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Rules concerning the tenure of awards

Studentships are awarded through the Heads of Department of research schools where the awards are to be held.

Awards are made on the understanding that Research Organisations, supervisors and students agree to observe the conditions set out in this handbook and any amendments subsequently announced.

Key facts

Responsibilities of the research organisation

The Research Organisation is responsible for selecting, administering the supervising students throughout their period of training, in accordance with current good practice as detailed in the QAA's Code of Practice for Postgraduate Research Programmes (2004) and in accordance with any additional Research Council requirements.

In particular, the Research Organisation must ensure that:

  • diversity and equality must be promoted in all aspects of the recruitment and career management of students
  • adequate facilities and resources are made available for the research training
  • a safe working environment is provided, meeting the requirements of health and safety legislation, and any other legislation concerning the health, welfare and rights of students, including the Data Protection Act
  • projects lie broadly within the remit of the Research Council funding the TG
  • Research Training Programmes contain good training in generic and transferable skills

The Research Organisation must ensure that the research supported by the grant complies with all relevant legislation and Government regulation, including that introduced while work is in progress. This requirement includes approval or licence from any regulatory body that may be required before the research can commence.

The Research Organisation must ensure proper financial management of TGs and accountability for the use of public funds. Research Organisations are expected to take reasonable steps to recover monies paid to students in advance who leave or whose studentship is terminated.

Studentship data

STFC will require data on TG-funded students to be submitted within a month of the student starting their studies, via the Je-S Student Details Portal (SDP). Future TG payments may be stopped if appropriate details are not submitted to STFC.

Research governance

It is the responsibility of the Research Organisation to ensure that the research is organised and undertaken within a framework of best practice that recognises the various factors that may influence or impact on a student's research project. Particular requirements are to ensure that all necessary permissions are obtained before the project begins, and that there is clarity of role and responsibility among the research team (including the student) and with any collaborators. The Research Councils expect research to be conducted in accordance with the highest standards of scientific integrity and research methodology as set out in the UKRI Policy and Guidelines on the Governance of Good Research Conduct.

Misconduct and Conflicts of Interest

The Research Organisation is required to have in place procedures for governing good research practice that meet the requirements of the Research Council's guidance on good practice. The Research Organisation must ensure that there are reliable systems and processes in place for the prevention of misconduct e.g. plagiarism, falsification of data, together with well-defined and clearly-publicised arrangements for investigating and resolving allegations of misconduct.

Where an allegation of misconduct arises in respect of a student supported by a Training Grant, the Science and Technology Facilities Council must be informed immediately and notified of the outcome of any investigation.

The Research Organisation must ensure that potential conflicts of interest in research are declared and subsequently managed.

Equality of opportunity

STFC seeks to employ a workforce which reflects and draws upon the talents of a diverse community, because it values the individual contribution of people regardless of disability, race, ethnic origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or age. To this end, all decisions related to employment and advancement are made solely on the basis of the individual's ability, qualification and fitness for the available work.

STFC seeks to reflect its equality of opportunity policy in the arrangements and conditions which apply to the staff posts, postgraduate fellowships and studentships it funds through research grants and awards.

In order to ensure that this policy is put into practice, STFC:

  • has published equality schemes and action plans which set out how we will meet our general and specific legal duties in relation to gender, disability and race
  • may collect and analyse data on the gender, ethnic origin and age of STFC-supported students to monitor the effectiveness of its policies and initiatives

In fulfilling its mission to promote the public understanding of science, engineering and technology, STFC will aim to involve and communicate with all sections of the community.


The Research Organisation is responsible for ensuring that students and supervisors have access to effective procedures for resolving problems arising from the administration and supervision of the studentship.

These procedures are normally outlined in the departmental or faculty "code of practice" and students are strongly advised to take note of these procedures. STFC will not intervene where the student has pursued a complaint or grievance through the available channels. Students may, however, bring to the Council's attention any situation where they have not had access to appropriate procedures.

Extensions, suspensions and termination of studentships

The Research Organisation must make suitable arrangements for coping with absences of students for illness, maternity, paternity, additional paternity leave, adoptive leave, extended jury service and holidays.

All STFC funded students are entitled to take 6 months of maternity leave or up to 6 months of additional paternity leave on full stipend and a further 6 months of unpaid maternity leave or up to 6 months of additional paternity leave.

The Research Organisation must ensure that it is aware of unauthorised absences by students, so that future payments may be stopped and those already made in advance of need can be recovered. The period of a student's support may be extended at the Research Organisation's discretion to offset a period of genuine absence, subject to finding the necessary funding from within the Research Organisation's Training Grant.

Where there are insufficient funds in the Training Grant to meet the costs of maternity or additional paternity leave, STFC will consider compensation at the end of the grant to cover the additional costs arising from maternity or additional paternity leave providing the RO can demonstrate that it lacks the flexibility to meet the costs of maternity or additional paternity support and that it has no other contingency funding of concurrent Training Grants on which it could draw.

A studentship may be terminated or conditions varied at any time at the discretion of STFC. Students whose progress or conduct is unsatisfactory are liable to have their awards discontinued.

Supervisors must give students formal written notice of the date on which training will be deemed to have ended. It is reasonable, assuming the agreement of the supervisor in consultation with the student that up to four weeks notice may be allowed to complete domestic arrangements together with up to two weeks leave. This period should not extend beyond the quarter in which cessation of training takes place. Research Organisations should record terminations on the Je-S Student Details Portal.

