraged to complete registration early to ensure maintenance grant payments continue uninterrupted.

6. Stipend Payments are made quarterly, in advance by the beginning of October, January, April and July respectively. It is possible that, if a student registration state changes from “RE” during that quarter, a stipend “overpayment” may occur, e.g. as the result of an approved suspension of studies. In the event of overpayment, these monies will be due for repayment to the University and will be in the form of invoicing of the overpaid sum.

7. It is the responsibility of the student to understand which circumstances may lead to a student registration status other than “RE”. Common examples include:

i) A student on continuation (registration status "CO"). Continuation is the period after supervised study, commonly called writing-up. Maintenance grant payments are not paid to students on continuation.

ii) A student who submits early, during their period of supervised study. Once a thesis is submitted, a student is no-longer a "registered student" (RE), but a student "under examination" (UE). Maintenance grant payments are not usually paid to students under exam, although it may be possible for a student to retain any stipend payment made in advance, for the quarter in which the thesis is submitted where:

- The student continues to undertake work that is directly linked to their thesis

- And where the student has made a case for a short continuation of funding based on an agreed programme of work. Approval will need to be sought from the Deputy Head of Faculty (PGR) via the Student Immigration & Funding Office (SIFO), for continued funding, in advance of the thesis being submitted.

Students who submit early to undertake full time paid employment will not be eligible for a stipend payment for the period after the thesis submission date and will be required to repay to the University any stipend paid in advance.

8. Suspensions of study may be made for occurrences such as illness, internships, research placements etc. and all requests for a suspension of study should be applied for in a timely manner as some Research Councils will not allow retrospective applications to be considered. Applications for suspensions of study should be sent by the Department to SIFO (financialsupport.postgraduate@durham.ac.uk) in the first instance which will then be forwarded to Academic Support Office (ASO) for approval.

If a student is prevented from studying by illness for a continuous period of more than two weeks, he/she must inform his/her supervisor immediately and provide a medical certificate. This information must be passed on to the SIFO immediately who can advise on what the best next steps are having due regard where applicable to the terms and conditions of the particular funding agency.

Payment of a studentship may continue for absences covered by a medical certificate for up to a cumulative total of thirteen weeks within any 12-month period. If the illness lasts, or is expected to last, for more than thirteen weeks, arrangements to suspend the studentship should be made. During the initial 13 weeks period the student may continue to receive a stipend payment but no additional time will be added onto the end of supervised study.

It is recommended that where the illness is likely to exceed one month that the student should consider applying for a suspension of studies. The suspension of studies will be unfunded, however the time will be added to the end of the current end date of the studentship, and stipend payments will recommence on the return to their studies up to and including the revised end date.

Where suspensions are agreed, total periods of suspension must not normally exceed one calendar year during the lifetime of the award.

If an award is suspended for any reason, the student must repay to the University any monies including maintenance grant, fieldwork contribution, etc. overpaid to them. All debts that arise as a result of overpayments, for whatever reason, will be actively pursued by the University.

All other concessions for a break in studies will result in the loss of the “RE” student status and a suspension (or repayment claim) of the stipend payment.

9. For Research Council studentships, the University may approve a change in the mode of study from part-time to full-time or vice-versa. Possible reasons for a change of mode of study may include changes in a student’s personal or employment circumstances. The Research Councils have advised that the University should not approve a change to the mode of study for health reasons unless medical evidence indicates that part- time study is feasible and full-time study is not. In other cases, a suspension is the more appropriate course of action. Where the studentship is funded by a Research Council the University will not be able to agree the following, without consultation with the relevant Research Council:

i) More than one change of mode of study during any one studentship.

ii) A change of mode of study in the final six months of a studentship.

It is recommended that, where possible, changes of mode of study should take effect from the beginning of a quarter (i.e. 1 October, 1 January, 1 April, or 1 July) as this makes the calculation, payment and reconciliation of students’ funding more straightforward. Students should contact SIFO in the first instance to ensure that such changes are permissible within the rules of their sponsor.

10. Research Council funded students are entitled to 52 weeks of maternity or shared parental leave. The first 26 weeks should be paid at full stipend rate. The following 13 weeks should be paid at a level commensurate with employee entitlements to statutory maternity pay, at 41% of the minimum doctoral stipend, (the recommended rate from the Research Councils). The final 13 weeks are not paid.

Partners (a person taking on an active role as a parent to the child) are entitled to up to 10 days paid Ordinary Paternity Leave on full stipend. Partners may be entitled to up to 50 weeks of Shared Parental Leave; this may include paid and unpaid leave, depending on the individual circumstances, any paid leave should be at full maintenance grant level. There is no qualifying period for maternity, paternity, adoption or shared parental leave.

