Charities more generous than MRC in funding studentships

£100,000 PhD funding from the Macular Society and Fight for Sight outstrip offers via MRC doctoral training partnerships

August 28, 2014

Medical charities are offering PhD studentships worth considerably more than those offered by research council programmes, it has emerged.

The Macular Society is to fund a doctoral studentship with a total value of £100,000, which is £17,000 more than the sum offered for research council-funded PhDs outside London. The charity’s six-figure offer covers student stipend, tuition fees and consumables for three years commencing in 2014-15.

An equivalent studentship from the Medical Research Council is worth a minimum of £23,159 in the first year. The MRC funds its PhD studentships for three and a half years and the amount awarded each year is incrementally increased during the programme, bringing the total to at least £83,000 over the course of a PhD. Studentships based at institutions in the capital get an enhanced stipend of £2,000 per year, according to figures on the MRC’s website.

Tony Rucinski, chief executive of the Macular Society, said that it wants to fund the highest quality and best value research. “We understand that good research doesn’t always come cheap,” he said.

The society felt it “prudent” to at least match the Research Councils UK minimum student stipend, and looked at other charities’ awards when arriving at the figure.

“Fight for Sight offer £100,000 studentships for three years, and while other funders are more flexible in the maximum amount they fund, the figures remain comparable,” Mr Rucinski said. Last grant round, Fight for Sight offered nine studentships, according to its website.

Mr Rucinski said that applicants must “fully justify” costs, and its research committee reviews them “to make sure they are accurate and realistic”.

An MRC spokesman said that the values published on its website were “based on existing MRC research funding already in place” and that “universities with MRC Doctoral Training Partnerships have the flexibility to use the funding to provide higher levels of support”.

Participating universities could make awards of three or four years, “depending on the needs of the student and the project”, he said.

holly.else@tesglobal.com

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