ESRC Scholarships - Information for Award Holders and Departments

This information is for all ESRC funded postgraduate research students. For the full terms and conditions of the award and allowances available, please refer to the ESRC Postgraduate Funding Guides.

You should also read this in conjunction with the most recent Code of Practice for Research Degree Programmes, which contains a wide range of information common to all students, such as on registration and fees, time limits, the Research Training Programme, supervision, and thesis preparation and submission. As an ESRC funded student you are also subject to Research Council requirements, some of which are detailed here.

This page contains information on:

Award details and finances

Payment

A fully-funded full-time ESRC student will receive a maintenance stipend at least equal to the ESRC minimum rate, tuition fees, a Research Training and Support Grant (RTSG) and access to additional allowances as detailed below.

A fully-funded part-time ESRC student will receive a pro-rata maintenance stipend at least equal to the ESRC minimum rate, part-time tuition fees, and a pro-rata Research Training and Support Grant (RTSG) and access to additional allowances as detailed below.

A fees-only ESRC student will receive tuition fees, and a Research Training and Support Grant (RTSG) and access to additional allowances as detailed below.

ESRC will not pay continuation, extension or resubmission fees.

The length of your scholarship is stated in your award letter.

The ESRC pays tuition fees directly to the University. Maintenance is paid by the University, quarterly in advance, into your bank account. Payment dates for the current year and information on how to provide or change your bank details can be found on the main scholarships information page.

Research Training Support Grant (RTSG)

Once the +3 element of a studentship has started, all students will be eligible for a Research Training Support Grant (RTSG) including a UK Fieldwork Allowance. This includes part-time and fees-only award holders. The RTSG is not payable for students undertaking the Masters element of a studentship (the 1 of a 1+3 and the first 2 of a 2+ 2 award).

This allowance is intended to be used to pay for expenses which the student/ supervisor/department deem to be in direct support of a student's research. Examples are:

  • UK Fieldwork Expenses,
  • UK, EU and overseas conferences and summer schools,
  • language training courses usually undertaken in the UK prior to an overseas fieldwork trip,
  • reimbursement of interpreters, guides, assistants,
  • survey costs, e.g. printing, stationery, telephone calls,
  • purchase of small items of equipment e.g. cameras, tape recorders, films, cassettes, and
  • gifts for local informants.

This allowance is personal to the student who is fully entitled to use this grant for the purposes outlined above. If a student does not spend this allowance in full during the academic year, they can carry over any unspent funds in to the next academic year as long as this is within the period of their ESRC award. This allowance must not be top-sliced or 'pooled' by the department/institution. Department costs that need to be met, including the use of facilities, should be charged to the student on a 'pay for use' basis not as a flat fee.

In exceptional circumstances, institutions may consider requests from award holders to purchase laptop or other computer equipment from this allowance. Any such request must be clearly and adequately justified based on the nature of the research being undertaken and as being essential for the successful completion of the PhD. In these instances, any equipment purchased in excess of £200 (excl VAT) should remain in the custody of the University following completion of the award.

Undertaking paid work

The ESRC encourages research students to undertake a certain amount of paid teaching or other research work during the period of a scholarship, if the opportunity arises. Such work may be undertaken provided:

  • The student spends a minimum of 1,800 hours each academic year on their doctoral research and research training. This figure equates to a 37.5 hour week for 48 weeks. You should note that ESRC allows for 8 weeks holiday per year and when this is taken into account, reduces the 1800 hours figure to 1,650.
  • The student is paid at the usual University rate and receive formal training.
  • The work is compatible with the programme of doctoral study.
  • The supervisor approves.

Students may undertake a small amount of other paid work, either in term time or vacation. The ESRC does not, however, encourage such work especially during the times when they are expected to be engaged fully in research training and thesis preparation. Full-time ESRC studentship award holders cannot also hold either a full-time job, or a permanent part-time job, during the period of their award.