Students intending to take up employment before the normal expiry date of the studentship must inform their supervisor in advance of the date the employment is due to commence. Students taking up employment abroad must inform their supervisor in advance of the date of departure or appointment whichever is the sooner. The date of departure abroad or start date of employment is the date at which the studentship funding should terminate.

Students and supervisors must understand that monies paid in advance for the balance of the period remaining will be recovered. Entitlement to payments ends from the date on which students cease their training.

Transfer of awards

The grant will not be amended to take account of the transfer of a student from one Research Organisation to another or from one department to another within the Research Organisation. Transfers may be arranged where they are essential to the student's training, e.g. when a supervisor is moving and should be by agreement between the Research Organisations concerned. The Research Council expects that the arrangements for such a transfer would include the relevant funds.

Absence due to illness

If a student is absent through illness for more than 13 weeks entitlement to stipend will cease, with immediate effect, until the student resumes research training. Payments of the award will continue for absences supported by medical certificates for up to 13 weeks, within any twelve month period.


STFC expects students to complete their training in a single continuous period and does not encourage placing awards in abeyance. Abeyance of an award is limited to a maximum of twelve months unless exceptional circumstances prevail. Any resultant overpayment to the student and/or HEI as a result of an abeyance will be recovered. STFC will not approve any request for an abeyance for the purpose of employment, temporary lectureships, exchanges voluntary service overseas or expeditions/sport. Sympathetic consideration will be given to requests for abeyance due to personal or family reasons.

Visits to centres of excellence for a purpose directly related to the research topic will be considered for approval as an integral part of the research training. Consequently neither an abeyance nor an extension to the period of the award will be necessary.

Heads of Departments may seek an abeyance for a research student to visit a centre of excellence for a purpose not directly related to the research topic but deemed to be beneficial to the student's training or for an industrial placement that is not an integral part of the PhD programme. STFC will consider approving only one such visit during an award. The visit should be at no cost to STFC and the award will be placed in abeyance for the duration of the visit. A compensatory extension to the award will be considered by STFC.

Studentships will also be held in abeyance during maternity leave or periods of illness exceeding 13 weeks.

Maternity leave

All Research Council funded students are entitled to take 26 weeks of maternity leave on full stipend and a further 26 weeks of unpaid maternity leave. The total period of support will not, however, be extended beyond the normal 36, 42 or 48 months plus the period of up to twenty six weeks maternity leave.

Paternity leave

A total of ten days paternity leave may be taken at any time during a partner's pregnancy or within three months following the birth. An adoptive parent who is not designated as the principal carer may also be allowed paternity leave. This is subject to the student fulfilling the relevant qualifying conditions of the employing Research Organisation.

Adoptive leave

STFC will fund up to 26 weeks paid adoptive leave. The studentship may be put into abeyance for up to another 26 weeks, if requested.


Research students may, with the prior agreement of their supervisors, take up to eight weeks holiday in each year (pro rata for parts of a year), inclusive of public holidays. Leave should not normally be taken during the academic term. Students receiving sponsorship are expected to bear in mind their obligations to the industrial sponsor in planning leave and agreeing this with their supervisors. Not more than four weeks leave may be taken at the end of the period of a research studentship.

Teaching and demonstrating

Candidates agree when accepting the studentship to undertake full-time study for the duration of their award. Students will usually be required to leave employment when the studentship commences. Permitted part-time work is detailed below.

Students may undertake teaching, demonstrating and, subject to the approval of their supervisor, other paid work directly related to their training. However, the total demand on their time, including time spent on preparation and/or marking etc, should not normally exceed six hours per week. An exception is made in the case of teaching in a school or technical college where up to one day's teaching in any one week is allowed. Students must be paid for any teaching or demonstrating work at the usual rate of the Research Organisation, and should receive formal training.

Work experience and casual work

Short term work placement in companies, whether paid or unpaid, and other collaborative links which will develop a research scientist's industrial awareness are encouraged. Research students who wish to participate in such training must seek permission from the supervisor. The supervisor must give formal consent and be satisfied that the work will not interfere with the student's research training programme.

All students are expected to devote themselves full-time to their postgraduate training. Consequently students who wish to supplement their award by undertaking paid work (full or part-time) which is unrelated to their training must obtain the permission of their supervisor (except during holidays). The supervisor must give formal consent and is required to notify STFC that the work will not interfere with the student's training. Awards will not be placed in abeyance or extended as a result of industrial placement or casual employment.

Science communications

STFC encourages students to undertake a modest amount of work on "outreach" or promotion of science activity. Examples might include helping local science teachers, giving an interview with a journalist, working at a science event, or taking a short media training course. There is a specific opportunity with the Pupil Researcher Initiative.

Public engagement

It is the responsibility of the Research Organisation and the Supervisors to actively communicate the research to the public at both local and national level and to raise awareness of the role of science and research in any related issues of public interest. Special schemes exist in some Research Councils providing additional support for these activities, or earmarked funding may be provided in the grant for this purpose.

The Research Organisation is expected to adopt the principles, standards and good practice for public engagement with research set out in the 2010 Concordat for Engaging the Public with Research. The Research Organisation must create an environment in which public engagement is valued, recognised and supported. It must ensure that reliable systems and processes are in place so that the principles of the Concordat are embedded into practice within the Research Organisation.

The Public Engagement unit within STFC operates a number of funding schemes that are available for projects in public engagement.

Last updated: 28 June 2018


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