The SU’s Postgraduate officers are doing a survey about postgraduate students’ funding needs! The impact of the pandemic has been huge for postgraduate students; with archives and libraries closing, labs reducing capacity, and many forms of fieldwork made more difficult or impossible, postgraduates at every stage of study have been suffering delays to their research for going on a year. Yet while UKRI - by far the country’s biggest funder of research students - estimated last summer that over £75 million would be necessary to meet the funding extension needs of UKRI-funded students not in their final year, so far less than half of this amount has been made available in total. This lack of resourcing has resulted not only in students not receiving the funding extensions they need, but also in a difficult and onerous application process for (already disproportionately marginalised) students, as they are forced to compete with their peers for scarce pools of money that they need to complete their courses.
Last week, Student Council voted to pass a motion mandating the SU to lobby the University, UKRI, and the Government to tackle the postgraduate funding crisis. As an initial part of our work, we are surveying students on all kinds of postgraduate courses and in all years of study to gain a better understanding of Cambridge postgraduates’ funding needs. This is not only for students who are already fully- or partially-funded by a funding body, but also for students who are self-funded, and who the University must ensure are not left behind to bear the full financial burden of the pandemic on their studies. We know that while it (hopefully) seems like the height of the pandemic may be over within the next few months, its impact is such that postgraduates will be feeling the effects on their research, wellbeing, and financial security for many years to come. The more responses we’re able to collect through this survey, the stronger the support it will lend to our case that the University must make available the extension and hardship funding that postgraduates need, both now and in the future.