If you take up a salaried position at the University, ESRC will not continue funding (even for part-time study) and will terminate the studentship. If it is a short term appointment it may be possible to take a leave of absence from your PhD and suspend your studentship for the relevant period.


Additional allowances

Difficult Language Training

This is a paid extension that allows students extra time to acquire or develop a working ability with a difficult language in order to carry out fieldwork or other parts of their research.

ESRC students are eligible to apply for this allowance if they are:

  • fully funded; AND
  • in the doctoral (+3) phase of their award, AND
  • the proposed language training was outlined in the original proposal.

Features

The length of the extension is generally determined by the type and nature of the language to be learnt, combined with the student's own background. Extensions beyond six months are only normally allowed if the student needs to spend an extended period overseas in order to obtain these language skills. Please see the ESRC Postgraduate Funding Guide for further information on the groupings.

How to apply

  1. The student and their supervisor complete the DLT Form (available to download from the box on the right). This should contain sufficient detail to show that the department agrees with the need for difficult language training.
  2. Return the form to pgr-scholarships@sheffield.ac.uk, at least one month prior to the proposed training.
  3. If successful, Research & Innovation Services will write to the student, supervisor and departmental PG co-ordinator to confirm the details of the allowance. 

Disabled Students Allowance (DSA)

If a student has a long-term disability and as a result of that disability they are obliged to incur additional expenditure in connection with their studies, they may be eligible for an extra allowance. This can cover costs relating to additional daily expenses, special equipment or non-medical help. Any requests for DSA must be made and agreed in advance of the student committing any expenditure for which ESRC funding is sought. No awards can be made for retrospective purchase of any equipment, facilities or personal assistance in connection with a student's disability. 

How to apply

  1. You should discuss additional support needs with the Disability & Dyslexia Support Service as soon as possible, to ensure that you will have access to the best and most appropriate support throughout your study.
  2. The Disability Officer arranges a needs assessment to determine what support you require. Please let the Disability Officer know that you are funded by ESRC.
  3. The Disability & Dyslexia Support Service will confirm details of your DSA and the University will claim the funds back from ESRC.

Language training for UK fieldwork

Students can apply for a £200 award if they are conducting fieldwork in the UK and need to learn a difficult language, for example Welsh, Gaelic or sign languages. No increase to the award length can be granted in these instances.

Students should discuss this with their supervisor in the first place, who should then apply to pgr-scholarships@sheffield.ac.uk

Overseas Fieldwork Expenses - non-DTC students (students who started prior to October 2011)

Where it is an essential part of a student's training, the ESRC will consider contributing towards the costs of overseas fieldwork. It does not cover fieldwork carried out within the UK, which is covered by the RTSG. The proposed overseas fieldwork must have been outlined in the original proposal, or at the end of the first year of a 1+3 award, and must be an integral part of the PhD.

Eligibility

ESRC students are eligible for this allowance if they are:

  • fully funded (i.e. not fees only); AND
  • full-time; AND
  • in the doctoral (+3) phase of their award, AND
  • not in the last three months of their award.

* Part-time students can become eligible if they transfer to a full-time status for the duration of the fieldwork.

Only one application for overseas fieldwork expenses can be made during the life of the award.

Features 

Successful students will receive an up-front payment for travel expenses (such as return travel) and a weekly amount. The amount of funding varies depending on the cost of living in the country visited. These amounts can be found in the ESRC Postgraduate Funding Guide.

The award is intended to cover all elements of the trip including an allowance for medical insurance. Students are required to arrange adequate insurance cover before their trip. The University cannot authorise payment of any contribution towards fieldwork costs where the Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises against travel to the country concerned.

