UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is raising its minimum rate for PhD stipends by 10%. The move follows calls from postgraduate researchers for more support amid the UK’s ongoing cost of living crisis.

In July, an open letter addressed to UKRI chief executive Ottoline Leyser and its chair Andrew Mackenzie demanded action to support postgraduate students struggling with rapidly rising costs of living. By 5 September the letter, which was organised by the PGRs Against Low Pay campaign, had been signed by 10,504 postgraduate researchers and another 4000 people signing in solidarity.

Current minimum PhD stipends in the UK are roughly comparable to the national minimum wage, meaning that postgraduate researchers are receiving their lowest income in more than 20 years.

But UKRI has now said that it will increase the minimum stipend by 10% on top of a planned 2.9% increase that was announced earlier in the summer.

‘Our initial plan was to provide a smaller one-off payment to students; however, we have listened to [postgraduate researchers’] feedback and worked up our more substantive proposal,’ said UKRI’s executive champion for people, culture and talent, Melanie Welham. ‘We will implement an uplift to the minimum stipend level to provide greater security to students over the longer term.’

In her update posted on UKRI’s website, Welham notes that UKRI is committed to reviewing how it ‘determines the amount [postgraduate research students] will be paid in the future’.

However, Ansh Bhatnagar, a physics PhD student and PGRs Against Low Pay representative, noted on Twitter that in a subsequent meeting with UKRI the funder had ruled out a rolling review of stipends to account for potential increases in energy prices, which are expected to soar over the coming months.