The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has expressed concerns about the delay in the ongoing national review of state support for PhD researchers which was due to be completed in early 2023, and the lack of engagement with postgraduate researchers to date.
In October 2022, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris announced that this vital review of how PhD researchers are supported, would begin in November and be completed in early 2023.
However, to date there has been no engagement with postgraduate research stakeholders, which is causing a great deal of uncertainty and anxiety for these researchers.
USI has written to the Department of Further and Higher Education to express its concerns about the lack of engagement so far, to call for an update on when these meetings would take place and for the department to outline the new anticipated completion time of the review.
In response to USI, the Department has said that invitations will be issued this week, with meetings due to take place in the second week of March.
However, USI has emphasised the need for immediate engagement with representatives of PhD researchers in the review process to ensure their needs and concerns are adequately addressed.
USI Vice President for Postgraduate Affairs, Waqar Ahmed said: “USI believes the postgraduate research community urgently needs help and reform, and we hope the review will deliver measures to improve working conditions. We are committed to supporting the postgraduate research community and are looking forward to engaging with the review co-chairs and other stakeholders to ensure the review is conducted in a transparent and inclusive manner.”
USI will submit its newly approved Postgraduate Researchers’ Rights Charter 2022 to the PhD review. The charter advocates for employee status for researchers, a minimum living wage, payment for all work and representation in decision-making bodies.