Doctoral School

UKRI Phase 2 Extension Scheme at Sussex

Information about the Phase 2 UKRI scholarship extension scheme open for Research Council funded PhD students at Sussex who have been impacted by Covid-19.

Guidance for applicants

Applications must be submitted using this extension request form [Word document]PhD students are responsible for the addition of supervisor comments in the application, which must be emailed to doctoralschool@sussex.ac.uk by 4pm on Friday 19 February.

UKRI has advised that doctoral students should consider adapting their projects and mitigating the impact of Covid-19 disruption before requesting a COVID-related extension. If you have not already done so, you should talk to your supervisor about such adaptations as changing your research question, your approach to data collection, changing your analyses and the tools you use or rescheduling aspects of your research. If your research plan will need to differ substantially from the project for which you were awarded funding, you may need to consult your Doctoral Training Partnership.

If you are unable to adapt your project sufficiently to complete your doctoral research in your existing funding period, then you can apply for a funded extension of up to three months under the ‘Phase 2’ scheme. UKRI has allocated to Sussex a block grant to be able to extend the scholarships of students who have been impacted by the pandemic. The allocation will be supplemented by available underspend from the grant that normally funds you. However it is unlikely to be sufficient to fund all students who may be eligible, and so UKRI have asked universities to assess applications and prioritise those students who, because of the nature of their research or because of their personal circumstances, have been most severely disrupted by the pandemic.

Please note: if you have been experiencing a period of poor health which has prevented you from studying, it is possible to apply for up to 13 weeks paid UKRI scholarship sickness leave. This may be in addition to an application under the Phase 2 extension scheme. Questions regarding sickness leave can be directed to Amanda Britt a.d.britt@sussex.ac.uk.

Who can apply?

As a Sussex PhD student you are eligible to apply to the fund if:

  1. You are funded by one of the UK Research Councils (AHRC, BBSRC, ESRC, EPSRC, NERC, STFC);
  2. Your scholarship started before 1 March 2020;
  3. Your scholarship ends after 31 March 2021;
  4. You have not yet submitted your thesis;
  5. You have not received an extension as part of Phase 1 of the UKRI extensions or a case-by-case COVID extension from your Doctoral Training Partnership (e.g. SeNSS have recently granted some COVID extensions for students whose funding ends after 31 March 2021);
  6. You have tried, and continue to try, to adapt and adjust your research project in order to mitigate the disruption caused by Covid-19, but you will be unable to complete your doctoral research within the funded period.

The Research Councils have indicated that the students likely to be those most in need are those whose funding ends by the end of September 2021 and also students with disabilities and with caring responsibilities. However, as UKRI have indicated that this is the last round of COVID extensions that they are funding, all eligible students can apply.

Scholarship extensions are available for completing your doctoral work and not for carrying out more research or writing papers beyond doctoral work, or for funding a “writing up” period which was to be funded by other means.

How do I apply?

To apply, you need to complete the UKRI Phase 2 Extension Request form [Word document] and email it to doctoralschool@sussex.ac.uk by 4pm on Friday 19 February.

There is a section for your supervisor's comments. You should liaise with your supervisor and insert their comments into the ‘Supervisor Supporting Statement’ section of the application form. If your supervisors are unavailable, or if for whatever reason you are unable to seek their comments, please inform your School Director of Doctoral Studies and submit your application and note this.

The questions are very similar to those of the survey you were sent in the early summer, but there is a different emphasis in that the Phase 2 scheme is not about quantifying the time lost due to COVID, but about justifying the additional time now needed to submit your PhD, in spite of the mitigating actions you have taken.

What does the supervisor statement need to cover?

The supervisor statement should mention the impact of the pandemic on your research and the adaptations that have been possible given the stage you have reached in your doctorate. It should confirm the efforts you have made and are making to adapt your research and the length of extension required in spite of these adaptations.

Do I have to disclose personal circumstances to my supervisor?

No. If there is information that you feel would support your case but you would prefer not to disclose to your supervisor, then you can complete a Confidential Personal Circumstances Form [Word document] and email to hardship@sussex.ac.uk. The form will be sent directly to Student Support Services who will present a redacted account of the severity of these circumstances to the panel without giving details.

What can I apply for?

