The IPE Pensions Scholarship Fund has awarded a full, €5,000 grant to a PhD candidate researching communication and member engagement.

Wiebke Eberhardt, studying at Maastricht University’s School of Business and Economics, expects to complete her PhD on pension communication by 2017.

She said pension fund participants currently knew “very little” about the schemes in which they were members and often did not read the information sent to them – one of the reasons she planned to survey 7,000 defined contribution members as part of her research.

“An important challenge for pension communication is to find ways to motivate participants to become aware of the importance of pensions, to inform themselves about their individual expected pension benefits and, ultimately, to take action, by building up sufficient savings,” she said.

Elsbeth Bruggen, Eberhardt’s supervisor and an associate professor at Maastricht University, said she hoped Eberhardt’s results would be “extremely insightful” for pension providers.

Congratulating Eberhardt on behalf of the IPE Pensions Scholarship Fund board, IPE founding editor Fennell Betson said the fund was very pleased to be supporting research that had such positive potential outcomes for a key issue in DC communication.

“We look forward to her findings with great interest,” he added.

The fund is overseen by a board comprising Chris Verhaegen, member of the Occupational Pensions Stakeholder Group at the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority; Peter Melchior, executive director and actuary at PKA Pension Fund in Denmark; and Peter Borgdorff, executive director at Dutch healthcare sector PFZW.

The fund’s academic adviser is Debbie Harrison, visiting professor at the Pensions Institute, Cass Business School, in London.

The fund was established by IPE as a not-for-profit activity with the purpose of helping European students undertaking graduate or post-graduate studies relating to pensions matters at universities or research bodies in Europe.

It was endowed with an initial fund of €10,000 to mark the 10th anniversary of the IPE Awards, an amount that has since been increased.

The fund said it was keen to hear from European students involved in or considering undertaking pensions-related studies and research, or from the academic community.

The grant to Eberhardt is the third handed out, following one to examine whether funded pension systems were inflating the value of long-term securities

Further details are available from Fennell Betson or on the Fund’s website