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I hope you’re all staying safe, healthy, and working from home like me. I’m in regular contact with the Research Student reps about what’s going on in UCL in response to COVID-19, but I thought I’d share these updates with all of you. You can what we’re working on what’s guiding our decisions below.

The other Sabbs and I have been working hard in all the decision-making rooms at UCL to ensure that research students perspective is central to all the decisions that are being made in these tough and tumultuous times. The ultimate guiding principle underlying all decisions though is that research students are not disadvantaged in any way by any decisions being made due to COVID-19. As such, we are able to provide some clarification, as below, and as more things become certain moving forward, I will ensure that you are kept informed:

Duration of studies

We are in discussions with UCL on the issue of the duration for doctoral programmes and whether there should be an automatic extension for all research students so that they have sufficient time to complete their research. We will continue to pursue this and will keep you informed on these developments.

Completing Research Status (CRS)

We are asking about what happens with students on Completing Research Status (CRS) and UCL is looking at an automatic extension for these students as they are not able to interrupt their studies at this stage.  

Research Student Funding

UCL and other universities are in discussions with the range of funders about research grants and studentships. You can find information which is being updated regularly here.

Financial Assistance

Research students, like all other students, are eligible to the UCL Financial Assistance Fund. In addition, there may be local funds in departments and institutes which can provide financial support, so please do contact your supervisor and other local staff. If there are any particular students who are struggling to find adequate financial support, please contact our Advice Service.

Research Supervision

Supervision sessions should be continuing as normal, at least on a monthly basis, obviously held remotely now. Your supervisor should be in touch soon if they have not yet, but do feel free to reach out to them.

Doctoral Skills Development Programme  

These courses are gradually being moved online, please do keep signing up to these and other training courses. The new online schedule will be available soon from the Doctoral Skills Development Programme training portal.

Non-Essential Research 

UCL has suspended all non-essential research. The only researchers who should be allowed on site are those who it has been previously agreed fulfil an essential role, e.g. feeding cells, and this should still be optional.  No-one should be under any pressure to come in against their will. If labs are staying open to conduct COVID-19 research, this should also be optional for students on whether they decide to go to the lab. The safety and wellbeing of our students is our absolute priority and must come first.

Adjusting Research Focus

Research students should also not feel pressured to adapt their projects so that it relates to COVID-19. Any changes to the focus of doctoral studies or the nature of the research project should be undertaken through the normal processes. We have ensured that communications have been sent to research supervisors to this end as well.

Interruption of Studies

UCL recommends that funded students do not interrupt their PhD unless they would like to for a reason unrelated to COVID-19, so that they do not have their stipend/salary paused during these challenging times. UCL is working with funders requesting that they grant timing extensions. Self-funding students may wish to interrupt if they feel they are unable to continue remotely and would like to pause paying fees.

The UCL Doctoral School has been updating their response on a regular basis, read it here.

If there are any further concerns that you or those students you represent have, please do email these to us at  . As noted above, I will also contact you to ensure you are the first informed about any developments that happen. Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any specific or general concerns or questions.

Also please take advantage and cherish all the support available at UCL. Keep in touch with your peers, check in on all your friends self-isolating, and keep engaging in our UCL Community as best as you can. Also visit UCL’s advice for students and staff about the corona outbreak and find out more about how to access wellbeing support.

If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me. 

Jim,

Your Postgraduate Students’ Officer