How to apply - non-DTC students 

  1. The student and their supervisor complete the Overseas Fieldwork Expenses Form (available to download from the box on the right). This should contain sufficient detail to show that the department agrees with the need for overseas fieldwork and approves of the length of time the fieldwork is planned.
  2. Return the form to pgr-scholarships@sheffield.ac.uk at least 3 months prior to the proposed date of travel.
  3. Research & Innovation Services will review the application and let you know if it has been approved. You will receive a letter detailing the level of expenses you have been awarded, and how to claim these.

Overseas Fieldwork Expenses - WR DTC students (students who started from 2011 onwards).

ESRC students are eligible for this allowance if they are:

  • fully funded (i.e. not fees only); AND
  • full-time; AND
  • in the doctoral (+3) phase of their award, AND
  • not in the last three months of their award.

* Part-time students can become eligible if they transfer to a full-time status for the duration of the fieldwork.

Only one application for overseas fieldwork expenses can be made during the life of the award.

How to apply - WR DTC students (students who started from 2011 onwards).

There will be 3 calls per year requesting applications to the fund. The timetable for each application round and details of how to apply can be found on the ESRC WR DTC website.

This application is for a contribution towards the cost of an Overseas Fieldwork Visit. As there are only limited funds available, not all costs will necessarily be met. However students may use their Research Training Support Grant to supplement the costs associated with overseas fieldwork, but this is entirely at the student’s discretion.


Additional funding opportunities

Overseas Institutional Visit

If you are a full-time ESRC student you are eligible to apply for financial support for overseas institutional visits (OIVs) during the period of your award. This additional funding provides you with the opportunity to go to overseas universities or esteemed research organisations to:

•establish research networks
•disseminate early research findings
•participate in seminars and other academic activities that are directly relevant to your research
•undertake specialist research training that is not available within the UK.

How to apply

Please see http://wrdtc.ac.uk/esrc-students-only-overseas-institutional-visits-scheme/ for details of how to apply to the OIV scheme.

Internship Scheme

The ESRC Internship Scheme is a joint initiative offering ESRC funded PhD students in their second or third years (or part-time equivalent) the opportunity to undertake a three month paid internship within a public, private or third (voluntary) sector organisation. Details of the internship scheme and how to apply can be found on the ESRC website.

Skills training

The ESRC expects funded doctoral students to receive appropriate training and support to complete a high-quality doctoral thesis and to develop the knowledge and skills necessary for future employment. The University provides this training via the Doctoral Development Programme (DDP). Information on other training opportunities can be found on the ESRC White Rose DTC website.

ESRC runs a number of media training courses - see the ESRC website for details.

GRADschools

The ESRC contributes to an annual programme of graduate schools which aim to enable research students to take control of their future and achieve their potential. The schools allow students to develop key generic and transferable skills by working in teams from a wide range of disciplines and institutions. All ESRC funded doctoral students from the second year onwards can apply to attend free of charge (travelling expenses have to be paid by the student), and the ESRC strongly encourages its students to do so.

There are three types of GRAD courses: National GRAD schools (residential courses, between three and five days in length); Local GRAD schools (run at regional level, between one and four days, residential and non-residential); and other GRAD courses (shorter sessions run at universities and at conferences designed to meet the individual needs of the institution). More details and online booking are available on the VITAE website.

Alternatively you may be able to attend an equivalent graduate school or courses organised by the University. The Graduate Research Centre provides information on the courses available.

ESRC Expectations

Progress

ESRC scholarships are subject to satisfactory progress. If you do not meet the University's requirements for satisfactory progress, your scholarship may be suspended or terminated.

Location of study

You are expected to remain resident in the UK, and close to the University throughout your studentship. The ESRC expects you to attend and to maintain regular contact with your supervisor and other institutional authorities. The only exceptions are for periods of essential fieldwork or study visits, attendance at conferences, or for collaborative doctoral students, whilst working with a collaborating organisation. You should maintain regular contact with your supervisor during any extended period of fieldwork.

