Hello geniuses of the world (yes you are!)
I’m halfway through my PhD and over the years I’ve managed to get quite a bit of funding to purchase equipment with. Now this equipment is awesome and would be fabulous for me to actually setup my own freelance business with after I graduate, but my supervisors tell me it’s university property, eventhough they did fuck all to help me get the funding.
Does anyone know if I have any rights here?
Congrats on getting funding! I would, read the funding the conditions, as external funding usually explicitly states who owns the equipment from the project. In the UK, if the equipment was entirely externally funded it most likely belongs to the principal investigator (or equivalent). If any money came from the university, they own a percentage of the equipment and you might have to buy out their part of the equipment.
Out of curiosity where did you find funding that PhD students were eligible for to buy equipment?
I AM NOT A LAWYER and in no way is this legal advice.
As others have stated here, it is normal that equipment obtained through third-party funding stays with the university (in fact, the same applies to salaries which have not been used up). As researcher (Ph.D student or postdoc) you are not an independent legal entity. That's why grant proposal are usally signed by a faculty member, who legally acts on behalf of the university. Of course, this feels unfair when you did all the work and are proud of your success, but the legal situation is usually pretty unambiguous. That being said, as others have stated, simply read through the paperwork concerning the funding. It should become clear quickly who the contractual partner of the funding agency / company was from the legal point of view.
In fact, I knew an assistant professor who moved to a different university and wanted to quietly take "his" computer lab equipment along, for which he had acquired the funding. Result: the dean called him to his office and threatened to call police. A lot of bad blood was generated that day.
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