Studentship projects are created to handle the funding arrangements associated with a postgraduate student (usually a postgraduate research student). The format of the project code created depends on the source of funding for the studentship. Several potential funding sources exist and these are described in subsequent sections, along with some of the relevant rules and procedures.
The financial administration of studentships is part of the Finance Office Studentships (FOS) team and comes under the remit of the Studentship Accountant and is handled on a day to day basis by the Studentship Accounting Technicians.
A studentship will generally be made up of some or all of the following three elements: tuition fees, maintenance and a training support fee.
Full details about the tuition fees attracted by a particular student’s course can be found on the Student Finance web pages.
Student maintenance is a 'stipend' paid to cover the student’s living expenses, whilst undertaking a period of study. As such, the University can pay maintenance free of income tax deductions, provided the annual payments do not exceed a maximum level. This maximum is determined with reference to the stipends paid by the Wellcome Trust, which in turn is determined by the typical after-tax salary of a graduate research officer. Other useful information concerning the taxable status of students can be found at the HMRC students website.
Maintenance is paid quarterly in advance on 1st October, 1st January, 1st April and 1st July. All payments being made by BACS (electronic transfer) once the student has supplied the Student Finance/Studentships team with the appropriate bank details.
If a student leaves or suspends mid-quarter, the pro-rated amount of maintenance from the day after the leaving date to the end of that quarter becomes repayable. Departmental/Graduate schools/School of Management staff should remind students of this when the decision is taken to leave or suspend and should give the Studentships team, via firstname.lastname@example.org advanced warning that the debt may need to be pursued (although this will happen automatically, when the appropriate documentation has been submitted to the Student Records and Examinations Office, via the Graduate schools/School of Management and Board of Studies).
Training support fee
A training support fee (TSF), or 'bench fee', is attached to the studentship to fund the miscellaneous costs associated with conducting a PhD. It is typically used to fund laboratory and other consumables, small items of equipment, travel to conferences and other fieldwork expenses.
Making offers to students
The Graduate Schools/School of Management is the central University contact point for making studentship offers to prospective postgraduates. Departments request a formal offer to be made by completing a funding pro-forma, detailing the amount and source of funding for the studentship. Based on this pro-forma, the Graduate Schools/School of Management then creates an applicant record on SAMIS, updates the shared spreadsheet of the new postgraduates to whom offers have been made and where applicable enters the details in Fund Management. From this data, the FOS gathers the important information needed to create a studentship project, such as the start date, funding source, fee status, maintenance level, TSF level, etc.
In theory, therefore, FOS is passive in its collection of new studentship information. In practice, however, the wide variety of studentships in existence and the complexity of the rules governing the use of some studentship funding (particularly from Research Councils), mean that it is often appropriate for departments/Graduate Schools/School of Management to liaise separately with the Studentships Team regarding the funding arrangements for a particular student. Certainly, if the department/ supervisor and/or Graduate Schools/School of Management believe that a studentship has unusual funding arrangements, then the Studentships Team would generally welcome correspondence clarifying the situation to ensure that the correct type of project is created, with the correct budget applied.
Most of the studentship ranges now have “enforced” budgets applied to each project code. A budget is created for each category of expenditure on the project: tuition fees (BR66), maintenance (BR67) and TSF (BR50) and these apply for the life of the project. For example, if a three year studentship has a TSF of £1,000 for each year, then the budget shown on the project for the category BR50 will be £3,000. No expenditure (purchase order, general ledger journal, etc.) can be posted to the project that will increase the expenditure in this category above the budget amount. However, as the budget is applied for the life of the studentship, the profile of expenditure is entirely flexible, so that the expenditure could be nil in years 1 and 2, still leaving the full three-year budget of £3,000 available in year 3.
Internally funded studentships and those funded by Research Councils, charities or individuals are not VAT reclaimable, therefore purchases made on these projects should be coded as “NTX”. The studentship projects on which the VAT on purchases can be reclaimed are those on which we have charged VAT when invoicing. These are principally CASE awards with non-charity collaborators and other non-charity externally funded studentships in the EG* range of projects.
The VAT code SR450 should be used when making purchases on these codes. Faculties and Schools should bear in mind that, as with research grants, they will need to be aware on an project by project basis which studentships are VAT reclaimable and these will only ever be in the EG* and EH* ranges.
It is the responsibility of the faculty finance office to ensure that studentship project codes are zeroed and closed as soon as possible after the student has submitted his/her thesis and/or has left the University. Debit balances (which should not arise if the budget has been set correctly) should be dealt with by transferring expenditure to an alternative code using account code 5918. Credit balances can be returned to the original funding source (if this is a condition of the funding), can be used by transferring appropriate expenditure onto the project or transfering the balabnce to the department studentship EA*999 project. In some circumstances, the supervisor may make a case for transferring a credit balance into his/her personal general fund (K account).