The first report of the Independent National Review of State Supports for PhD Researchers has disappointed PhD researchers by falling short of addressing the crucial issues they are facing, says the Union of Students in Ireland.

USI Vice President for Postgraduate Affairs, Waqar Ahmed said: “The review’s recommendation of a stipend increase to €25,000, while seemingly promising, still falls below the living wage threshold. The review’s lack of tangible recommendations regarding work status, non-EEA PhD researchers, part-time PhD researchers, and a living wage level stipend, have raised significant disappointment among PhD researchers.

“The review fails to recognise PhD researchers as employees with employee status, contracts of employment, and collective bargaining rights. It also fails to recommend adequate social security provisions such as sickness and parental benefits, protective leave, maternity and paternity leave, contract extension under extenuating conditions, and pension rights. The current system leads to inconsistencies, unequal opportunities, and limited resources for researchers.

Non-EEA PhD researchers, who already face unique challenges related to visas and residency permits, are particularly disappointed by the lack of immediate actions based on the review’s recommendations. The report suggests further engagement with relevant departments without providing concrete solutions or a clear timeline. This lack of immediate action exacerbates the concerns of non-EEA PhD researchers, who were hopeful for timely resolutions to their issues.

During the consultation with the co-chairs of the review, USI proposed State supports and reforms for PGRs including employment status, at least a living wage of €28,808 per annum to all postgraduate researchers, additional research resources, payment of work, reforms for non-EEA postgraduate researchers, appropriate supervision, affordable accommodation, equality of opportunities, career development, union representation and open access.

USI calls on the government to take urgent measures to implement the recommendations of the review report. USI also emphasises the need to address the legitimate concerns of PhD researchers in the second report.

USI submitted the Postgraduate Researchers’ Rights Charter during the review, with the aim of safeguarding and emphasising the working rights of postgraduate researchers in Ireland. The 16 points charter can be found here.