Dear WRDTP Doctoral Researchers
We’d like to thank everyone for their patience and resilience over the last couple of weeks of rapid change. The WRDTP team have been working hard behind the scenes to ensure that we understand the current situation and its implications for yourselves as students and your research.
Last week we met online with other UK DTP Directors and the ESRC’s Director for Skills and Strategy, Frances Burlow. The ESRC outlined its position regarding the impact of COVID-19 on Doctoral and Postdoctoral research students, which has informed our guidance below:
Sickness leave related to COVID-19 – The WRDTP will continue to follow its standard sickness policy throughout this period, with students able to claim up to 13 weeks sick pay within a 12 month period. If you become sick during this period of lockdown, please notify your home institution as soon as possible so that they can pass this information on to us. You do not need to provide a doctor’s note for the first 7 days of sickness, however due to the current circumstances and government advice we will also be flexible if you are unable to provide a medical note as evidence of sickness which extends beyond 7 days. If you have already used your 13 weeks sickness allowance within the last 12 months for other reasons you will be eligible for further support if you fall ill with COVID-19.
Extensions – We are aware that, for some of you, the current lockdown will affect your ability to continue with your planned research, and that you may be considering whether to apply for a funded extension. Please be aware that whilst the ESRC are is understanding of this situation and the added complications the pandemic has caused, it has stated that it does not intend to provide the WRDTP with any additional funds to cover the cost of extensions. Any extensions will be paid for from the WRDTP’s existing funding resource, which is currently allocated to future studentships. Please only apply for an extension if your research is severely compromised by the current situation, and if there is no recourse to adjust or adapt your research plans in response. We would all like to ensure that funds are available in the coming years for future students and their research projects.
If you are in the last 3 months of your current stipend, and you are thinking of applying for an extension, please speak to your supervisor and local institution’s PGR team for advice on how to apply. We are also happy to speak to you via firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re at an earlier stage of your studies but think that the current situation will affect your completion timeframe significantly, our advice at this point is to keep a log of how this is affecting you, including dates, planned activities which will be delayed etc. This can then be used as evidence later to apply for a funded extension.
In all cases please remember, you are all intelligent, sensible and adaptable people, and we are here to support you. Whilst the current situation may have many of you biting your knuckles and wondering what this will mean for your research, there will be a solution!
The 2020/21 ESRC WRDTP Studentship and Postdoctoral Competitions – Our intention is to commit to the existing time frames for this year’s competitions. Studentship applications are currently being scored and the panel meeting to award scholarships will take place online next week. Successful applicants will be informed in due course, and we are hopeful that the new cohort of students will start as planned in semester 1 of the 2020/21 academic year. The postdoctoral fellowship competition will also proceed as planned with the panel meeting online in May and successful applicants being informed shortly after this meeting.
Travel – Please comply with current UK guidelines when considering any non-essential travel. Travel for research is not classed as essential travel, do not put yourself or other people at risk.
Online training and resources – Our Pathway Directors and Matthew Wheeler, our TEL Manager, are currently working on ways to deliver training sessions and VIRE resources for you all to participate in online. We hope to deliver our key training sessions, including Working Beyond Disciplines for MA Social Research Students and the AQUALM Taster day in May, with several other Pathway training sessions coming to a screen near you soon. Look out for our emails from the email@example.com to alert you to upcoming sessions and how to login.
Social connectedness – Whilst we are all doing our bit and socially distancing ourselves, please do remember that you are part of a community and at this time in particular we all need each other to stay mentally healthy. We will continue to send out emails about training, tweets about current opportunities, and we will be releasing the next DTP Matters Newsletter next week where you can catch up on news and student experiences from your peers. Please keep in touch with your networks; Google Hangouts and Skype are free resources so use them! And if you plan any interesting social hangouts online, get together for a movie night via hangouts or have a distance dance party in your kitchen, please tweet about it and tag #wrssdtp to share.
Please keep checking in to the UKRI guidance on the COVID-19 pandemic, as any updates to policy, funding or sickness will be announced there first. If you need the team at any point during this time, please do email us at the enquiries inbox. We are still connected and will do what we can to help.
Professor Charlie Burns