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Covid-19 PhD Scholarship Fund (CPSF)

A student studying in the Raymond Burton library

The Covid-19 PhD Scholarship Fund (CPSF) is a package of support for PhD researchers receiving their stipend via York, and for self-funded PhD researchers, who have been most impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Scope and eligibility

The pandemic has changed many research projects and postgraduate researchers have been tasked with exploring how they can adapt their doctorate to ensure they can complete it within their funded period. However, we know that for some researchers, even with adjustments and mitigation, it is not possible to complete your doctorate within your funding period or, for self-funded PhD researchers, during the period you originally planned for. This could be due to:

  • lack of access to research resources and facilities;
  • interruption of data collection and/or fieldwork;
  • increased caring responsibilities;
  • disability or health (including mental health) condition.

Therefore, the York Graduate Research School is establishing the CPSF for PhD researchers who started their research prior to the pandemic, within the following categories:

UKRI-funded PhD researchers (including match-funded PhD researchers)

  • whose funding end date falls between 1 April and 30 September 2021; and who have not received a previous funding extension in relation to Covid-19; OR
  • whose funding started before 1 March 2020 and ends after 30 September 2021; and who have not received a previous funding extension in relation to Covid-19; and who are unable to adapt or mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on their projects because, for example, they are a disabled student, they have a long-term illness, they are neurodivergent, they are a care leaver, they are estranged and/or they have caring responsibilities. (Please note this list is not intended to be exhaustive).

York-funded PhD researchers*

  • whose funding end date falls between 1 April and 30 September 2021; and who have not received a previous funding extension in relation to Covid-19; OR
  • whose funding started before 1 March 2020 and ends after 30 September 2021; and who have not received a previous funding extension in relation to Covid-19; and who are unable to adapt or mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on their projects because, for example, they are a disabled student, they have a long-term illness, they are neurodivergent, they are a care leaver, they are estranged and/or they have caring responsibilities. (Please note this list is not intended to be exhaustive).

*PhD researchers funded by or via the University of York, where York pays the stipend to the PhD researcher, whatever the ultimate source of funding or match-funding - UK funders only, including industry and charitable sources, but excluding UKRI

Self-funded PhD researchers

  • whose doctoral studies started before 1 March 2020 and who has been self-funded throughout their enrolment period and who has not yet submitted their thesis for examination and who are unable to adapt or mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on their projects because, for example, they are a disabled student, they have a long-term illness, they are neurodivergent, they are a care leaver, they are estranged and/or they have caring responsibilities. (Please note this list is not intended to be exhaustive).

Funding

Postgraduate researchers can request up to three months of scholarship funding, though further funding extensions may be requested if there are exceptional circumstances.

The type of scholarship available from the CPSF varies by original funding source:

  • UK self-funded PhD researchers: a partial reimbursement of fees of up to three months
  • International self-funded PhD researchers: a maintenance award equivalent to up to the value of three months of the 2020/21 UK Home fee rate
  • UKRI-funded PhD researchers: an additional stipend payment of up to three months
  • York-funded PhD researchers: an additional stipend payment of up to three months

Depending on the level of demand, unfortunately not all eligible PhD researchers may receive funding from the CPSF; priority will be given to those with the greatest need.

CPSF Round 3

Apply

Applications for Round 3 closed on Friday 23 April 2021. Decisions will be announced in the week beginning Monday 24 May 2021.

Round 4 opens on Monday 23 August 2021.

Contact cpsf-enquiries@york.ac.uk with any queries.

Application guidance

Eligibility

Which PhD students are eligible to apply for a funding extension?

PhD students who are funded by the UKRI, the University (including departmental and YGRS studentships) or via the University (i.e. where stipends are disbursed by us - UK-based funders only) are eligible to apply for a stipend extension of up to three months.

UK PhD students who are self-funded (or, for those in the Continuation Year, who were self funded throughout their enrolment period) are able to apply for a partial reimbursement of tuition fees of up to three months.

International self-funded PhD researchers (or, for those in the Continuation Year, who were self funded throughout their enrolment period) can apply for a maintenance award equivalent to the value of three months of 2020/21 UK Home fee rate.

Visiting students are not eligible and should seek support from their Home institution. 

Students who have submitted their thesis are not eligible.

