Postgraduate Researchers

Research England (as a council of UKRI) have an interest in postgraduate research students and the health of the research base. Research England are responsible for research funding, including the research degree programme supervision fund.

We will work with the Office for Students (who are responsible for protecting the interests of all students and the quality of the provision they receive) to understand the pipeline of talent through this level of study.


Research England provides a stream of funding that helps universities meet the costs of supervising research degree programmes to encourage the next generation of researchers.

Research Degree Programme (RDP) supervision funding currently amounts to £260 million. This is allocated to departments which will receive mainstream quality-related funding in the same academic year. The allocation reflects postgraduate research student numbers in departments that attract mainstream QR funding, the relative costs of the subjects they are studying, quality and London weighting.

Further details about RDP funding can be found in the funding section.

For more information please contact

Mental Health and Wellbeing

We commissioned Vitae to undertake the first specific piece of research into the wellbeing and mental health of PGR students in the UK. They looked at the policies and provision relating to these issues in Higher Education institutions (HEIs) through interviews with staff, and postgraduate researcher focus groups at ten UK HEIs between September and November 2017. They also ran a pilot survey at six HEIs, providing an indication of the views and experiences which could be explored using a survey instrument. We published their report in May 2018.

The report concludes that these students face unique challenges, including difficulties with supervisor relationships, as well as others recognised in the undergraduate population including financial worries, harassment, and feeling isolated and inadequate.

The Vitae report makes recommendations to funders and HEIs to encourage a healthy and supportive research environment for all PGRs which include:

  • commission a project to explore supervisors’ perceptions of their role in supporting the mental health and wellbeing of postgraduate researchers
  • facilitate practice-sharing mechanisms around the Catalyst Fund projects
  • train, support and recognise supervisors’ role in identifying wellbeing issues among postgraduate researchers
  • HEIs should develop communications strategies to promote points of entry into support services

Many of the recommendations in the report are being addressed by 17 projects funded through the Catalyst Fund which are being overseen jointly by Research England and the Office for Students. £1.5m is being invested in English universities from March 2018 – January 2020 to improve support for the mental health and wellbeing of postgraduate researchers.

Research England will lead on the evaluation of these projects.

For more information please contact

Catalyst Fund

Catalyst aims

The Catalyst Fund provided targeted investment for project based activity led by universities. This fund was run by the former HEFCE (now Research England and the Office for Students). The fund supports:

  • government policy priorities, both short and longer-term
  • innovation in higher education
  • student safeguarding and wellbeing
  • risk sharing where there are financial contributions, matched funding, and investments or leverage from appropriate partners and beneficiaries, as well as support for higher risk activities
  • additionality - activity that would not otherwise happen without additional investment or which bridged a clear funding gap so that long-term sustainability can be achieved.

Mental health and wellbeing of postgraduate researchers

In November 2017, HEFCE launched a Catalyst fund to support the wellbeing and mental health of postgraduate research students. The call was informed by the interim findings of the work carried out by Vitae (to understand the factors affecting the mental health and wellbeing of these students).

Institutions bid for up to £150,000 which required one-to-one matched funding by the institution. The proposals had to outline activity which would either expand existing provision or develop new activities. The proposals needed to be clear as to how these activities would be sustained beyond the period of Catalyst funding. Full documentation on the bidding process can be found on the archived HEFCE website.

In March 2018 £1.5 million was allocated to 17 projects. Projects will run from March 2018 – January 2020. The funded projects are listed here.

Research England and the Office for Students will be working together to monitor and evaluate the projects. Research England will lead on the programme level evaluation, and will be developing good practice to disseminate across the HE sector.

For more information please contact

Catalyst Projects

The funded projects are listed below.

Projects will run from March 2018 – January 2020 and address some of the factors which affect postgraduate student mental health and wellbeing (as outlined in the Vitae report).

Research England will play a lead role in evaluating the projects and developing good practice for the sector.

Institution Partner institutions Project aims Total Catalyst funding

The University of Manchester
Partnerships for improved postgraduate researcher wellbeing and mental health


Improving service provision for PGRs, including improving referral and access to NHS services.


University College London
ADAPT: Supporting the mental wellbeing of postgraduate research students

University of Nottingham

Build a programme of preventative mental wellbeing support for PGRs, focusing on building resilience.


University of Portsmouth
Improving postgraduate research student wellbeing by increasing mental health literacy and social support

Leeds Beckett University

To improve PGR wellbeing through raising literacy in:

  • knowledge of mental health issues;
  • attitudes toward mental health issues and care; and
  • ability to seek care.


The University of East Anglia

University of Suffolk

Supporting prevention and early intervention of mental health and wellbeing issues in PGR students.


The University of Bradford
PGR Connect


To develop a sustainable peer support network across the PGR community with an emphasis on self-care and mental health awareness.


University of Sussex
Supporting PGR Student Mental Health


To develop and implement new support package including training for staff and students, and partnering with the NHS.


The University of Liverpool
Preparing for a healthy PhD: Piloting a multi-layered induction, training and development framework to support PGR mental health and wellbeing during transition into the early stages of doctoral study


To better prepare PGR students and their supervisors through:

  • pastoral and peer led-groups;
  • increasing resilience; and
  • reducing stressors.


University of Oxford
PGR Peer Support


Support PGRs by extending the model of peer support.


The University of Warwick


Explore personality development (through a programme of interventions and activities) as a way to facilitate positive mental health and wellbeing of PGR students.


University of the West of England, Bristol
An integrated online-offline support ecosystem for PGRs enabled by SAM App


To develop an app to:

  • increase self-awareness;
  • provide peer support;
  • provide tools to connect PGR students to student services.


University of Derby
The National PGR Student Wellbeing Online Resource

Kings College London

To develop a web-resource that focuses on prevention and early intervention as support for PGR student wellbeing.


University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Wellbeing for All: An Equality and Inclusion Approach to Supporting PGR Mental Health


To address equality and inclusion-related barriers to wellbeing and reduce the stigma associated with mental health issues.


The University of Westminster
Wellbeing When Writing: An intervention programme for tackling mental health and wellbeing issues arising from the doctoral writing process


To support students with writing-related anxiety and stress by improving confidence and resilience.


Bournemouth University
Improving transitions and support for PGR students

Arts University Bournemouth

To understand:

  • student expectations of PGR study before enrolment to help support their transition to PGR study;
  • particular stress points throughout study to demonstrate where additional support is required;
  • where additional training of supervisors is required by clarifying their role.


University of Plymouth
Peer Support for PGR Student Wellbeing


To deliver a package of online materials for training PGR students and to deliver workshops on mental health and wellbeing.


University of Durham
PGR Mental Health and Wellbeing: Exploring the role of the supervisory relationship in supporting the PGR experience


To enhance the mental health and wellbeing of PGR students through focussing upon the postgraduate supervisory relationship.


Queen Mary University of London
PGR catalyst mental health support


To introduce emotional resilience and resourcefulness sessions for PGRs through:

  • PhD induction and annual cohort days;
  • a weekly support group;
  • wellbeing campaign events; and
  • new workshops and resources for supervisors.


For more information please contact or