Nov 21, 2022

PCAU To Submit Proposal to Harris on PhD and Postgraduate Researcher Rights

The proposal was discussed at a Town Hall held by the PCAU on Friday.

Ailbhe NoonanEditor
Corinne Mahon for The University Times

The PhDs’ Collective Action Union (PCAU) have produced a document outlining their demands for fair research and pay conditions.

The document, titled the Fair Postgraduate Researcher Agreement (FRA), will be submitted to Minister for Higher Education and Research Simon Harris as part of the ongoing review of PhD supports in Ireland.

The agreement was initially drafted by the PCAU executive and received input from Union members before being presented at a Town Hall on Friday.


“It is the core belief of the PhDs’ Collective Action Union (PCAU) that all postgraduate researchers in Ireland should be recognised as – and offered the rights and protections of – employees under Irish Law”, the FRA states.

“PG employees should be paid at least a living wage, based on the current value of the Minimum Essential Standards (MES) model”, the document continues.

“The MES model ensures that the salary paid to PG employees is tracked to the cost of essential goods and guarantees that PG employees are paid enough to meet physical, psychological and social needs in Ireland.”

On the topic of working conditions for postgraduate researchers, the document states that “all [postgraduate] employees have the right to perform their duties under fair employment terms” and that “the specifications of these terms must be clearly stated in an employment contract” offered to postgraduate researchers before they begin their roles.

The fair employment terms as outlined by the PCAU include a work week of not more than 48 hours across all responsibilities, that the total time spent in a teaching role not exceed 10 hours per week unless otherwise requested (in which case it should not exceed 20 hours per week), and that the time spent preparing for lecturing and demonstrating be paid at the same rate as teaching hours.

The document also emphasises the issues faced by non-EU postgraduate researchers and outlines ways to reform the system to support them, including having institutions cover the costs of immigration fees, extending the Irish Residency Permit expiration date to cover the full period of study, reducing tuition fees and granting access to health and disability support.

The issue of spouse rights for non-EU postgraduate researchers is also covered. “Spouses and dependents of all [postgraduate] employees, whether they be EU citizens or not, should have full working rights in Ireland”, the document states.

“Non-EU [postgraduate] employees should be included in the Hosting Agreement Scheme, as is the case with those pursuing post-doctoral research. Time spent as a [postgraduate] should count towards all Irish residency requirements in accordance with the Hosting Agreement Scheme, and the right for dependents to reside in the country extended to [postgraduate] employees as is consistent with the scheme.”

In a press release issued after the Town Hall, PCAU stated that the FRA “serves as a central manifesto and set of demands, outlining the core demands that PCAU considers to be basic rights of PhD and postgraduate researchers”.

In the same press release, PCAU Data Officer Matt Murtagh said: “It was really fantastic to see a full room and we now have some fantastic contributions from our members on the Fair Postgraduate Researcher Agreement”.

“We’re now in a place where we can look forward to the release of the final document and finally get the ball rolling on meaningful improvements to the welfare of postgraduate researchers in Ireland.”

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