MRC LID Studentship Handbook

(Last updated: 24 July 2017)

This document provides further information for students funded on an MRC LID Studentship. It should be read in conjunction with the current editions of

  • MRC Studentships Guidance (this is primarily directed at the DTPs but it will show you how the MRC expects us to administer your award), and
  • St George’s, University of London (SGUL) Postgraduate Research Degree Regulations, Research Degrees Student Handbook and SGUL terms and conditions, and
  • London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) Research Degree regulations and Student Handbook

CONTENTS

  1. About the DTP (Doctoral Training Partnership)
    1.1 Structure
    1.2 Awards
    1.3 Themes
  1. Programme
    2.1 Training
    2.2 Conference Attendance
    2.3 Professional Placement
  1. Financial Support
    3.1 Fees
    3.2 Stipend
    3.3 Other costs (including RTSG, fieldwork, training, CPD/short courses, travel and conferences, institutional visits, and 3 month placement/internships)
    3.4 General Financial Information
  1. Studentship Requirements
    4.1 Award Dates
    4.2 Reporting Requirements (Je-S, researchfish, Gateway to Research)
    4.3 Satisfactory Academic Progress
    4.4 Changes
    4.5 Illness
    4.6 Maternity, Paternity, and Adoption Leave
    4.7 Interruption of Studies
    4.8 Other Funding
    4.9 Publications and Acknowledgement of Support
    4.10 Complaints
  1. Student Involvement
    5.1 Student Representation
    5.2 MRC Cohort
  1. Other Useful Information
    6.1 MRC LID Website
    6.2 Communications
    6.3 Key Contacts
    6.4 Acronyms used


1. About the DTP (Doctoral Training Partnership)
The MRC London Intercollegiate DTP (MRC LID) is a partnership between St George’s, University of London (SGUL) and London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). The funding for these studentships is provided by the MRC (Medical Research Council) and the partnership institutions (SGUL and LSHTM).

1.1 Structure
The MRC LID board comprises academic and administrative staff from both institutions, and an MRC Student Representative from each institution. Members are

Academic DTP Leads
Dr Rachel Allen – Chair; Head of the Graduate School, SGUL
Professor Neil Pearce (LSHTM) – MRC LID Principal Investigator
Professor Suzanne Filteau – on behalf of the Pro-Director of Teaching & Learning (LSHTM)

Theme Leads
Professor John Edmunds (LSHTM) and Professor Julian Ma (SGUL) for Global Infectious Disease;
Professor David Strachan (SGUL) and Dr Elizabeth Williamson (LSHTM) for Quantitative Skills for Large Data Sets;
Professor Steve Cummins (LSHTM) and Professor Cally Roper (LSHTM) for Evaluating Complex Interventions

Industrial Engagement Leads
Dr Alexis Bailey (SGUL) and Dr Ian Douglas (LSHTM)

Student Representatives
(LSHTM) and Tash Clarke (SGUL)

Administrative DTP Leads
Lara Crawford (LSHTM) and Derilyn Frusher (SGUL)

1.2 Awards
MRC LID will award 30 studentships in total over a 3 year period (2016/17 – 2018/19).

Studentships are offered on either of the following routes:
– 5 years (MPhil/PhD), or
– 1+3 (Masters and MPhil/PhD) to exceptional candidates.

1.3 Themes
All of the research training projects funded by MRC LID will address one or more of the MRC’s skill priorities:
– Quantitative skills
– Interdisciplinary skills
– Whole organ / organism physiology

and lie within one of three research themes:
– Global Infectious Disease
– Quantitative Skills for Large Data Sets
– Evaluating Complex Interventions
Further information can be found on the Themes and Skills section of the MRC LID website.

2. MRC DTP Programme

The purpose of the programme is to provide a cross-disciplinary grounding which incorporates MRC priorities to all students with MRC LID funding. To do this we require award recipients to take classes that will expand their education beyond their specific PhD research project, participate actively in institution centres and groups, and complete a 3-month placement in another institution or laboratory (placement requirement for 3.5 year awards only).

It is expected that students will be actively involved in the centres/groups their research covers (including participation in monthly seminars) at both institutions. In participating students will benefit from exposure to multi-disciplinary, themed, research networks, formal and informal meetings, seminars and networking opportunities.

MRC LID requires all students, whatever their discipline, to enhance their quantitative skills and to embrace multidisciplinary learning.

We encourage you to make the most of collaborations and net-working opportunities made available through both institutions.

