Open Letter Calling for Increases in Stipends for Postgraduate Researchers

An open letter calling for increases in stipends for postgraduate researchers, to keep pace with inflation has been sent to UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the country’s largest public funder of research.

The letter is gathering momentum and has hit over 15,000 signatures in its first month online.

Open Letter Calling for Increases in Stipends for Postgraduate Researchers

Read the letter:

Dear Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, Chief Executive of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), and Sir Andrew Mackenzie, Chair of UKRI,


As you are aware, postgraduate researchers (PGRs) are being substantially impacted by the rising cost of living crisis. We welcome the news that UKRI is considering improving financial support for PGRs in light of the crisis. However, from our perspective the most effective solutions are already evident. 


The stable inflation of the last decade had allowed UKRI stipends to be calculated a year in advance, providing clarity for both funders and applicants, but this is no longer viable in the current climate. We write to urge UKRI to immediately raise doctoral stipends in line with current levels of inflation and protect current and incoming PGRs from the rising cost of living—this year, next year, and every year. We also urge other reasonable measures to mitigate disproportionate cost of living impacts on self-funded PGRs and PGRs in the unfunded writing-up period, as well as those already facing structural inequalities such as disabled PGRs, migrant PGRs, and PGRs with caring responsibilities.


Inflation is currently at 9.1% (CPI) or 11.7% (RPI), and the Bank of England ‘expect[s] inflation in the UK to rise to around 11% [CPI] this year.’ The current proposed 2022/23 stipend level would result in losing almost a month’s income per year in real terms. The majority of PGRs’ income is already spent on living necessities, leaving little to no room to cope with the rising cost of living. PGRs are not considered employees and are thus ineligible for other financial support aimed at those on low incomes, such as help with energy bills or childcare. Moreover, almost half of PGRs are migrants on visas that prevent access to any public funds. Many PGRs already need to take on extra paid work to ensure they are able to pay their bills.


If the cost of living crisis is not adequately addressed, current and future research in the UK will be fundamentally undermined. The planned real-terms cut to the stipend is already negatively impacting PGRs’ mental health, wellbeing, productivity, and effectiveness. The planned real-terms cut will also force many PGRs without independent financial support to suspend or drop out of their PGR programmes. This will make UK academia less inclusive, diverse, and productive.


Thus, mitigating the cost of living crisis for PGRs requires UKRI to make the following commitments:

  • Increasing the UKRI minimum stipend for 2022/23 in line with the latest RPI inflation figure (11.7% as of May 2022);
  • Updating UKRI policy to ensure the following year’s stipend is based on the most up to date figure of inflation, thus eliminating the current one year lag between the inflation rate used by UKRI and the payment of the stipend;
  • UKRI funded grants for those who are now in writing-up years; and
  • Additional grants and provisions for PGRs who face additional costs for reasons of disability or illness (including pre-diagnosis), migration status, caring responsibilities, or other specific circumstances. These must be approved on the basis of trust, not onerous justifications.


Increasing next year’s stipend in line with an inflation rate of 12% would cost UKRI £44m extra, which is merely one tenth of the ‘non-committed spend’ in UKRI’s budget for next year, making it an effective and affordable solution. This ‘non-committed spend’ is the newly opened up ‘headroom for new world class R&I activity’ as UKRI put it. Investing in future researchers, including by ensuring accessibility and affordability, is a key priority, and indeed a prerequisite, for any world class R&I activity. 


As UKRI has an overall responsibility for the UK’s research and innovation, UKRI should ensure its decision regarding increased stipends is communicated to other funders and ensure that all funded PhD students receive inflation-matched pay rises. We also urge UKRI to use its influence and position to lobby for changes beyond UKRI’s direct control to ensure PGRs are insulated as much as possible from the cost of living crisis. This includes:

  • Support for PGRs with childcare responsibilities: Engaging in dialogue with the Government to guarantee that PGRs with children are eligible for state funded childcare;
  • Waiving writing-up fees;
  • Tuition fee reductions for self-funded PGRs;
  • Support for disabled, neurodivergent and chronically ill PGRs: Maintaining the provision of the Disabled Student’s Allowance during the writing up year;
  • Support for migrant PGRs: Lobbying for the Government to waive the immigration health surcharge for PGRs, and ensuring, more broadly, that migrant PGRs can access the same cost of living support as domestic PGRs; and
  • Flexibility with limitations on extra working hours set by UKRI and other funding bodies.


We appreciate that UKRI has acknowledged the cost of living crisis facing PGRs, and hope that robust action will be taken. We encourage UKRI to accept our proposed solutions to the cost of living crisis and to further engage with universities, the government, and funding bodies to ensure no PGR is left behind.


Yours sincerely,


14,096 signatories (as at 9am 30 Jul).


Sign the letter here: provides information about postgraduate courses and study in the UK. We list thousands of postgraduate courses from universities and colleges in the UK so you can search for the course of your choice.

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