ESRC Research grant - what do you buy?


ESRC funded PhD students get an annual research grant of £750. If, like me, you are lucky enough to have this funding, please could you let me know what kind of things you spend it on? Are the criteria strictly applied or not?

I am asking because I claimed for something - but my Uni are now saying that it is not eligible and won't pay (although they said it would be OK before I bought it).

I am feeling quite stressed about this - feel that this situation is unfair, and the Uni is just trying to save money (they get the keep the grant they don't pay out students I think). I am obsessing about it somewhat, and think I should officially complain, but I'm scared of doing that since it will make me even more unpopular(!), and might affect any job application to the Uni.

My supervisor, doesn't want to get involved.



I claimed for travel expenses to fieldwork; a dictaphone; conference fees; conference travel and accomodation. I tried to claim for the fees to join a professional body (the political studies association - it was mandatory to be able to present at their conference) but the university turned it down. The whole experience of trying to claim the money was like getting blood out of a stone because the ESRC only paid it in quarterly installments so if you'd used more than your £180 or whatever that term we weren't allowed to claim any more until the next installment came in - even though it was guaranteed that all the money would come in eventually. They also took months to give us the money, while staff expenses were cleared in a couple of weeks.

I think the basic philosophy is that the money should only be spent on fieldwork or things that count towards "research training" but I've known other people use the money for books as well.

Maybe you could ask your department for a statement of the types of things they are willing to cough up for?

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I claim travel expenses, conference accomodation, lots of books (they got a bit arsey about that, but convinced them I couldn't get them anywhere else - although I could have), I bought a dictaphone and also paid for some help with transcription. Apparently it does roll over, so if you only use 350 in your 1st year the 400 rolls over to year 2, so you have 1150 in the second year etc. I have quite a lot to spend now, so waiting to see what I should do with it! I was trying to work out some way, where I would get my husband to do some work for me, under his name and bill me for it, so I can just spend it on me, and chocolates, that's probably fraud though!?


Thanks for these responses - sounds like the situation is similar at your places - if they are different universities - after all, we don't know!

heifer, blood out of a stone is right! The ESRC does have a list of things you can claim, but it is open to interpretation - it says it shoud be for things like consumables, transcription, conferences. I can't lay my hand on the list of criteria at the moment.

sneaks, it sounds to me like they should have paid for your membership! I think if MPs can employ members of their families, then you should be able to as well!! I did claim for quite a few printer cartidges in the past - and paper - so maybe you could do that!

I am sure though that they get to keep the money if we don't spend it, which makes them tend to deny claims - annoying! Also, my uni has cracked down on claiming recently - trying to save money, but I think this shouldn't affect what can be claimed.

I might see if can get my PhD first, and then complain later....


Louisa, I take it you don't have that confirmation from before in writing? If it's a large amount it would be worth fighting your corner (after all they OK'd it before you bought and you shouldn't be left out of pocket).

I don't know about ESRC but with some funding they specify that the student must be reimbursed within 'x' weeks. Might get round the usual delay they apply to all student claims.

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hmm - on an ESRC note. DOes anyone know if ESRC funded students are allowed extensions and if so how to go about getting one?? I desparately need one come october. Will the extension just be the date extended, or will they continue paying me a bit of stipend money. I'm freaking out over my mortgage payments and how to meet them with only one salary coming in once my lovely stipend stops!


As far as I know you are allowed an extra year as a registered student before the ESRC start getting peed off (although in practice it is the university that puts the pressure on, because they stand to lose future funding if a student takes longer than 4 years). Unfortunately the money stops after three and I've never heard of anyone getting an extension to their funding.

however, if you're just going to be writing up you should be able to pay the reduced rate for fees, and at my university they do sometimes find the money to cover the fees for students, particularly if it is obvious that they are only going to need an extra couple of months. It could be worth asking in the department if there are any pots of money; alternatively you could try and get a part-time RA job (does anyone in your department have a funded project on the go, which they could find money from to pay you for some data collection, for example?).