2.1 Training
Each MRC LID student should meet with their supervisors and their MRC LID mentor (a member of the DTP board) for an initial training needs assessment and the creation of a comprehensive training plan. The training plan should be reviewed and updated on an annual basis, with your supervisors and your DTP mentor. This is to ensure that you get the most from your MRC funding and its enhanced training opportunities.

We encourage all students to take up as many specific and generic training opportunities (offered by both institutions) as possible. Course selection should be made in consultation with your supervisors, as part of your comprehensive training plan.

Consideration should be given for balancing the time commitment of attending the training courses with time spent directly on research. Time commitments will vary considerably between courses depending on the duration of the courses and the type of enrolment.

* Modules (not generic transferable skills)
Students on these MRC LID studentships are expected to undertake up to 4 MSc taught course modules per year (available to research students at LSHTM) to widen and deepen their knowledge and understanding of their field. This may include modules outside their primary research field in order to build a rounder experience, in line with the strategic aims of the MRC LID programme. Module enrolment may be full (attending all taught sessions, submitting coursework, and sitting exams) or partial (attending some sessions, no coursework or exams) depending on your training needs, as agreed with your primary supervisor and also with permission from the relevant MSc Course Directors.

The cost of these modules (up to 4 per year at LSHTM) is included in your registration as an MPhil/PhD student.

* Short Courses
Short courses available – will need to be paid out of your additional costs budget (see Financial Support section).

Suitable training, including short courses and CPD courses offered at either institution or externally – where these are required for your studies and not available through one of the ‘free’ modules at either institution. These funds should not be used to fund external training where very similar training is provided by SGUL or LSHTM, unless there are important additional benefits to the external training, such as establishing inter-institutional research collaborations.

In addition to the generic transferable training offered at each institution, which students should take advantage of, there will also be specific training offered by MRC LID (this will be communicated to the MRC Cohort as it is planned). This is likely to include quantitative skills training and interdisciplinary training as these are core MRC skills.

*Other Training
All MRC LID students are eligible to attend Bloomsbury Postgraduate Skills Network (BPSN) courses, because they are registered as research students at LSHTM. If asked for a Student ID/Code/Number please use your LSHTM Student Number (this includes SGUL students who will also have an LSHTM Student Number).

Students may also take advantage of specialist training outside of the two institutions (SGUL and LSHTM). Costs incurred should be paid for through the student’s RTSG and/or flexible funding allowance.

2.2 Conference Attendance
We envisage MRC LID students attending three conferences (two domestic and one international) over the duration of their award.

Some funding is available for students to attend conferences. The MRC allocates an annual travel/conference allowance of GBP 300.00 to each student. Additionally, your primary institution may have travel allowances which are available to all students. For any additional costs please see the flexible funding section under ‘Other Costs’ (3.3 below).

2.3 Professional Placement
Students with MRC LID 3.5 years awards are required to undertake a 3 month placement outside of SGUL and LSHTM. These attachments will provide the students with experience of the wider research environment, demonstrate how research feeds into the development of products or policy, expand the student’s network of contacts, facilitate their career development, and give access to expertise beyond their immediate research group.

Ideally, to broaden a student’s perspective of the field, the placement should be in a different research discipline and not directly the focus of the student’s PhD project. The details of the placement should be organised and agreed with your supervisors.

The timing of the placement is flexible and should be selected by each student and their supervisors to best accommodate project research. While students would not be expected to complete the placement before upgrading it is advisable to discuss options early on with supervisors to allow ample time to organise the placement and to anticipate costs in the budget (see Financial Support section). Also, students should consider the additional time pressures in their final year.

3. Financial Support

Each MRC LID award has been costed following the MRC’s financial details guidance.

Fees
Your Masters (for 1+3 awards) and MPhil/PhD tuition fees (for all award recipients) will be paid to the relevant institution’s Finance Office on your behalf for the duration of your award.

Fees will be pro-rated for any periods of registration shorter than a full academic year (for example, late start date; final 0.5 year of 3.5 year awards; periods of IoS).

Stipend
MRC LID will use at the RCUK indicative rate for each year’s stipends. The MRC pays an additional GBP 2,000.00/year to the RCUK rate for students in London (London weighting).

Stipends are tax-free payments. Students who earn additional sums (eg from teaching and demonstrating) should be aware that their stipend will be included in the aggregated amounts earned when assessing for income tax liability. If you have any queries about income tax during your registration please contact the Payroll Office at LSHTM, who will be able to provide advice.

No additional payments will be made for students’ National Insurance contributions. You may wish to pay contributions as ‘non-employed persons’. You should seek advice first as there are some implications for doing this.