Funded students

In order to be eligible for a stipend extension, there are four eligibility categories, as follows:

CATEGORY 1 - You are a UKRI-funded student:

  • whose funding end date falls between 1 April 2021 and 30 September 2021; AND
  • who has not received a previous funding extension in relation to COVID-19

CATEGORY 2 - You are a UKRI-funded student:

  • whose funding started before 1 March 2020; AND
  • whose funding ends after 30 September 2021; AND
  • who has not received a previous funding extension in relation to COVID-19; AND
  • who is unable to adapt or mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on my project because, for example, I am a disabled student, I have a long-term illness, I am neurodivergent, I am a care leaver, I am estranged and/or I have caring responsibilities. (Please note this list is not intended to be exhaustive)

CATEGORY 3 - You are a student funded by or via the University of York (i.e. where we disburse the stipends, whatever the ultimate source of funding - UK funders only, excluding UKRI):

  • whose funding end date falls between 1 April 2021 and 30 September 2021; AND
  • who has not received a previous funding extension in relation to COVID-19

(Please note that for students funded by or via the University and have a funding end date on or before 31 March 2021 can still apply for an extension to funding via the original Covid-19 fund announced in April 2020).

CATEGORY 4 - You are a student funded by or via the University of York (i.e. where we disburse the stipends, whatever the ultimate source of funding - UK funders only, excluding UKRI):

  • whose funding started before 1 March 2020; AND
  • whose funding ends after 30 September 2021; AND
  • who has not received a previous funding extension in relation to COVID-19; AND
  • who is unable to adapt or mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on my project because, for example, I am a disabled student, I have a long-term illness, I am neurodivergent, I am a care leaver, I am estranged and/or I have caring responsibilities. (Please note this list is not intended to be exhaustive)

Self funded students

In order to be eligible for support there is one category, as follows:

You are a self-funded student:

  • whose doctoral studies started before 1 March 2020; AND
  • who has been self-funded throughout your enrolment period; AND
  • who has not yet submitted their thesis for examination; AND
  • who is unable to adapt or mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on my project because, for example, I am a disabled student, I have a long-term illness, I am neurodivergent, I am a care leaver, I am estranged and/or I have caring responsibilities. (Please note this list is not intended to be exhaustive)

How have these categories been decided upon?

The UKRI undertook a Review of PhD student funding and the impact of COVID-19 over Summer 2020. This was based on the response to the initial funding extension policy, announced in April 2020, which allowed final year PhD students with funding end dates between 1 March 2020 and 31 March 2021 to apply for a funding extension to mitigate the impact of COVID-19.

The UKRI Review findings determined that there was still a priority group of PhD students who would require financial help. The priority group includes PhD students who at the time of the Review were in their penultimate year of funding and who have now recently gone into their final year of funding (funding end date after 1 March 2020 and before or on 30 Sept 2021), or those students in other stages of their doctoral studies where project adaptation and mitigation may not be possible, for example disabled students, those with long-term illness, who are neurodivergent, or who have caring responsibilities. The University is also aware of other groups of PhD students who might have been particularly affected by Covid-19 disruptions such as care leavers or those who are estranged from their families.

The University decided to extend this reasoning to PhD students funded by or via the University to ensure as much equity across the PhD students community as possible.

For eligible self-funded students, the University is offering some financial help in the form of a partial tuition fee refund or maintenance award equivalent to three months of the Home UK fee rate.

Why doesn’t the UKRI or the University want to help all PhD students regardless of where they are in their studies, surely we’ve all been affected the same way?

In an ideal world, the UKRI and the University would like to offer financial help to every PhD student who needs it. Unfortunately, this is not possible and we are all aware of the vulnerability of the public sector finances post-pandemic. See below for other sources of help and support that the University provides for all students, regardless of funding source.

However, it is reasonable to expect, and certainly this has been the guidance from the UKRI and YGRS for some time, that:

  1. any PhD students who have only just begun their PhD (post 1 March 2020) will be actively managing and planning their research proposal in accordance with the current circumstances; and
  2. that all students and their supervisors should have already explored what can be done to adapt their research to ensure they can complete it within their original funded period.

It is the PhD students who are left with little time to make any reasonable changes to their project, or those who have extenuating circumstances which make the ability to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 very difficult, who need particular consideration. The UKRI is very clear that the funding is not intended to cover ‘time lost’ due to COVID-19, but rather to address circumstances where, even with adjustments and mitigation, the student will be unable to complete their doctoral research within the funded period. The University is supportive of this.

I have already received a funding extension in Phase 1, am I eligible to apply again?

No, if you have already received extended funding then you are not eligible to apply again - this applies to ANY funded extension on Covid-19 grounds from ANY source.

I have already received a funding extension in Phase 1, and I have an ongoing disability, am I eligible to apply again?

No, if you have already received extended funding then you are not eligible to apply again. There is a UKRI Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) which is normally only available in the funded period. There is also help available from Student Finance - see Disability FAQs.