UKRI suggests that for Phase 2, universities will be awarding up to three months additional stipend and fees but in exceptional cases more than three months can be granted. The funding does not cover an extension to other research costs (RTSG) but gives you longer in which to spend your original amount.

What about part-time students?

Part-time students are eligible to apply on the same basis as full-time students. Awards will be made in terms of months or weeks at your normal rate of funding – e.g. three months of 50% funding.

Who will assess my application?

In the first instance your School Director of Doctoral Studies will review the applications in their School, and comment on the length of extension required and on whether the impact of COVID has been Severe, Moderate or Low.

A multidisciplinary panel will then moderate and prioritise the applications. The panel will be chaired by the Director of the Doctoral School, and will include representatives of Sussex academic leads for doctoral training partnership grants and School Directors of Doctoral Studies. There will be representatives from the Social Sciences, Sciences and Media, Arts and Humanities and also a representative from Student Services. Support for the scheme is provided by staff across the Doctoral School and Research & Enterprise.

How will my application be assessed?

The panel will assess your applications by considering whether the Covid-19 impact is Severe, Moderate or Low in the following categories:

  1. You have been unable to access resources (e.g. laboratories, colleagues, scientific facilities, libraries, archives, studios) due to closure – ranging from complete closure, to closure for 4-6 months or for shorter periods;
  2. You have a disability making it difficult to adapt a research project;
  3. You have been unable to undertake fieldwork, experiments with participants or other data gathering and empirical research – ranging from a complete halt to a pause of 4-6 months or for shorter periods;
  4. You have caring responsibilities and so have less flexibility to take mitigating action or have been prevented from working for longer or shorter periods;
  5. There has been an impact on physical or mental health and wellbeing (e.g. increased anxiety, decline in focus or motivation) for longer or shorter periods;
  6. Any other types of impact outlined by you or your supervisor.

The panel will then arrive at a consensus on the severity of the Covid-19 impact, taking into account:

  • the nature of your individual research project; 
  • your health or personal circumstances along with any registered disabilities; and 
  • how close you are to the end of your funding.

Funding is limited and we expect that the funding available will not be sufficient to provide three-month extensions to all students who apply. The job of the panel is to ensure that funding is prioritised for those whose doctorates have been most severely impacted by the pandemic.

When will I receive the additional funding?

The extension funding will be added to your normal scholarship so it should continue without a break until your revised funding end date. If you submit your thesis before the end of your funding, then we will not pay you the next quarterly instalment of your of scholarship.

If I am awarded an extension is there a change to my submission deadline?

Yes. If you are awarded e.g. two months additional funding, your registration will be extended by Sussex without an additional extension request being required.

My DTP says there is an underspend that can fund our extensions, so can they pay me directly?

No. Universities are instructed to use any underspends on training grants to cover extensions in the first instance, and then supplement this with the additional block grant we have been allocated. However, students must all apply to their host university and universities must assess all students on need, regardless of whether or not a student is funded by a grant with an underspend. 

Where we are part of a consortium or where students are funded by a grant in another institution, we have been in touch with them to check on the underspend available for Sussex students. 

What if I submit before my revised funding end date?

UKRI regulations allow you to keep the stipend of the last quarter you have been paid as long as you are continuing to work on your doctoral research. We will not pay you additional instalments for the next quarter if you have submitted your thesis.

What is the timeline?

Online form available:                                                                            Friday 29 January 2021

Deadline for submission of online application form:                              Friday 19 February 2021, at 4pm

Comments from Directors of Doctoral Studies:                                     Friday 26 February 2021

Panel meeting:                                                                                      Week commencing 8 March 2021

Outcome emailed to students:                                                              Week commencing 22 March 2021

Who can I contact with questions?

Amanda Britt, a.d.britt@sussex.ac.uk

Can I appeal against the panel decision?

You can make an appeal on the grounds that we have not assessed your applications in the way we have outlined in this Call Document, rather than the professional or academic judgement of the panel. Appeals to decisions can be submitted via the University Student Complaints process, using the standard Investigation Request form.

Where is there further information on UKRI Phase 2 extension?

Doctoral School

E: doctoralschool@sussex.ac.uk
T: 00 44 (0)1273 87 7767