Payment of your stipend will be made monthly in advance – beginning after you have registered in September. The first payment will be made as a cheque, which should be collected from the LSHTM Payroll Office after your enrolment. To collect your cheque you must have your LSHTM photo ID or your LSHTM temporary ID slip. The Payroll Office is open 9.30 am – 4.00 pm Monday to Friday. Subsequent payments will be made by bank transfer, providing we have received bank details from you.

Stipend payments will be made on the 24th of each month (or the nearest working day to it) for the coming month eg a stipend paid on 24th October is your stipend for the period 1 – 30 November.

Stipends will be pro-rated for any periods of registration shorter than a full academic year (for example, late start date; final 0.5 year of 3.5 year awards).

No stipend is paid out for periods of Interruption of Studies (excepting where this is for maternity leave – see 4.6).

Other Costs (including RTSG, fieldwork, training, CPD/short courses, travel and conferences, institutional visits, and 3 month placement/internships)

     * RTSG (Research Training and Support Grant)
A full MRC studentship includes an individual annual RTSG allowance of GBP 5,000.00. This is a contribution towards consumable costs and reasonable expenses which directly support student research. Examples of reasonable expenses include travel for fieldwork and/or preparatory site visits; reimbursement of interpreters, guides, assistants during fieldwork; contribution towards laboratory consumables; books and other reading materials not available through the Senate House, LSHTM, or SGUL libraries; computer and software, where those provided by the institution are not suitable for PhD requirements (eg big data); suitable training, including short courses and CPD courses offered at either institution or externally. This list is not exhaustive; if you have any queries about whether an expense is allowed please contact us in the first instance.

The MRC LID RTSG expenditure will be available from the start of your research degree.
* At LSHTM this will be administered by
– Research Degree Administrators (RDAs) where students are registered in EPH or PHP, and
– Departmental Operating Officers (DOOs) where students are registered in ITD.
If LSHTM is your primary institution please contact the administrators directly for details on how your RTSG should be accessed.
* At SGUL this will be administered with the JREO or the Finance Office. Please contact Rachel Allen, in the first instance, for details on how your RTSG should be accessed if SGUL is your primary institution.

MRC LID reserves the right to ask supervisors for confirmation that expenditure is in direct support of a student’s research.

Students on a 1+3 award will not be entitled to an RTSG allowance during their Masters course year. If there are exceptional circumstances that would require you to use RTSG funding please contact the DTP Administrative Lead by email detailing the reasons for this request and providing a budget for this. These requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Please note that the MRC LID RTSG is different to, and in addition to, any standard RTSG allowance provided to all research students by their primary institution.
– At LSHTM, the non-MRC LID student RTSG covers the costs of (reasonable) printing and stationery, printing of a student’s upgrading documents, and a contribution towards the student representatives’ entertainment budget.
– At SGUL GBP 1,000.00 (the non-MRC LID amount; for all research students) is transferred to your supervisor to cover costs incurred.

      * Travel/Conference Allowance
Please note that the MRC LID travel/conference allowance is different to, and in addition to, any conference and travel allowance made available to all research students by their primary institution.

MRC LID will cover expenses & travel up to the maximum MRC individual, annual allowance of GBP 300.00 for up to 3 conferences (two domestic and one international) over the duration of the studentship.

LSHTM provides a separate (non MRC LID) conference allowance of up to GBP 1,350.00 per student through the Faculties. This allowance is available to all research degree students, provided they meet certain criteria, for up to two conferences (one UK and one overseas). Students based at LSHTM should refer to the Research Degrees Student Handbook or contact their Faculty Research Degree Administrator for details.

SGUL has a small fund available for current students, but it is on a first come first served basis. Further information can be found here.

     * Flexible Supplement / Additional Support
As part of the Studentship grant the MRC provides us with a flexible supplement to cover costs other than fees, stipends, MRC standard annual RTSG and travel/conference allowances. This flexible funding is not allocated as an individual allowance per student; instead it is a pooled amount to support unique training opportunities for MRC-funded PhD students.

The MRC has highlighted the following as ‘unique training opportunities’:

      1. High cost training in recognised areas of strategic need, including support for extra training, such as Masters, for individuals changing discipline;
      2. Exceptional training opportunities, such as:
        – overseas fieldwork where this is an essential part of a student’s training
        – time ‘out of programme’ to complete a complementary and beneficial placement,
        – training in new advanced research skills;
      3. Opportunities to provide training with industry or at the interdisciplinary interface;
      4. Transitions from PhD to first post-doc positions to increase the competitiveness of outstanding candidates.