I am part-funded by the University and part-self funded, am I eligible?

Yes, you are eligible to apply - however we will need to determine, on a case by case basis, what amount of funding you may be entitled to. Please ensure you give the relevant information in your application.

Application process

When can I apply?

Four calls for applications will take place as follows:

Call 1 - Open for applications from 11 January - 22 January 2021. Decisions announced in the w/b 8 February 2021.

Call 1 is specifically for funded students who have a funding end date which falls between 1 April 2021 and 31 July 2021.

Call 2: Open for applications from 8 February to 19 February 2021. Decisions announced in the w/b 22 March 2021.
Call 3 - Open for applications from 12 April to 23 April 2021. Decisions announced in the w/b 24 May 2021.
Call 4 - Open for applications from 23 August to 3 September 2021. Decisions announced in the w/b 4 October 2021.

Calls 2/3/4 are for:

  • funded students with a funding end date between 01 August and 30 September
  • funded students in other stages of their doctoral studies where project adaptation and mitigation may not be possible, for example disabled students, those with long-term illness, who are neurodivergent, or who have caring responsibilities
  • self-funded students

How much funding can I apply for?

In the first instance, the maximum amount of funding which can be requested is up to three months:

  • PhD students who are funded by the UKRI, the University (including departmental and YGRS studentships) or via the University (i.e. where stipends are disbursed by us - UK-based funders only) are eligible to apply for a stipend extension of up to three months duration.
  • UK PhD students who are self-funded are able to apply for a partial tuition fee reimbursement of up to three months duration.
  • International self funded students are able to apply for a maintenance award which is equivalent to up to 3 months of the UK Home 2020/21 fee rate.

Depending on the level of demand, unfortunately not all eligible PhD researchers may receive funding; priority will be given to those with the greatest need.

Only in very exceptional circumstances will successful applicants be able to apply again for funding (subject to the availability of funds).

Who will see my application?

Your application will be received by and viewable to the Research Student Administration team; hopefully you will already be aware of this central team as a source of support alongside your dedicated postgraduate research team in your department. This team is experienced in handling sensitive information, e.g. Special Cases requests.

As indicated in the application form, once you submit your application, your supervisor will be asked to add their comments to the form. If you do not wish for your supervisor to see your application, you can indicate this on your application. In such cases, your supervisor will be notified that you have made an application, asked for their general comment, but they will not see your application.

Please make sure that your supervisor knows you are submitting an application. We will request comment from them following the end of each funding call.

For UKRI students, the grant holder (or institutional representative if the grant is held externally to York) for the research training grant you are funded by will also be given the opportunity to make any circumstances related to the grant which may have / have had a bearing on your project. For example, if there was, or might be in future, a lack of access to laboratories or specialist equipment, it would be assumed that the grant holder is / was already aware of this and may therefore be able to provide useful contextual information.

Who will make the decision about my application?

The University will run a centralised process that recognises the impact of the pandemic on the individual personal circumstances of students. The University believes this is the best option to treat all students fairly and on a needs priority basis, regardless of funder, scheme, or award the students are supported from. It affords us the opportunity to treat all our funded PhD students in the same way. There will be a central panel assessing applications using a fixed assessment criteria and a scoring system. The panel will comprise the Dean of the York Graduate Research School, the Chair of the Special Cases Committee and three Chairs of Graduate School Boards (one to represent each faculty).

Is there anyone I can speak to regarding my eligibility and / or making an application?

Yes. Graduate Chairs in departments and DTP/CDT leads have been briefed on this funding and can respond to queries. Your supervisor will also be able to discuss this with you. You can also contact Research Student Administration: cpsf-enquiries@york.ac.uk

Are there assessment criteria I can see?

Do I need to provide any evidence?

No. In-keeping with the ethos applied to research Special Cases requests during the pandemic - that of empathy for PhD students unable to seek evidence due to restrictions on access, and the potential strain on the medical or health and welfare staff having to provide additional documentation at this time - we are not seeking any supporting evidence to accompany your application. This includes mental and/or physical health.

Do I need to provide a response to the sections on BOTH academic AND personal impact?

No - you only need to provide an answer to the sections which are relevant to you.

We appreciate that there may be a temptation to add something to both sections. However, if you provide a strong answer to one, and then write something vague which scores poorly for the other, you will - due to the weightings described here - end up with a lower overall score than you would have received if you'd only completed one of these sections. Therefore, you should only complete both sections if you have experienced and can clearly articulate experiencing impact in both areas.

After I apply

When will I hear if my application has been successful?

