On Thursday 16th April the Hive Scholars and the Doctoral School co-hosted an online session for PhD researchers to share their experiences of the Covid-19 pandemic. The online session was complemented by the Scholars’ Padlet Wall, where experiences could be documented anonymously. Thank you to everyone who attended the session or left a comment, we value your contributions.
The aim was to create a space for researchers to give their views on how Covid-19 is affecting their lives and their work, to provide an opportunity for discussion, and to give a voice to the shared issues of the PhD community.
From the session, it was clear that many of you are facing difficulties, from disruption to research and family responsibilities to uncertainty around funding, visas and tutoring. The key message from the forum was that all PhD researchers are being impacted at the moment, whatever your financial or personal situation. The stress of living through a public health crisis is affecting everyone.
For many researchers, there are uncertainties surrounding finances. This is a complex area, which is subject to review as the impact of Covid-19 is understood. Finances and scholarship issues will also vary depending on how your studies are funded. As this was a key question from the online session we want to be clear that at the current time there is no provision for Sussex-funded scholarship extensions or for PhD fee waivers. If you are experiencing financial difficulties, the university’s Hardship Fund is open to doctoral researchers (if the fund is new to you, the Scholars have published an introduction on their blog).
Albertus Schoeman, the PGR Rep in the Social Sciences, kindly summarised the views expressed in the session and reported these to the Doctoral Studies Committee on Friday 17th April. His report details how Covid-19 is impacting research and wider life in six main areas:
- Research disruption
- Childcare and family responsibilities
- Issues for international PGRs
- Funding and scholarships
- Self-funding PGRs
- Financial guidelines and doctoral teaching
The Doctoral Studies Committee supported the points raised in this summary, and is committed to the promotion of PGR issues within the university. As an outcome of the meeting, there will be a survey led by the elected PGR representatives in your area, to gauge the potential need for extensions across all PhD researchers.
In addition to this survey, we would like to draw your attention to the national Vitae/SMaRteN survey looking at how Covid-19 is affecting researchers, which we encourage all PGRs to complete. The Vitae survey closes on Sunday 3rd May.
Lastly, at the session we discussed a list of useful resources and campus services that you can access at this time. Please share with friends and colleagues as needed:
With best wishes,
Prof George Kemenes (Director of the Doctoral School)
Miles Willey (Head of the Doctoral School / Research Student Admin Office)