Submission date

Timely completion of the project is a requirement of the University and the ESRC. ESRC funded students are normally expected to submit by the end of the funded period. The maximum amount of time allowed for submission is one year following the end of the funded period for full-time students, or two years for part-time students, except where there has been a formally agreed suspension (e.g. for maternity or illness).

The ESRC submission deadline is entirely independent of any date set by the University or the Department, although these should coincide.

The ESRC will not accept a retrospective extension to a submission deadline, so it is important that you inform Research & Innovation Services at the time of any circumstance which has, or might have in the future, a bearing on your ability to meet the submission deadline.

Submission dates will normally be extended to take account of any period of suspension notified during a scholarship, but only in exceptional circumstances will they be extended on account of difficulties that arise during the writing up period. Such difficulties may relate to illness, accident, exceptional personal circumstances or maternity. Extensions will not be granted retrospectively for difficulties or periods of suspension that were not notified at the time.

Full-time students are not encouraged to take up employment until after submitting their thesis. You will find it much more difficult to finish writing your thesis whilst also in employment, and the ESRC will not grant extensions on the grounds that a student has taken up employment of any kind.

Students/ supervisors should contact pgr-scholarships@sheffield.ac.uk to inform us of any such circumstances or to discuss requesting an extension. Extensions are subject to approval by ESRC.


Changes affecting ESRC funding

Suspensions

Scholarships are intended to be held on a continuous basis, without a break. Sometimes, however, a student may need to interrupt their programme of study. This may arise for reasons such as maternity or illness, or due to personal or family reasons. A period of suspension may be requested during which the student is not entitled to receive a maintenance grant or tuition fees. Requests for suspension will not be approved for the purpose of employment, temporary lectureships, exchange visits, voluntary service overseas or expeditions/sport.

Suspensions can be approved, provided that:

  • The total period/s of suspension during the tenure of the scholarship does not exceed 12 months. A scholarship will normally be extended by the length of the suspension. Any period of suspension will also be taken into account when the ESRC calculates the submission date.
  • The supervisor has given their permission for the student to suspend their studies. For CASE awards, the collaborative partner must also indicate their approval of any requested suspension period.
  • The supervisor certifies that the suspension of studies will not delay the submission of the final thesis by more than the length of the suspension.
  • The request is made in advance: retrospective requests will not be accepted.

If the maintenance grant covering all or part of the proposed period of suspension has already been paid then the University will ask the student to repay the amount that has been overpaid.

How to apply for a suspension

  1. You should discuss the need for a suspension with your supervisor. If you need advice on how this will affect your ESRC scholarship, please contact pgr-scholarships@sheffield.ac.uk
  2. Email the Scholarships Team to let us know you will be requesting a Leave of Absence and suspension of your scholarship.
  3. Follow the University's procedures for requesting a Leave of Absence. Make sure you enter ESRC as your funder. Providing you have emailed the Scholarships Team to let us know about your proposed Leave of Absence, you can tick the box to confirm that you have informed your sponsor.
  4. The Research Degree Support team will process the Leave of Absence and inform the Scholarships Officer who will ensure that ESRC is informed and arrange the suspension of payments.

Unauthorised absence

Any periods of unauthorised absence must be reported to Research & Innovation Services by the supervisor, for which an abatement of the award will be made.

Illness

If a student is prevented from working by illness for a continuous period of more than two weeks they must inform their supervisor immediately and send in a medical certificate. They should also inform their supervisor if they suffer frequent short absences for medical or other reasons that are likely to lead to considerable delay in their programme of study. This is particularly important as periods of leave notified in this way can be taken into account when calculating their thesis submission date.

Payment of a scholarship can continue for absences covered by a medical certificate for up to 13 weeks within any 12-month period (doctoral students only). If the illness lasts, or is expected to last, for more than 13 weeks, the scholarship will be suspended and the expected submission date will be extended correspondingly. In such circumstances, you the student wish to seek advice from SSID about other possible sources of financial support. The student must follow the procedures above for requesting a suspension.

