This post was written by PhD researcher who prefers to remain anonymous.
If I had to try and isolate one of the biggest issues during the pandemic for me, it’s that as a PhD with a respiratory illness I felt like I had no support.
My PhD is heavily lab based and in the summer of 2020 we began phasing back into lab work but there was no consideration by the university that some PhD students may be classed as vulnerable. When I raised my concerns I was mainly greeted with the idea of taking a leave of absence. Taking a leave of absence wasn’t viable. I need my stipend for food and rent and I don’t have family I can really rely on for financial support.
My experience in this regards has felt like a slap in the face. Publicly the uni say they’re willing to support us, but this support amounts to little more than suggesting a leave of absence. This combined with just the overall stress of trying to be productive and hit deadlines in the pandemic has been overall detrimental to my mental health but I felt like I had no option.
The most important thing that universities and other institutions can do is to acknowledge PhD students as staff. Through the pandemic I was sometimes treated like a student and sometimes treated like staff, whatever suited them at tht time. Universities should not got to pick and choose. PGRs need rights, because without this it can make getting support near impossible.
We are publishing blog posts from the PGR community about the pandemic. This can be on any topic, such as personal experiences, opinion pieces or poetry. If you would like to contribute please DM us on Twitter at @pandemicPGRs