PhD students sponsored by the Medical Research Council (MRC) are to see their stipends rise to £10,000 a year, beginning in October 2001. The decision to introduce the 34% pay rise has been taken following a review of MRC's training policy. It beats by 2 years and £1000 the stipend increase for all Research Council studentships announced by the Government last summer.

Following the 2000 Government spending review, all the Research Councils received additional funding to pay for the required increase in stipend to £9000 by 2003. But "the MRC decided to go further than the Government's recommended minimum in order to attract current graduates contemplating a career in biomedical research to the MRC," according to Sir George Radda, MRC chief executive. Existing PhD students and those beginning master's degrees in 2001 will also receive the extra cash. The number of studentships available will not be cut.

Also resulting from the training policy review is a decision to increase the number of MRC-funded master's degree studentships. About 100 MSc places are funded annually at the moment, and this is set to rise to 180 by 2003. The MRC says this demonstrates its support for a move toward more flexible models of postgraduate training, including the possibility of 1 + 3 education (a master's degree followed by a PhD).