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PhD Life: The UK student experience

  • 25 June 2020
  • By Bethan Cornell
  • HEPI number 131

PhD Life: The UK student experience by Bethan Cornell uses previously unpublished data from Nature and the Wellcome Trust to uncover the reality of life as a PhD student.

The key findings include:

  • the average PhD student works 47 hours per week, which is over 50% more than the average undergraduate and three hours less than the average academic;
  • for PhD students on the basic Research Council stipend, this equates to earning less than the minimum wage. 
  • over three-quarters of PhD students (78%) are satisfied or highly satisfied with their degree of independence;
  • 63% of PhD students see their supervisor for less than one hour per-week;
  • 23% of PhD students would change their supervisor if they were starting their PhD again now;
  • the majority (80%) of PhD students believe a career in research can be lonely and isolating;
  • over one-third (37%) of PhD students have sought help for anxiety or depression caused by PhD study;
  • one-quarter (25%) of PhD students feel they have been bullied and 47% believe they have witnessed bullying; and
  • one-fifth (20%) of PhD students feel they have been discriminated against and 34% believe they have witnessed discrimination.

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