As it is a limited sum, which MRC LID will need to share most effectively across all themes and students, this will be allocated on a competitive basis.

MRC LID encourages students to undertake relevant institutional visits and placements.

Some of the pooled funding may be used for MRC cohort activities and training.

How to Apply for Flexible Supplement / Additional Support Funding
Around the time of upgrading (ie about 9 months after your initial registration, and the start of your studentship award) you will receive an email from the MRC LID admin team, advising you to submit a Flexible Funding Application Form for your studies. This application should show a clearly thought through budget plan for the entirety of your PhD study. Your fully costed budget should show your RTSG and travel/conference allowances, indicating the costs these are likely to cover; and should show the amount of flexible funding you are requesting for the duration of your studies. Students on the 3.5 year award should also include the cost of their required placement.

This flexible funding application will be considered by an MRC LID board panel, who will then confirm the amount available to you in writing. Please be aware that you may not receive the full amount you request.

Ideally, we would like students to stick within their budget for the lifetime of their award. However, we realise that there are occasions where exceptional changes are required or extraordinary opportunities come up. In these instances, students can put forward a request to amend their studentship budget by submitting a new Flexible Funding Application Form – for the additional funds required only – and these additional funding requests will be considered at the next available opportunity. Please note that only one application for fieldwork may be submitted over duration of an award.

All RTSG and Travel/Conference expenses, excluding those awarded from the flexible funding, will be processed through your Faculty. The total amount available to you will be treated as an advance, with the expectation that wherever possible sufficient evidence of expenditure be submitted in the form of original receipts. At the end of the award any difference between the full MRC LID contribution (advance) and the amount spent (or receipts provided) over the duration of the award will be returned to the grant.

Please report all actual expenditure (actual costs incurred) to MRC LID administration team (using the MRC LID Expenses Form) on a quarterly basis, with a copy of receipts attached. Flexible Funding expenses should be reported within 2 months of course/training/fieldwork etc using the Flexible Funding Expense Form & Breakdown. Any payments made in a currency other than GBP should be recorded in the local currency and converted to Pounds (GBP)on the expenses form. Where receipts are not in English please note the English translation. This regular record keeping will allow us to keep track of actual costs and expenditure. In all cases, the items purchased should be outlined in your budget and not exceeding costs budgeted.

3.4 General Funding Information
Part-time studentships will be paid out at exactly 50% of full-time studentship awards.

Should your circumstances or student status change during the period of MRC LID support you should be aware that this may have an impact on your funding. You should contact the administration team as soon as possible to discuss changes and calculations.

You should be aware that funds paid once your research training has been terminated, or that have been paid inappropriately, will be reclaimed.

Where more applications are received than funding available the DTP may choose to make partial funding awards.

4. MRC LID Studentship Requirements

4.1 Award Dates
Students should be aware that the MRC LID Studentship funding dates and MRC submission date may be different to the maximum registration and submission dates of your primary institution. It is your responsibility to keep a note of the date differences and to ensure that you do not exceed the regulatory requirements of both your primary institution and the MRC. You should ensure that the submission of your thesis meets the earlier required date. If you have any queries about dates please contact the administration team for clarification.

4.2 Reporting Requirements
The MRC uses a number of different systems to gather data about the funding they have awarded, and how it is being used. The 3 currently being used are: Je-S, researchfish, and Gateway to Research.

MRC LID students must provide updated information for these, as and when requested to do so, as the institutions in the DTP are ranked by the quality of data provided and this may affect future funding awarded to us.

* Je-S (Joint Electronic Submission System)
The MRC LID administration team will use this system to keep the MRC up-to-date on details of your award (start and end dates, any periods of IoS etc). We are required to submit scholarship information within the first month of your initial registration; and an abstract of your research.

The administration team will be in touch by email (in Sept/Oct) with a request, deadline for the information, and more details of what is required. Every subsequent year we will ask you to update/refine this abstract, and provide us with additional award information – including details (dates, place, purpose) of fieldwork, institutional visits, placements, and/or research/external collaborations with private, public, or civic society sectors. Please provide details according to MRC requirements (use layman’s terms; focus on core skills areas etc). following discussion with your supervisors and – where applicable – with any external organisations you are working with for your research.

* researchfish
Early each calendar year (usually Feb/Mar) researchfish will contact you to ask that you provide them with research outcomes over their submission window period. It is essential that you take part in this data collection exercise as we are scored on it. The MRC LID administration team will send an email reminder at the relevant time.

