Report: PhD Funding Survey 2019

Earlier this year, FEDON conducted a survey among PhD students about their funding status. The full report is now available on the web. A brief summary of findings is as follows.

A total of 262 PhD students responded to the survey. These students enrolled in their PhD program between 2008 and 2019. In total, 730 PhD students were officially registered in 2018, giving a response rate of 36%.

Results indicate that around 25% of PhD students have never received funding during their studies. While the ratio of those who have not received any grantsis highest forstudents enrolled in the years 2018 and 2019, they only comprise about a fourth of the sample. There are still many students who have been studying for several years who have neverreceived any funding. The average grant duration in the sample was 32.6 months (SD = 14.5) which is underthe 36 months (up to 48 months in some faculties) expected
to finish a PhD. Additionally, over 20% of respondents have received grants that only cover two years or less. This funding environment effects PhD projects and the time PhD students are able to allocate to them. Students estimate finishing their PhD studies in a much longer time than the expected three (or four) years. The average duration of study estimated by PhD students was 4.7 years which is close to the 5.1 years reported by the Graduate School.

Over 40% of PhD students work in jobs outside the University to support themselves. The workload associated with external employment is high with nearly half workingmore than 30 hours per week. As a PhD program is considered a full-time job, these results indicate that many students are working up to double the full-time equivalent to cover their cost of living. Grant application writing also adds to the time burden on PhD students with the average student sending in more than one grant application. Some grants are not long enough to cover the whole duration of the PhDprogram and students therefore have
to apply for several smaller grants. Application writing takes time which would be better spent working on the actual project itself.

Sessional and assistant teaching are an important part of academia. Around half of all PhD students have sessional teaching experience and over a third have served as assistant teachers. Some students rely on teaching to support themselves. Sessional teaching and teaching assistant wages are very low, and students must therefore take on a prohibitively large teaching load if their main source of income is sessional teaching.

Many students are dissatisfied with PhD funding at UoI. While those who have not received a grant tend to be less satisfied than those with a grant, the dissatisfaction is also high amongst those who have received funding. Alarmingly, PhD students are under considerable mental strain due to their funding situation. They report anxiety, depression, insecurities and stress.

Read the full report on the PhD funding survey

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