A Training Support Fee (TSF), sometimes known as a Bench Fee, is a charge the University may make to postgraduate research students, in addition to the tuition fee, to provide funding to the department to support the particular research project. The funds can also be used to pay for essential study-related costs not covered by the tuition fee, such as printing, computing, travel and conference costs.
The level of TSF to be charged should be signed off internally by the supervisor, the Director of Studies and Graduate School Manager, and agreed with the student and/or sponsor prior to the Offer Letter going out. This should be the case even where a nil fee is to be charged. An offer may be conditional if it is dependent on the applicant finding external funding for the TSF. Where the amount to be charged is greater than the £1,000 training support grant given with a University Research Studentship, then the proposed level should be supported by a budget calculation. Where the TSF is charged as a supplement to the fee, rather than as part of a studentship package, then the TSF must fit one of the fee rates set up in SAMIS.
Any change to the amount of the TSF after an Offer Letter has gone out should also follow the above procedure, and result in a revised Offer Letter.
A breakdown of how the funds have been used will not be provided to either a student or a sponsor at the end of the study, unless specifically required as part of a sponsor’s terms and conditions and specified at the outset in the contract or other agreement with the sponsor.
A TSF provides a necessary level of funding to complete a particular research project. At the end of the study, such funds are considered spent. The only exception is where there is a requirement set out in the contract or other agreement with a student’s sponsor to account for the actual expenditure incurred and for any balance to be refunded.
If a student withdraws before the end of the course, the tuition fee will be refunded pro-rata to the length of time of study. Any unspent TSF balance will be refunded unless there is agreement with a sponsor to carry forward such a balance towards funding for a new student. Student Finance will ask the Graduate School Manager to confirm the amount to be so refunded before doing so.
Internally, individual project accounts are set up in each student’s name, with the primary supervisor named as the Principal Investigator (PI). When students complete, and provided there is not a shortfall on an overall award (for example, on a doctoral training grant or similar award), departments may pool unspent balances of up to £5,000 and use such funds to support other students. Balances of up to £5,000 may also be retained by supervisors to support related research projects, with the agreement of the Head of Department. Use of balances of over £5,000 must be approved by Dean of Faculty and Director of Finance. Balances on studentships funded within a larger research project (treated as research income, managed by the Research Support and Funding not Student Finance) will be subject to the normal rules for Research Projects as set out in Financial Regulation PR1.
Primary supervisors are responsible for managing the TSF accounts of their students, on behalf of their Head of Department. They are accountable for the appropriate use of the funds, for ensuring that they are used for the purposes given and in accordance with the University’s Financial Regulations. Students will not normally be given access to the financial position of their TSF during the life of their project, other than through their supervisor. However, if a request is specifically made on an individual basis and endorsed by the Graduate School, then view only access on the system may be given.
Any equipment purchased from a TSF remains the property of the University and should be returned when the student leaves.
TSFs are intended to cover costs that can be related to the individual student and which are required to carry out the research study (for example, project costs, consumables, laboratory facilities, incidental costs of research training, travel, conferences, printing, books, hosting visitors and equipment including laptops). TSFs should not be used to supplement the living costs of the student nor pay any part of the tuition fee, unless within the terms of the agreement with, or specifically approved by, the funder.
Graduate Schools may include specific requirements in addition to the above.