You will be contacted via your University email in the week indicated below. You will be informed even if you have not been successful.

Call 1 - Open for applications from 11 January - 22 January 2021. Decisions announced in the w/b 8 February 2021.
Call 2 - Open for applications from 8 February to 19 February 2021. Decisions announced in the w/b 22 March 2021.
Call 3 - Open for applications from 12 April to 23 April 2021. Decisions announced in the w/b 24 May 2021.
Call 4 - Open for applications from 23 August to 3 September 2021. Decisions announced in the w/b w/b 4 October 2021 (30 Sep deadlines will hear sooner).

If my application has been successful, do I also get an automatic extension to my submission deadline?

No. We want to give each PhD student the extension appropriate to their individual circumstances. If your submission deadline is more than three months away, it won’t be possible to tell how big the impact has been on you.

Once your submission deadline is within three months, and if your extension request is on Covid-19 grounds, then you can complete the COVID-19 contingency: PhD students extension request form so that we know who you are and how you have been affected. Requests for up to eight months extension will be approved by Research Student Administration within five working days. Requests for longer extensions will need to be referred to the Special Cases Committee, which meets monthly. Your supervisor and Department will not be asked to support your extension request if it relates to Covid-19. They will be informed when your deadline changes. If the request is for more than eight months, we will contact your supervisor and ask them to comment.

The above contingency procedure is currently approved to remain in place to 31 May 2021 - the PhD students Academic Contingency Group will assess prior to this date if the measure needs to be extended or not.

If I am successful, does that mean I cannot also seek any paid employment over the extension period?

Any funding extension you may be awarded will be on the same terms as your current funding. You should check your scholarship terms and conditions, or ask your department or funder if you are unsure.

My application has been unsuccessful, can I appeal?

The CPSF application and assessment process has been carefully reviewed to ensure a fair and equitable decision process for all applicants. If you are not successful in your application, and you consider that, in hindsight, you did not divulge information which, for good reason, you were not able to share at the time of application, then we would recommend that you submit a further application in the next call. Please note, however, that the application must contain new information and an explanation about why that information could not have been provided in your original application.

Unsuccessful applications will have been categorised as such, having fallen short on one or more of the following assessment criteria:

  • Lack of clarity on the impact of outlined personal issues
  • Lack of clarity on the impact of outlined academic issues
  • Lack of reasoning with regards to the necessity of adjustments
  • Lack of supervisor support

Please note that due to the large number of applications, we will be unable to provide individual feedback beyond a notification about which of the criteria given above were pertinent in the assessment of unsuccessful applications.

Given that we will allow more than one attempt on the grounds outlined above, it is considered that this is a sufficient provision for appealing an unsuccessful outcome at present. This will be reviewed following the next Call/s.

My application to the CPSF has been unsuccessful, can I still request an extension to my submission deadline?

Yes. However you will need to wait until you are within three months of your submission deadline. We want to give each PhD students the extension appropriate to their individual circumstances. If your submission deadline is more than three months away, it won’t be possible to tell how big the impact has been upon you. If your extension request is on Covid-19 grounds then you can complete the COVID-19 contingency: PhD students extension request form so that we know who you are and how you have been affected.

Requests for up to nine months extension will be approved by Research Student Administration (RSA) within five working days. Requests for longer extensions will need to be referred to the Special Cases Committee (SCC), which meets monthly. Your supervisor and department will not be asked to support your extension request if it relates to Covid-19. They will be informed when your deadline changes. If the request is for more than nine months, we will contact your supervisor and ask them to comment.

Requests unrelated to the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to be referred to SCC for consideration, as per the standard parameters for RSA delegated approval. View how to make a request for an extension to your submission deadline where not related to Covid 19.

The above contingency procedure is currently approved to remain in place to 31 March 2021 - the PhD students Academic Contingency Group will assess prior to this date if the measure needs to be extended or not.

Don’t forget, if you are more than three months ahead of your first submission deadline, you may request a Leave of Absence (LoA) under normal procedures to take a break from your studies for a period of time (though you may need to check if your funder allows this). If approved, a LoA would also push back your submission deadline accordingly. 

Further support

What other sources of financial support are there?

The Student Support Fund helps students who are experiencing unexpected financial difficulty due to an unforeseen change in their circumstances.

The Emergency Student Support Fund is for students who are experiencing unexpected financial difficulty specifically related to Covid-19.

The Postgraduate Research Writing-up+ Support Fund is available for Postgraduate Researchers who are currently in their writing-up period or who have been granted an extension to their studies.

Useful sources of support and advice are: