Funding: frequently asked questions
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a bursary?
As a (registered) UROP research experience offers distinct educational value to the participant and is undertaken in an educational environment, any payment which the supervisor may wish to make to the participant can be made to the student in the form of a bursary.
The same may apply to a third party sponsor.
A bursary is a contribution towards a participant's living costs. A bursary - which provides support for a UROP research experience at Imperial - is not subject to tax or national insurance deductions.
Do you always receive a bursary for undertaking a UROP?
While the College strongly encourages supervisors to make available a bursary from their research group's (departmental) resources whenever possible, or at the very least provide support to the student in applying to one or more third-party sources, there is no rule which requires a student to receive a bursary from the supervisor in order to undertake a UROP research experience (except, as these policies are known to the UROP Manager, in the Depts of Chemistry and Life Sciences: see news at the end of this item).
Naturally, most students are keen to receive remuneration for their efforts on behalf of the host supervisor/research group. However, for most students it is an absolute requirement in order to cover some of the costs of remaining in or re-locating to London during the College's summer vacation (which is when the vast majority of UROP research experiences take place), and/or to make-up some of the funds that a student may have obtained through more regular vacation work.
Therefore, supervisors who are unable to access funds within their research group are strongly encouraged to discuss the matter with their department in the first instance, before supporting the student with any application to a relevant third-party source of funding. The College encourages supervisors to assist students but students must not leave it to the last moment.
For some supervisors there may be industrial contacts who may be interested in supporting the planned UROP.
All students have to take into account that competition for sources of third-party research internship funding is by nature competitive and that deadlines will apply. You need to plan ahead since third-party sources of funding may be inaccessible by the time you think of applying! Remember also that many application procedures for third party sources of funding require your supervisor to contribute in some way (e.g. a project description).
If, after applying to one or more third-party, a student still has no access to a bursary then the decision as to whether the UROP research experience takes place becomes a matter for the student (in consultation with their proposed supervisor).
If you wish to discuss these matters with the UROP Manager please feel free to email email@example.com
NEWS (November 2022): The Dept of Life Sciences will no longer allow UROPs to take place within the Dept of Life Sciences where no bursary has been organised. Queries to the Dept of Life Sciences' Education Office (firstname.lastname@example.org)
NEWS (December 2022): The Dept of Chemistry will no longer allow UROPs to take place within the Dept of Chemistry where no bursary has been organised. More information for undergraduates of the Dept of Chemistry can be found on the internal chemistry UROP Blackboard page and queries (if you are a student of another dept within the College or are a student at another university) to email@example.com
Should I prepare a budget for my living expenses during the UROP?
Yes, of course.
London can be an expensive place to live, especially the rent on accommodation. Please do not underestimate.
You are not guaranteed to receive any financial support from a supervisor, and during a UROP a UROP (student) participant who is not an Imperial College student cannot access hardship funds.
Therefore, before you contact academic/research staff (i.e. potential UROP supervisors) it is important for you to know how long a UROP you can fund from personal resources and/or from grants/scholarships you have already secured. Do you need to find extra financial support?
Of course, the sentiments expressed in response to the previous FAQ still hold.
Ensure you do your homework!!
You may find the College's Student Financial Support webpages helpful in thinking of the costs involved in being a student in London, albeit for a short period.
Should I inform a potential supervisor as to whether I require a bursary or not?
Yes. If you are willing to undertake a placement without receiving a bursary then it is obviously sensible to make this clear at the outset. However, do not rule out the possibility of securing a bursary from a "third party".
Please ensure you have read the earlier FAQs, especially "do you always receive a bursary for undertaking a UROP?"
Who makes the decision as to the amount to be paid as a bursary?
Bursaries made available by the host supervisor/department:
- A weekly amount will normally be offered (or possibly an hourly amount if you are an Imperial College student undertaking a term-time placement) by the supervisor, or perhaps a lump sum (all payable in one or more instalments).
- It would be for the student to decide if that is sufficient. You may be able to negotiate it upwards but most supervisors will have limited budgets or they may have departmental rules to follow. The scheme has a maximum bursary value of £400 per week.
Third-Party Sources (Bursary schemes): Each scheme will normally set a weekly rate (or a maximum value) and the method (schedule) of payment.
What is the normal weekly bursary?
Eligible undergraduate students of Imperial College who receive a bursary via the Imperial College UROP Bursary scheme normally receive between £350 and £380 per week depending on the source of the funding.
The host dept can also be the source of a bursary (locally managed schemes; use of other appropriate funds). Supervisors (and their department) should note that £400 per week (updated December 2022) is the maximum amount payable in the form of a bursary for the purposes of a UROP research experience at Imperial College (regardless of the source of the bursary). But remember that there are no deductions for tax or national insurance contributions as it is a bursary (i.e. the activity is undertaken in an educational setting).
It is perfectly reasonable for a dept to offer what they can afford or not to offer anything because a UROP is not employment. Some depts might assist with specific costs related to the student undertaking a UROP, such as travel.
As mentioned elsewhere on this site, the expectation is that the supervisor considers the availability of a bursary for the UROP (whether they are advertising the opportunity or a student has approached them) and that a discussion is had on the subject of a bursary before any UROP is finalised. The outcome of that conversation should be recorded on the UROP Registration form.
Where the source of a bursary is an organisation external to the College the supervisor/student must of course adhere to the terms and conditions of that Award. The value of external bursaries (for undergraduate summer research) can vary, i.e. there is no set regime.
For a UROP undertaken part-time during term-time then if financial support is provided it might be calculated by the host dept on an hourly basis.
What if the amount offered is less than what I need, I am not offered a bursary at all or have been unsuccessful with bursary applications?
Obviously, you will need to consider other ways of covering any shortfall.
Ensure that you have compiled a budget and know exactly what your additional expenses are.
Depending on the level of support you are looking for, a supervisor who has not offered a full bursary may in hindsight help with more smaller scale costs such as travel expenses.
It may require you seeking the support of more than one individual/organisation and it is often the case that if you can say to one potential sponsor that another "sponsor" is interested in helping that you can gather sufficient funds to cover those additional expenses.
If you are a student from another UK university then ask your Head of Department (at your home university) whether there are any discretionary funds available to help students with extra-curricula activities.
It is not uncommon for a supervisor to provide afresh or increase a current bursary retrospectively because the work the student subsequently produces has been so good, but of course that is after the event.
I can’t obtain funding for a UROP and I am unable to undertake the UROP without funding, what are my options?
Ensure you have exhausted the conversation, and (if the planned UROP is in your own department) bring the situation to the attention of your Senior Tutor so that perhaps they might help you ensure that no stone has been left unturned. The UROP Manager is also willing to discuss the situation with you.
Imperial undergraduates can consider pursuing a UROP research experience during term time, but probably without any payment. Imperial undergraduates need to be aware that not all academic/research staff will agree to term-time UROPs, but to suggest it may show your enthusiasm and commitment.
Other students will obviously need to consider finding a research experience elsewhere. Not all UK universities have UROP schemes, but most academic depts will have some process in place for managing research internships. London is expensive and perhaps there are cheaper (living cost) options at some of the UK's other great research intensive universities.
Of course, if a student has left planning a UROP until after bursary competitions and other bursary avenues have closed then the simple answer is to reboot your search and look to next summer (assuming you are not graduating). Please don't be be put off trying to achieve your UROP goal, certainly if you are in the early years of your degree and have time to develop that network (and increase your chances of a supervisor funding a UROP from their own resources or of having a successful third-party funding application).
Another option for students is to think again about how a work placement fits into your degree, and investigate whether paid employment opportunities are available in private research development companies or indeed public research institutes. Many of the goals of a UROP can be achieved by other routes.