MRC Scholarships – Information for Award Holders and Departments

This information is for all MRC funded postgraduate research students, including doctoral, CASE, and awards attached to MRC research grants. For the full terms and conditions of the award and allowances available, please refer to the MRC Postgraduate Studentships Handbook (available for download from the box on the right).

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 MRC funded student you are also subject to Research Council requirements, some of which are detailed here.

Tenure of the award

Length of the award

The length of a student's award will be stated in the letter offering the award, or in the nomination confirmation. Continuation of all awards is subject to the MRC receiving confirmation from the University of the student's satisfactory annual progress. Satisfactory progress includes gaining a Master's level qualification and/or passing the Confirmation Review, as applicable for that student.

Submission date

MRC funded students are required to complete their studies by submission of a PhD thesis within an agreed period of time. This is the submission date.

Normally submission is expected at 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 and within two years for part-time students, except where there has been a formally agreed abeyance period (e.g. for maternity or illness).

The MRC submission deadline is entirely independent of any date set by the University or the Department, although the two should coincide. It is therefore important that students follow the correct procedures outlined below.

Extensions

Timely completion of the project is a requirement of both the University and the MRC, and both students and supervisors are strongly encouraged to work towards this end.

Extensions to submission dates will only be considered in circumstances outlined below. The MRC will not agree any retrospective extension to a submission deadline. It is therefore important that the student ensures that Research & Innovation Services is informed at the time of any circumstance which have, or might have in the future, a bearing on the planned timetable for their research and consequently their ability to meet the submission deadline.

While the MRC will normally extend a submission date to take account of any period of suspension notified during a scholarship, only in exceptional circumstances will they consider extending the target date for submission on account of difficulties that arise during the writing up period. 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. Students will find it much more difficult to finish writing their thesis whilst also in employment. The MRC will not grant extensions on the grounds that they have taken up employment of any kind.


Finances

Award details

A fully-funded full-time MRC student will receive a maintenance stipend at least equal to the MRC minimum rate, tuition fees, and a Research Training and Support Grant (RTSG)(which includes UK fieldwork and attendance at conferences) and payment of additional allowances as detailed below.

A fully-funded part-time MRC student will receive a pro-rata maintenance stipend at least equal to the MRC minimum rate, part-time tuition fees, and a pro-rata Research Training and Support Grant (RTSG) (which includes UK fieldwork and attendance at conferences) and payment of additional allowances as detailed below.

A fees-only MRC student will receive tuition fees, and a Research Training and Support Grant (RTSG) (which includes UK fieldwork and attendance at conferences) and payment of additional allowances as detailed below.

The MRC will not pay continuation, extension or resubmission fees.

Payment

The MRC pays tuition fees directly to the University. Maintenance payments are made by the University on a quarterly basis in advance and paid directly into the student's bank account. The maintenance grant for each quarter is calculated from the first day of the relevant month. Students can provide their bank details to the University by logging in to MUSE, going to the 'Quick Links' section, and choosing the option 'University Payments Bank Details'.

Research Training Support Grant (RTSG)

All students will be eligible for a Research Training Support Grant (RTSG) including a UK Fieldwork Allowance. 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 MRC 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 should remain in the custody of the University following completion of the award.

Undertaking paid work

The MRC 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 total demand on their time does not exceed six hours in any week.
  • 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 MRC 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 MRC studentship award holders cannot also hold either a full-time job, or a permanent part-time job, during the period of their award.


Additional allowances

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 AHRC 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. The student and their supervisor should discuss additional support needs with the Disability & Dyslexia Support Service as soon as possible, as this will ensure that the student will have access to the best and most appropriate support throughout their study.
  2. The Disability Officer arranges a needs assessment with the student to determine what support he/she needs and will complete the DSA Approval Form (available to download from the box on the right) and return it to the MRC.
  3. The MRC will confirm the details of the award and the Disability & Dyslexia Support Service will write to the student, supervisor and departmental PG co-ordinator to confirm the details of the allowance.

Overseas Fieldwork Expenses

Where it is an essential part of a student's training, the MRC 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 and must be an integral part of the PhD.

Students are eligible for this allowance if they are fully funded AND not in the last three months of their award. Only one application for an 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 Annex 1 of the MRC Postgraduate Studentships Handbook.

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.

An overseas fieldwork visit may last up to 12 consecutive months and is counted as part of the student´s period of doctoral study, and as such the period of award and the submission date will not be extended to reflect periods in the field.

If the student remains in the field for periods longer than has been formally agreed, they will not be able to make retrospective claims for expenses or for extensions to the period of award / thesis submission date.

How to apply

  1. The student and their supervisor complete the OFE 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 Scholarships Officer, Research & Innovation Services, New Spring House, 231 Glossop Road, Sheffield, S10 2GW, at least 3 months prior to the proposed fieldwork.
  3. If successful, Research & Innovation Services will write to the student, supervisor and departmental PG co-ordinator to confirm the details of the allowance.

Suspension of awards

Abeyance

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. An award will normally be extended by the length of the suspension. Any period of suspension will also be taken into account when the MRC 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. The student discusses the need for a suspension with their supervisor.
  2. The student follows the University's procedures for requesting a Leave of Absence.
  3. The Research Degree Support administrator for the student's Faculty will pass the details of the Leave of Absence to the Scholarships Officer.
  4. Research & Innovation Services will write to the student to confirm the period of suspension of the award and liaise with the Income Office to suspend the payments.

At the end of an approved period of suspension, the student should contact Research & Innovation Services to confirm that they have re-registered on their original programme of study, who will in turn arrange for payment of the award to be resumed.

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.

Short-term 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.

Payment of a scholarship can continue for absences covered by a medical certificate for up to 13 weeks within any 12-month period. 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 26 week of maternity/adoption leave during which the MRC 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 three 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.

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 MRC 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.

Students must follow the procedures above for requesting a suspension, ensuring that they include a copy of the MATB1 certificate.


Skills training

The MRC expects each student to have a thorough training in generic research skills (e.g. experimental design, data handling, statistics, intellectual property rights, exploitation), and training in transferable skills, (e.g. oral and written communication, IT skills and time management) during their MRC funded training period, in addition to subject specific training. The University provides this training via the Research Training Programme (RTP).

GRADschools

The MRC contributes, along with other Research Councils, 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 with other students from a wide range of disciplines and institutions. All MRC 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 AHRC strongly encourages its students to do so.

There are three types of GRAD courses: National GRAD schools (residential courses varying between three and five days in length); Local GRAD schools (run at regional level and supported by VITAE varying in length between one and four days, residential and non-residential courses); 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 students may be able to attend an equivalent graduate school or courses organised by the University. The Graduate Research Centre should be able to provide information on the courses available.


Termination of awards

The MRC 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 MRC 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.

The supervisor must inform BBSRC immediately if a student ceases the training before the scheduled end-date. A copy of the formal written notice of the date on which training will be deemed to have ended should be included.

Withdrawal

If a student is considering withdrawing from their studies, they should discuss this matter first with their supervisor/departmental Postgraduate Tutor/Head of Department. If, following careful consideration and discussion, they still wish to withdraw, they should follow the University's procedures for requesting a Change of Candidature form and submit it to the Faculty Representative at Research & Innovation Services, ensuring that the effective date of the withdrawal and brief reasons for the decision are included.

Entitlement to payments ends from the date on which the award terminates. If an award is prematurely terminated for any reason, the student must repay to the University any monies including maintenance grant, fieldwork contribution, etc overpaid to them.


Who to contact

Any questions in relation to the above should be directed to the PGR Scholarships Team at pgr-scholarships@sheffield.ac.uk.