* Gateway to Research
The Research Councils will be using this to make public information of individual research projects they are funding. In the future this is likely to include posting your Je-S abstract. It is important that students are aware that potentially the information put in each student abstract could be made public. Therefore any students involved in animal testing/dissection etc. should be careful about details showing in their abstract.

Amendments have been made to the Je-S system help text surrounding data protection issues in the RCUK Training Grant Terms and Conditions so please read the revised Je-S help text for studentship details.

4.3 Satisfactory Academic Progress
Students in receipt of MRC LID funding should maintain satisfactory academic progress to ensure continuation of their funding.

Students must meet the upgrading times and regulations of their primary institution.

4.4 Changes
Any changes to personal circumstances which might result in changes to your student status should be reported to the administration team (in addition to any institution requirements) to allow for discussions of how these changes may affect your funding.

We wish to stress the importance of timeliness in submitting documentation – for example, for for IoS (Interruption of Studies) requests to your relevant institution’s administration team – and reporting early if there are problems or a likelihood of delays with your studies.

4.5 Illness
Students should make sure they follow their primary institution’s regulations regarding illness.

The DTP will follow MRC/RCUK DTP guidance found here:
https://www.mrc.ac.uk/skills-careers/studentships/studentship-guidance/
http://www.rcuk.ac.uk/documents/publications/traininggrantguidance-pdf/

4.6 Maternity, Paternity and Adoption Leave
The DTP will follow MRC/RCUK DTP guidance found here:

https://www.mrc.ac.uk/skills-careers/studentships/studentship-guidance/
http://www.rcuk.ac.uk/documents/publications/traininggrantguidance-pdf/

4.7 Interruption of Studies
Research Councils expect students to complete their training in a single continuous period and do not encourage suspension of awards. However, they are aware that suspensions may be required for personal or family reasons.

Interruptions of Studies should not exceed 12 months in total over the duration of a studentship

4.8 Other Funding
A full MRC Studentship award cannot be held concurrently with any other award which provide maintenance and fees for postgraduate training.

4.9 Publications and Acknowledgement of Support
Please see the RCUK information regarding this. The MRC grant reference for this funding is MR/N013638/1.

We encourage students to engage with the media following full discussions with their supervisors, and training through the transferable skills programme.

4.10 Complaints
In the first instance, students should contact the DTP Administrative Lead to discuss complaints. These will be addressed via the relevant institution’s standard complaints procedure.

5. Student Involvement

5.1 Student Representation
Student Representatives are to be elected each year for Board meeting representation. The currents tudent representatives are noted under 1.1 of this document.

5.2 MRC Cohort
MRC LID students are expected to be active members of the student-led MRC cohort. The aim of the cohort is to provide training and workshop opportunities (and the occasional social event) to all MRC–funded students at both institutions.


6. Other Useful Information

6.1 Website
The MRC LID website has a Current Students section. This section will hold the most up-to-date Studentship Handbook and any MRC LID forms you may need to use over the duration of your studentship.

6.2 Communications
The administration team will arrange award letters, and payments for fees, stipends, and other costs. We can also provide proof of funding letters (eg for rent or mortgage purposes). Please contact us for any other general administrative support regarding your studentship.

You will receive email reminders at key stages of your studentship from and . Please support the administration team by providing them with the information they request or by following the instructions to complete necessary tasks.

6.3 Key Contacts
At London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

ADMIN
* Lara Crawford, DTP Admin Lead (with support from the Scholarships team in Registry)
Email: or Tel.: 020 7299 4781 or 4646

ACADEMIC
* Neil Pearce, DTP Principal Investigator
Email: * Suzanne Filteau, on behalf of the Pro-Director of Teaching and Learning; DTP RDD
Email:

At St George’s, University of London
ADMIN
* Derilyn Frusher
Email: Tel.: 020 8725 0191

ACADEMIC
* Rachel Allen, Head of the Graduate School
Email:

6.4 Acronyms Used
DOO = Departmental Operating Officer (LSHTM) – administers allowances for students in ITD

DTP = Doctoral Training Partnership
EPH = Faculty of Epidemiology & Population Health at LSHTM
IoS = Interruption of Studies (LSHTM)
ITD = Faculty of Infectious & Tropical Diseases at LSHTM
LSHTM = London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
MRC = Medical Research Council
MRC LID = MRC London Intercollegiate Doctoral Training Programme
PHP = Faculty of Public Health & Policy at LSHTM
RCUK = Research Councils UK
RDA = Research Degree Administrator (LSHTM; one per Faculty) – administers allowances for students in EPH and PHP
(F)RDD = (Faculty) Research Degree Director (LSHTM; two per Faculty)
SGUL = St George’s, University of London

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