The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has expressed concern over the delay in the review of PhD supports in Ireland and the lack of engagement with PhD students.
The report, commissioned in October of 2022, was originally due to be completed by the end of the first quarter of 2023.
In a press release, the USI said that “to date there has been no engagement with postgraduate research stakeholders” and that they have “written to the Department of Further and Higher Education to express [their] 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”.
The USI also stated that “the Department has said that invitations will be issued this week, with meetings due to take place in the second week of March” and that they had “emphasised the need for immediate engagement with representatives of PhD researchers in the review process to ensure their needs and concerns are adequately addressed”.
In the same press release, 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.”
Last Tuesday, it was confirmed that the review of PhD supports currently ongoing would be delayed until the end of the second quarter of 2023.
In a letter seen by The University Times, Dr. Deirdre Lillis, Assistant Secretary and head of research, innovation, evidence for policy and EU and international division confirmed that the review, “informed by a robust evidence base, will be completed in the first half of 2023” and will make “recommendations which will inform future actions to ensuring a sound framework of PhD supports is in place”.
In response to the delay, the Postgraduate Workers Organisation (PWO), a newly-merged body consisting of the Postgraduate Workers’ Alliance of Ireland (PGWA) and the PhDs’ Collective Action Union (PCAU), said that “it is in the opinion of the PWO that this delay is unacceptable”.
“PhD researchers are denied protections for parental leave, sick leave, minimum wages, and workers’ rights under Irish law”, they added.
“The delay of this review signals that the Department of Higher Education and the Irish Government are apathetic to the Irish research and education crisis, and that the systemic issues faced by some of Ireland’s most talented researchers are not a priority.”
They finished: “We call for the review to be completed on its original timetable of the First Quarter of 2023 so that current and future PhD and PG researchers can have their basic needs and rights addressed”.