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I'm desparately on the look out for any RA related jobs. Problem is its a small department and I think my sup wants to encourage me to get the PhD done - everyone else she has supervised has rich partners so they could take 3-4 years EXTRA to finish. My hubby is doing ok, but without 2 salaries its going to be tight on the budget, so she just doesn't get that i can't take next year off. So any RA jobs that do come up, she doesn't reserve them for me or anything :-( I am looking out for local teaching work at the 6th form colleges, so I can get part time teaching stuff. Hopefully something will work out, but its quite stressful!


Does anybody get their PhD done in 3 years? A fourth year of writing up is expected - and the ESRC should fund this I think! At the moment I'm living on savings (in the fourth year and paying writing up fees) - a worry since I don't think I'll be walking into a job afterwards!

As far as I can gather, universities are under massive pressure to get ESRC funded students to finish within 4 years because completion rates affect how many studentships they will get in the future. Maybe you could use that as part of an argument, Sneaks? i.e. if you get some additional money or a job, you could finish in 4 years? I don't think you can get additional money, but you can get an extension I think, or you could intercalate for a bit - which might mean avoiding paying fees...?

Teek, I did get agreement in writing that I could buy the thing before I bought it, but they are refusing to pay for it anyway! There are complicating factors though - some months passed between agreement and me buying it, and there was a change in administrators (decisions being passed to faculty instead of department because of money scrimping). THe woman I am dealing with at the moment is a total witch and I have done everything I can to argue the point with her. At the moment, she is ignoring my (very polite) emails. I feel quite insulted by the whole thing - disempowered. I may complain officially later - at the moment, I think I should try not to get too upset about it... I am trying to get my thesis to the point of submission (in both senses) and am pretty frazzled already!

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I have found with the admin staff, a big tin of roses goes down very well and everything magically gets sorted for you!

I have heard the ESRC do have quotas and it will effect further ESRC possibilities for the supervisor involved - which means my sup WILL NOT let me pass on over the 4 years as she is milking the ESRC for everything they've got (quite rightly). Not its not particularly the finishing time I'm worried about - I am more than confident I will get it all written by OCt 2011, its the money to fund from Oct 2010 onwards which is concerning me. I have just blown my savings on a house, a marriage, a car and new house things, e.g. boilers, electrics etc. which does mean we will be completely debt free come october, with just the mortgage and essentials to cover with hubbys salary. Tbh, i forgot about tuition fees! :$ I do have an ISA somewhere of about 7K but I really didn't want that being washed down the drain - urgh! ESRC should fund for 4 years!


Yes, a big tin of roses - laced with rat poison! How many years in prison would that be? I could be there in a nice cell / study bedroom finishing my PhD at the tax payers' expense after all! I could exchange one kind of prison for another!

I know what you mean about financial problems. I possibly have more leeway than you, but I did work PT in my first year. ESRC really should fund for 4 years! ... and PhD students should have more say about how universities treat them!


I'd be really careful with this money i went to two conferences in my first year and spent may first two years research budget in one go.

So now im my second year I'm paying for my own travel and accomodation and just saving the money for conference fees - it doesn't go very far.

I know most people save it up and get all their transcription done with it but I don't think this is a very wise way to spend it. Also the ESRC guidlines say that it shouldn't really be spent on personal computers and that sort of thing.

We have to get out head of dept and supervisors permission for what we spend it on which is a bit annoying but if you're having problems just say you are going to see your ESRC rep - might help speed things along, at the end of the day it is your money.


Conferences are great - but I try and make sure that my supervisors cover me for any I go on. In other words, I only write papers for conferences I know they want to go to - they then piggyback on my paper.

I spend nearly all my money on extra statistical courses. I have been to Essex Summer School for Social Statistics for three years running - last year I was invited as a teaching fellow. This has worked well for me because my specialist method has made me popular within the department. Essentially I am constanly being invited on to journal papers as a lower (down the list) author. Shame they take so long to actually get published...


I spent mine on conferences and travel expenses for field work. Nothing else. I know friends that had bought books and laptops with their grant but every time I asked my supervisor about the possibility of using the grant for something (this included a stats course that he thought I didn't need) he said no...

Have you considered asking the ESRC directly?