The proposal aims to provide a three-month extension from Michaelmas 2021airfocus/UNSPLASH

The Postgraduate Officers of the Cambridge Student Union (SU) have called on the University to provide £2.1 million towards funding extensions for doctoral students whose studies have been impacted by the pandemic.

The demand is a reaction to the initial findings of the SU’s Postgraduate Funding Survey, which was launched in February and has been completed by over 600 students to date.

Responses to the ongoing survey revealed the “severity of the crisis for self-funded students in particular” that required “urgent action”, according to the statement.

In the 2019-20 academic year, 20% of the University’s approximately 1,000 doctoral students were entirely self-financed. The survey found that 60% of these have had their studies delayed by the pandemic.

While students funded by research councils or private companies may be able to obtain funding extensions, self-funded students whose studies have been disrupted by the pandemic have been left without funding beyond the period for which they originally budgeted.

The SU’s proposed scheme would begin in Michaelmas 2021 and provide 3-month extensions to 570 doctoral students who matriculated prior to Michaelmas 2020. Priority would be given to self-financing students and those ineligible for other extensions.

“This proposal is also intended to relieve pressure on the University’s postgraduate hardship funding, which is currently the only route of additional funding for many self-funded students,” the statement continued, “despite the application process and low maximum amount available making hardship funds unsuitable for those in need of a funding extension.”

Today’s statement follows a vote of the SU’s student council last term, where a motion was passed to promote funding extensions for final-year postgraduate students. Two weeks prior to the successful vote, the council heard of the continual struggles faced by research students, and the threats that these barriers to their research posed to the University’s completion rates.

The passing of the motion signalled the SU’s commitment to promoting a minimum 6-month funding extension for final-year PhD students.

Meanwhile, during Michaelmas term, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the largest provider of PhD funding in the UK, advised that doctoral students consider adjusting their research projects in order to complete their studies within the existing funded period, stating that this was preferable to extensions being granted.

UKRI also found, in a report released in Autumn last year, that 77% of research students who were not in their final year of postgraduate study were in need of an extension.