work with the uni to help PhD students save for a pension

David Stanley submitted on

Thursday 4th November 2021


PhD students in the UK are not technically paid employees but instead fee-paying students who (in many cases) are given a tax-free stipend by a funding provider (who will typically also cover the tuition fees). Because of this, PhD students do not have access to a workplace pension scheme for the 3-4+ years of their PhD programme, and I imagine few PhD students save money into a pension scheme (it would be interesting to get numbers on this, but I imagine most are too busy getting to grips with their PhD and then too busy with their PhD work and then too busy arranging their post-PhD transition). Ideally, laws or practices in the UK would change to provide PhD students with access to a workplace pension with employer contributions, but as that is not likely to happen anytime soon, it would be good if the university and/or students union could at least point PhD students in the direction of a reputable private pension fund in which they could invest some of their stipend alone and save for retirement and make this process easier for PhD students.


Here, you can view the complete set of official responses from the sabbatical officers regarding this submission.

Students' Union replied on

Tuesday 1st Feb 2022 8:44am

Hello. Following on from the discussion with the Doctoral College, we have had a chat with our Advice Centre. While this isn't something we can directly offer, we are currently looking into the support and advice we do offer our PGR students, as well as how we can expand. Thank you for raising this and giving us the opportunity to offer and work alongside students to develop more support strategies that best fits them. 


Students' Union replied on

Saturday 15th Jan 2022 5:16pm

Hi, this is the response I received from the University yesterday: "I raised the issue with HR, who in turn have discussed the matter with the University’s tax advisors, KPMG. It is clearly a difficult area, compounded by the length of time it takes to earn a PhD, during which time a lot of the students will not be employees and therefore not eligible to be enrolled in an organisation’s pension. The option therefore for PhD students seems to be investigating a private pension provider, and/or looking to see if they can make voluntary National Insurance payments towards the state pension provision (for those that this might apply to).   The University can’t advise on pensions, as it has to be certified to be able to do so. It has been suggested that this might be something that SUSU could explore, for example by running a ‘finance’ workshop on pensions, where a certified financial advisor could give some information and tips on pensions?" From this, I have now contacted the Representation team and the Advice Centre at SUSU to see if we can set up some helpful workshops for PhD students. I will let you know once this has been discussed and we have something set up. 

Students' Union replied on

Friday 7th Jan 2022 9:40am

Hi. Thank you for your patience on this matter. I believe due to the Winter break, this has perhaps got lost in the communication streams so I will be chasing this for you today. 

Students' Union replied on

Friday 19th Nov 2021 9:07am

Hello! Apologies I have not got back to you sooner. I will get in contact with the University's Doctoral College to provide a response and get back to you. 


  • Forwarded to Vice President Education and Democracy

    Friday 5th Nov 2021 9:10am


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