Discretionary Postgraduate Stipend Process
If support is to be offered in the form of both Stipend payment and employment, then both processes One and Two must be operated in full.
Enquiries about this process should be directed to the:
Postgraduate Financial Support Officer
Student Immigration and Financial Support Office (SIFSO)
0191 334 6485
This process is for Postgraduate (Research), and Postgraduate (Taught), students after they have commenced their studies.
It is recognised that from time-to-time Academic Supervisors or Academic Departments may wish to provide some form of Financial Support to students that have already commenced their studies at Durham University, usually as a means of assisting the student to complete and submit in a timely fashion.
The most common scenario is where a PGR student has gone into Continuation (also known as the “writing up” period), and their original source of funding (eg RCUK or DDS stipend) has ceased, but the student is still writing up and has not yet submitted. Supervisors are aware that if a student is forced to seek external employment to fund the writing-up period, this may impact upon the timeliness of thesis submission, and submission rates are actively monitored by many external funding agencies.
Informal arrangements, whereby Supervisors or Departments arrange stipend or employment for such students are not permissible (even from individual research accounts, consultancy or other discretionary funds) because such payments create uncontrollable risks for the student, the academic member of staff, the Department and/or the University with regards to several legislative issues including (but not exclusively):
- Personal taxation liabilities
- National Insurance contributions,
- Pension entitlement liabilities,
- Insurance Cover (both protecting the individual or the University),
- Immigration visa requirements (if student is an overseas national, risk of either severe personal consequences if student has the incorrect visa status, or risk of the University attracting Civil Penalty, compromising its Highly Trusted Status)
- Fairness and Equity processes and risk of challenge from unsupported students
This page outlines the procedures that must be followed if Academic Supervisors or Departments wish to support such students with Discretionary Financial Support arrangements for a short (generally 6 months or less) specified period.
The page also gives guidance as to which processes should be followed if support is proposed for a longer period, especially if this period is after thesis submission, for example a period to cover the publication of research results.
Three discretionary financial support routes are envisaged:
- Discretionary financial support is in the form of postgraduate stipend payments, which are tax free, but can only occur up to the point of thesis submission. Tax-free stipend payments cannot cover the period between submission and examination, as the individual is no longer considered to be a student during that time.
- Discretionary financial support is in the form of employment of the student, either working with the supervising academic and/or immediate research team, or within the student’s Department/Faculty. This would most commonly be within the context of continuing or publishing the work that is central to the thesis.
- A combination of routes 1 and 2 above.
Process One – Discretionary financial support in the form of postgraduate stipend payments.
In this process, payments are made to the student by the Student Immigration and Financial Support Office (SIFSO) within the Academic Office.
In order to initiate such payments a Discretionary Postgraduate Stipend Gift Agreement Form must be completed and signed by the student’s supervisor and the Department Budget Officer. This must take place BEFORE any payments to the student can commence.
- Discretionary Stipend T&C (last modified: 18 May 2018)
Process Two – Discretionary financial support in the form of employment
In this process, payments are made to the student for work undertaken on behalf of the supervisor (and/or department). Prior to supporting a student via this process, the Supervisor must have regard to the following points:
1) The number of hours offered must be considered in the context of the guidance issued by the Careers, Employability and Enterprise Centre
2) Any visa restrictions that the student may have if they are a non-UK citizen. The visa restrictions apply working hour limits to the student, NOT the job. It is, therefore, imperative that, if an overseas student on a Tier 4 is working elsewhere, these hours are also taken into account, in conjunction with the proposed hours to be offered, to ensure limits are not breeched. Working excess hours has serious consequences for the student and the University and may affect the ability of the student to re-enter the UK and of the University to sponsor overseas students. The student and the supervisor should seek advice if there is any doubt.
3) Any restrictions on working before submission set out within the terms of any grant or maintenance payments that the student may have received to fund their main period of supervised study. Most of the Research Councils have clauses about students taking up paid employment before they have submitted and defended their thesis. Failure to abide by these rules can have serious consequences on the University’s eligibility to claim funds from the Research Council, the ability to alter submission dates in the event of concessions being raised, and an adverse impact on submission rates. It is imperative that any offer of employment does NOT compromise the student ‘s status to be classed as a successful submitter or on the University’s submission rates as compiled by the funder (for note, a successful completion by an RCUK-funded student, who gains a Durham degree, may not be considered a successful submission by the Research Council, if the degree takes too long to be awarded). Guidance can be referenced at firstname.lastname@example.org
4) Work is offered in a fair and equitable fashion. For further guidance, please see clause 5 within the Discretionary Stipend Gift Agreement.
If it is concluded that discretionary financial support in the form of short-term employment (3 months or less is preferable, up to 6 months might be permissible after consultation with Human Resources) is required, then reference should be made to the Human Resources process outlined in the two following documents, which should be followed:
- Process to engage postgraduates in order to support their studies (last modified: 21 January 2014)
- Specimen Employment Letter (last modified: 19 June 2013)