The bursary payment section is part of the payroll department, and is responsible for calculating and paying student bursaries, using information provided by the Registry, by departmental managers and students themselves.
Bursaries are paid on the 7th of each month, unless this falls at a weekend in which case it is the preceding Friday
|Main Run Deadline
|Supplementary Run Deadline
|Supplementary Run Payday
Please note the earlier deadlines around Easter College closure.
Dates for October 2023 and the following twelve months will be posted in Summer 2024.
Submission of bursary forms
All bursary requests must be submitted by email. When submitting bursary forms, they must be emailed by the approver listed on the form. Please send no more than nine forms on any single email, as this becomes difficult to manage when received and could lead to errors causing delays to payments for the student.
Please be conscious of the file name of the bursary form. There is no set naming convention required, but if any information in the file name, such as the student’s CID or dates for payment, contradicts the content of the form it will be rejected so as to avoid ambiguity in the documentation.
Where a student’s bursary start date is after the deadline for the supplementary run, the time period the student is paid for will be shifted by one month. For example, if a student is due to be paid for the period January 2024 to December 2024, and the start date is the 12th January 2024, the student will receive their first payment in February 2024 of one twelfth of the annual bursary value. Their last payment will subsequently be in January 2025.
Where a student has a bursary funded across two separate departments, two separate forms are required owing to approval privileges. If these forms are submitted at different cut-off points, the student will only receive the approved portion of their bursary in the first month.
Requests to add new approvers can only come from the Faculty Finance Officer for the relevant department/area. The request should be emailed to Payroll (firstname.lastname@example.org) clearly outlining the codes needed. Please be aware that approvals are based on the first two characters of the cost centre that the bursary will be charged to.
All students, whether new or returning, must enrol online at the earliest opportunity. They will be sent an email telling them when this will be possible. They need to have registered at least five working days before the payment dates indicated above in order to receive payment in the relevant cycle.
Payment of student bursaries are normally made only to UK bank accounts. Details of bank accounts should be submitted as soon as possible via My Imperial. Changes to bank accounts should be lodged in the same way. Students who have previously provided their bank details in this way which have not changed do not need to take action unless they have had an interruption to their bursary payment.
If a student is unable to open a UK bank account at the outset of their studies, we will pay their first bursary payment to an overseas account in their name. This payment will be made in GBP and currency conversion will be at the recipient bank’s prevailing rate. The College will meet its charges for sending the payment and the student will meet the receiving bank’s charges. The overseas bank details must be submitted by email from the student’s Imperial College email address. Payment to foreign bank accounts is unlikely to be received on the usual pay day and can take as much as seven days to clear. The student must have a UK bank account set up to receive further payments, with the details provided via My Imperial as outlined above.
Bursaries cannot be paid outside of the timetable above owing to processing times and interactions with other core payment activities. It is vital that approvers submit requests in time for the run the payment needs to be made on. Cases of student hardship not owing to late submitted paperwork should be directed to the Student Support Fund.
The RCUK PhD studentship rate is £20,622 from October 2023. The rate is reviewed annually, and any future uplift will be automatically applied.
Legal and Tax Basis for Student Bursaries
Throughout this document, the expression "bursary" means any payment which is made to a full-time student to meet their ordinary living costs whilst studying. It encompasses student grants, studentships, exhibitions, scholarships, stipends, living allowances and similar payments. Student loans – because they are repayable – do not fall within this heading.
The essential components needed to ensure that a payment is treated as a tax-free bursary rather than as emoluments of employment are:
- the recipient must be in full-time education
- the purpose of study must be essentially for the student's personal benefit and development, rather than for that of any employer or sponsor (including the College)
- the payment must be in the nature of a subsistence allowance, and modest in scale
In order to qualify for tax-free treatment, a bursary may be paid only to someone "receiving full-time instruction at a university college, school or other educational establishment". (Section 776(3), Income Tax (Trading and Other Income) Act. In practice, part-time students in receipt of a bursary should not receive a payment greater than the agreed HMRC tax-free amount of £15,480.
The expression "full-time" is not statutorily defined. In most cases, the recipient would be registered for a degree on a full-time basis. It is accepted, however, that PhD students at the writing-up stage, although their full-time tuition fee liability has ended, are nevertheless engaged in full-time study. For all practical purposes, the words "full-time" can be taken to mean that at least 35 hours per week are devoted to study.
The distinction between student status and employment can be hard to define, particularly where sponsored research work is undertaken by postgraduates. There is no single determining factor, but the general philosophy should be that someone following up a line of research of their own choosing (albeit under the guidance of a supervisor) in furtherance of their own intellectual development is likely to be classed as a student, particularly if the outcome is a degree or similarly tangible qualification. This is the case even if the funding for a bursary is provided by an industrial sponsor.
On the other hand, research carried out in accordance with precise contractual obligations imposed by a sponsor is likely to amount to an employment relationship. Any payments made by the College in such circumstances would be taxable and the person in question should hold an employment contract.
Value of Bursary Payments
The purpose of the payment must be to enable the recipient to subsist whilst studying. The College sets a maximum annual figure of £28,350 (£2,362.50 per month). This figure is equivalent to a gross taxable salary of about £36,000 a year.
Level 5, Sherfield Building, South Kensington Campus
Level 5, Sherfield Building, South Kensington Campus