College is to increase the stipend for three internal postgraduate research schemes to €25k annually, starting from September.
Though the three programmes account for less than 15% of Trinity’s postgraduate researchers, Dean of Graduate Studies Martine Smith said that it is an important step “in a much bigger ambition”.
Board today approved a proposal to consolidate the Ussher Fellowships, the 1,252 Postgraduate Research Studentships and the Provost PhD awards, and to increase their associated stipends.
In an email announcing the change, College said that “none of the Trinity award schemes had to date offered a stipend that kept pace with the cost of living in Dublin” and acknowledged that “as a result, many PhD researchers have faced enormous financial pressures”.
The change, which forms part of College’s five-year Postgraduate Renewal Programme, will apply to all new and continuing researchers on any of the three schemes.
In a statement to Trinity News, TCD Postgraduate Workers’ Organisation (PWO) said: “This is definitely a step in the right direction, and also a clear sign to other universities and funding agencies that the current stipend is far too low.”
“However, many of our demands in the Fair Researcher Agreement can only [be] achieved through an employment based model for postgraduate researchers. This includes access to sick and personal leave, and addressing the visa issues faced by non-EEA researchers.”
The group also expressed disappointment that the increase does not cover departmental stipends provided by College.
The Fair Research Agreement, submitted to the government review of supports for PhD researchers included livable pay and employment status as key demands.
Smith said that College would continue to advocate for livable stipends for all PhD students through the national review, as well as through the Irish Universities Association (IUA).
Postgraduate workers’ unions have continually called for researchers to be paid a living wage, demanding stipends of €28k a year, in line with the Minimum Essential Standards (MES).
Board also approved a proposal to waive the fee differential charged to Schools for postgraduate students recruited through Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), Irish Research Council (IRC) and Health Research Board (HRB) awards. The waiver will be introduced for all new entrants “on a pilot basis” from September.
Smith said that both initiatives form part of a larger strategy “which is to transform the funding landscape for PhD researchers and to fundamentally review the supports for PhD researchers and supervisors alike”.
The national review of state support for PhD researchers was initially due to be completed early this year, but has been delayed until the second quarter of the year.
The Postgraduate Workers’ Organisation (PWO) have called this delay “unacceptable” and called for the review to be completed according to the original schedule.
Government has promised consultation with PhD researchers on the review, with meetings due to take place in the second week of March.