Update from David: addressing COVID-19 concerns for PGRs

Friday 27-03-2020 - 15:33

This update is for postgraduate research students, to clarify what my lobbying priorities to the University these past weeks have been for you and what has been agreed so far.

Extending your studies

Firstly, a tangible guarantee – I have secured a commitment from the University that any PGR who extends their period of supervised study, or goes onto a continuation period, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, will have tuition fees for this period waived.

This, of course, leaves the question of covering stipends/living expenses for that period of extension. There can be no guarantees about this, but I can assure students this is very much on the radar of both the University and various Research Councils. UK Research and Innovation yesterday updated their position on this, envisaging some funded extensions being provided with funding coming from grant underspend where possible (read more here, under ‘Training Grants/Students’). Funding for future years is already being evaluated as to whether it can be repurposed to support current students who need it. This will have to be considered case-by-case, but I have faith the University is doing its best to find funds and target them towards those who will need it most, including those who are not funded by a Research Council route.

Mitigating in the best way possible

This brings me onto the idea of ‘need’. In order to try and mitigate as best possible for the most students, I want to endorse the University’s stance on making adjustments to your planned research, as noted in the FAQs for PGRs circulated last Thursday. This can be summed up as:

  • Reschedule – where possible, bring planned work that can be done remotely with online resources forward, and delay others that can’t
  • Adapt – if need be, consider what elements/methods of your planned research can be changed to allow research to continue
  • Extend – if there are no alternatives, consider raising a request for an extension to your supervised study period/submission deadlines

All of these should of course be done in discussion with your supervisor. While extending is of course going to be no-one’s first choice, I hope the security that tuition/continuation fees will not be charged means that if this is what’s right for you, this is a less daunting option.

What else do we need clarity on?

Whilst there is still much to be agreed, I am trying to clarify several other points for PGRs including but not limited to:

  • Clarifying training and support available for conducting supervision over distance for those new to this
  • Alternatives to access to library resources that were being digitised, for which this is currently of course impossible
  • How disruption to a student’s year will be factored into the critical decision about progression at 9-month reviews
  • Whether sundry costs incurred as a result of home working that would otherwise be covered by the University (e.g. printing) will be reimbursed

Whilst I work on these, if there are any other concerns you have that you wish me to factor into my discussions with the University, please do let me know at su.pgacademic@durham.ac.uk.


*Please note: the Advice Service helpline is not a crisis number, in an emergency please use 999 as usual.




Covid-19, David - PG Academic Officer

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