Students funded by Research Councils wishing to request a break in studies to cover a period of maternity, parenting or adoption leave should first seek advice from SIFO, as soon as possible, and before submitting a concession request, so that they can be guided according to their specific circumstances and the rules applicable to their grant.

Students receiving funding through the “Durham Doctoral Studentship Scheme (DDS)” will be entitled to the same maternity, paternity and adoption leave allowance as students funded by a Research Council, however students funded through other funding agencies should contact SIFO in the first instance so that clarification may be sought from their funder.

To be eligible for these benefits the expected date of confinement/adoption must occur during the period of their award.

The University has the discretion to recover from a student, on a sliding scale, any stipend payments made to the student during parenting leave should the student not return to their studies, or leave within three months from the end of the period of suspension.

11. Annual leave allowance of up to thirty (30) days per calendar year is permitted, which shall include an allowance of twelve (12) days that is the equivalent of eight (8) national public holidays, and four (4) university customary days. Leave shall be agreed in advance with your supervisor, and may include taking the public holiday/customary days allowance on alternative dates if required. If a studentship covers a period of less than 12 months in any academic year, a student's holiday entitlement will be reduced on a pro-rata basis.

Students are reminded that they should take any pro rata annual leave entitlement before submitting their thesis as once a student has submitted their thesis they are deemed to be under examination” (UE) when all rights to annual leave will cease and any stipend already received for the period after submission of the thesis will need to be repaid.

12. Where a student who has commenced their award with the intention of undertaking doctoral study, fails to meet the requirements to allow transfer to doctoral study there are two options:

i) if the student is not continuing to study, then the award must be terminated from the date the student’s registration ceases and any funding overpaid to the student must be reclaimed.

ii) it may be agreed that the student can continue towards a Master’s qualification and this will be confirmed as the exit point for that student. In this case, it is permissible for the student’s funding to continue up to the date the dissertation is submitted. The University must make every effort to ensure the decision to proceed to a Masters instead of a doctorate is taken as soon as possible. Once agreed, there must be a clearly communicated and timely deadline for completion of the Masters. Students who continue studies beyond one year are included in the annual submission survey and Masters-level qualifications are not recorded as doctoral outcomes. Approval for this should be sought from the Deputy Head of Faculty (PGR) before the student embarks on the Masters qualification.

If an award is prematurely terminated for any reason, the student must repay any monies including maintenance grant, fieldwork contribution, etc. overpaid to them. All debts that arise as a result of overpayments, for whatever reason, must be actively pursued by the University.

13. The student must live within a reasonable travel time of the University or collaborative organisation to ensure that they are able to maintain regular contact with their department and their supervisor. The only exceptions to these requirements are to cover periods of absence that are an essential part of their study e.g. fieldwork, study visits or conference attendance. All study undertaken as part of the award must be carried out within the UK, except as part of overseas fieldwork which is an integral part of the study, conferences, or training. Students may not, for example, write up their thesis whilst resident outside the UK during the period of their award. In such a case fees and/or maintenance grant will not be payable in respect of the student award. Students must be resident close to the University at which they are registered and we would expect there to be direct contact between the student and supervisor. This applies to full-time and part-time students.

14. Students who may be eligible for additional support because of a disability, which obliges them to incur additional expenditure in undertaking their training, should contact SIFO for appropriate advice on how to access this support.

15. Extensions to a thesis submission date cannot be considered in retrospect and students are advised to contact SIFO within 2-3 months of the current thesis submission date should they wish to apply for an extension. These will only be considered for unexpected and exceptional circumstances that have occurred since the funding has finished i.e. during the ‘writing up’ or continuation period, and should reflect the actual time lost, up to a maximum of 12 months. The request must be supported in writing by the student and their supervisor and be fully supported by appropriate evidence e.g. a doctor’s letter if the request is based on illness. Extensions to the submission date cannot be granted for periods of employment (no matter how relevant they may be to the writing-up of a thesis or to career opportunities).

16. The above terms and conditions will be available on the Durham University website (www.dur.ac.uk/graduate.school/finance/awardholders/pgr_terms_and_conditions), and shall supersede all previous versions, and be the version applicable to all current Postgraduate Research Awards

Approved by the Dean of Education

This version – 26th January 2017


[1] The SIFSO postgraduate support team can be contacted on 0191 334 6238/0191 334 6485 or financialsupport.postgraduate@durham.ac.uk