Maternity, Paternity and Adoption leave

If a student becomes pregnant with an expected date of childbirth that occurs during the period of the award, or adopts a child, they are entitled to a six-month period of maternity/adoption leave during which the ESRC will continue to pay maintenance grant and tuition fees, and the studentship will be extended accordingly. The student may also request a suspension of the award for a further six months after this period, during which no maintenance grant or tuition fees are payable. The paid period of absence and the suspension should be taken consecutively.

Due to the structured nature of most taught Master's programmes, students who take maternity leave during the 1 element of their 1+3 award are expected to rejoin their course in the subsequent year at the stage at which they left it. This is to ensure that all elements of the training are successfully completed in advance of the +3 element of their award. This would normally require the six months paid maternity leave to be automatically followed by a six-month period of unpaid leave.

Students are entitled to a total of 10 days paternity leave, to be taken at any time during their partner's pregnancy or within three months following the birth. The ESRC will continue to pay maintenance grant and tuition fees during this period. This period is regarded as additional leave of absence and scholarships will not be extended. If further time is needed a request to suspend the scholarship should be made, during which the student will not be entitled to receive any maintenance grant or tuition fees.

To apply for maternity, paternity or adoption leave, you should follow the procedures above for requesting a suspension, ensuring that you include a copy of the MATB1 certificate.

Transferring between full-time and part-time study

You may, in exceptional circumstances, apply to transfer from a part-time to a full-time scholarship or vice-versa. Ideally any transfer will take effect at the beginning of a quarter (1 October, 1 January, 1 April or 1 July).

Reasons for a transfer may include changes domestic or employment circumstances. We will not normally approve a transfer for health reasons where a suspension is more appropriate, but will consider applications where medical evidence indicates that part-time study is suitable, while full-time study is not. Under ESRC regulations, any such transfer is permanent, and you may not transfer back to your original mode of attendance.

You cannot transfer in the final six-months of a scholarship award or in any writing-up period.

If you transfer status, you will be subject to the terms and conditions relating to that new status. The length of your scholarship and submission date will be recalculated accordingly. You may be asked to re-pay any overpayment of maintenance already received

To request a transfer, you should first contact your supervisor, who must give their approval. You should follow the University's procedures for requesting a Change of Candidature – this will be processed by the Research Degree Support team who will inform the Scholarships Officer, who will then update the ESRC records and arrange any changes to payments.


Termination of awards

The ESRC will consider termination only as a last resort, since the objective is to enable students to bring their studies to a successful completion. However, students should be aware that the ESRC reserves the right to terminate a scholarship where a student or their University breaks any of the terms and conditions, if their progress is unsatisfactory or if they are absent from their studies without authorisation.

Early submission of a doctoral thesis

If a student finishes their studies before the end of their award, supervisors must give students formal written notice of the date, which should be mutually agreed with the student, on which training will be deemed to have ended. It is reasonable, assuming the agreement of the supervisor in consultation with the student that up to four weeks notice may be allowed to complete domestic arrangements together with up to two weeks leave. This period should not extend beyond the next date for payment of the maintenance grant.

If a student submits their thesis before the end of their award, continuation of funding can be considered if the student has an agreed programme of work related to the publication of their research which they propose to pursue.

Withdrawal

If you are considering withdrawing from their studies, you should discuss this matter first with your supervisor/departmental Postgraduate Tutor/Head of Department. If, following careful consideration and discussion, you still wish to withdraw, you should follow the University's procedures for withdrawal ensuring that the date of withdrawal and brief reasons for the decision are included.

Entitlement to payments ends on the withdrawal date, and you will be expected to repay any maintenance or fieldwork contribution overpaid to you.


Further information

ESRC DTC students will find further relevant information on the Social Sciences DTC web pages.

If you have any queries, please contact the PGR Scholarships Team at pgr-scholarships@sheffield.ac.uk.