skip to primary navigationskip to content

ESRC Discretionary Fund (latest update: 22nd April 2020)

ESRC DTP Discretionary Fund: guidance for students during lockdown

This guidance is additional to the standard guidance on the ESRC DTP Discretionary Fund, available here.

The Discretionary Fund is now open here , and will remain open on a rolling basis during the Easter Term while the University remains closed, to enable us to respond more quickly to students’ needs. The rolling deadline will end on 12 June, but we will of course review this nearer the time, and extend the opening if necessary to support students.

1.       New requests

You should continue to plan for fieldwork, collaborative and other activities in consultation with your supervisors, and can apply to the Discretionary Fund now to secure funding for these, even though travel restrictions may delay the activity taking place. The DTP will endeavour to help students manage any changes needed and we can consider applications for alternative activities if necessary – further details are below.

In particular, students approaching first year registration should plan for necessary fieldwork and request funding towards this.  Departments will be flexible in recognising that you may not be able to undertake fieldwork to the extent or within the timelines you had originally planned.

Collaborative activities can be managed in many cases in remote working mode, and this can be a good opportunity to experience engagement with a non-academic partner and keep your skills honed during the lockdown. You may be able to work in ‘co-op’ mode to help an organisation around a particular project; or you may be able to arrange an internship where you are engaging more consistently with the non-academic partner (either full-time or part-time). For a full-time internship, students will be asked to intermit but will continue to receive maintenance if they are fully-funded, or will be able to access a research allowance if they are ‘fees-only’.

 If your request is approved, we will let you know that the funds are assigned.

Once you are sure your activity can go ahead, you will need to let us know the confirmed dates. At that stage, we will we will confirm the release of funding in writing, with payment made via the Fees and Funding Office

It is likely that the costs of your activity will have changed since application. The DTP will honour the original award, or the new costs, whichever is the lower. The DTP will endeavour as far as possible to accommodate or contribute to increased costs.

If the activity is no longer viable, the award must be relinquished – funds cannot be repurposed and receipts will not be honoured for an alternative activity. However you can apply again to the Discretionary Fund for an alternative activity

2.       Existing awards

If you have not yet commenced your activity, the notes above apply – please let us know when the activity will commence, and we will honour the original awards or the new costs, whichever is the lower. We will endeavour to accommodate or contribute to increased costs. You do not need to submit a fresh application.

If the activity is no longer viable, the award must be returned – funds cannot be repurposed and receipts will not be honoured for an alternative activity. However, you can apply again to the Discretionary Fund for an alternative activity.

If you have part-completed the activity, please put forward your receipts to date so that these can be reconciled (further information here – see end of page).

When you are ready to recommence your activity please let us know.  If the costs of completing your project have changed, please let us know and we will endeavour to accommodate or contribute to increased costs.

If you had to return early from fieldwork and must now incur additional cost to return and complete your fieldwork, please let us know as it will be a priority for us to help you do this. You do not need to submit a fresh application.

3.       Reconciling awards/unused awards

Students are required to submit receipts for all activity undertaken through the Discretionary Fund. Receipts that are not consistent with the proposed activity will not be honoured and the costs will fall to the student.

If you have already received Discretionary Fund funding that you now cannot use, please contact us for advice on how to proceed.

4.       RTSG [Research Training Support Grant]

RTSG is automatically available to students during their three years of PhD studentship (£300 per year) and can be drawn down to help with costs incurred during lockdown, or to meet unexpected training costs. Your RTSG is processed through your home Department; each Department will have its own process for managing this. Please contact your Finance Office for further advice.

If you have exhausted your RTSG, you can apply to the Discretionary Fund for a top-up for a specific activity, and subject of course to the lifetime allowance of £3500.

Unused RTSG allowance will roll forward from one year to the next until the end of the three-year PhD studentship period.

5.       Other notes

Please make sure that you have your supervisors’ guidance when planning these activities, and their full support when making applications to the Discretionary Fund.

The lifetime allowance of £3500 is still in place. This is not a guaranteed amount and we expect that only a few students will need to access the full amount. Given the need to support students through challenging circumstances, it is more important than ever that students plan economically and draw on all possible sources of support, so that we can stretch the Discretionary Fund as far as possible.

Please note that the Discretionary Fund operates through the University payroll – we cannot release cash under any circumstances and cannot make an emergency advance. You should allow at least a month between making an application and needing to incur expenditure.

If you have any questions about making or changing an application, please contact the ESRC DTP office esrctp@admin.cam.ac.uk

If you have any questions about accessing or reconciling an existing award, please contact the Fees and Funding Office ADGraduateFunding@admin.cam.ac.uk