Postgraduate union calls for “eligible cost” consideration for non-EU residency permit fees

In an open letter to SFI Director General Professor Philip Nolan, the PWO said that non-EU students are “struggling now and cannot wait” for support

The Postgraduate Workers Organisation (PWO), the recently amalgamated body representing postgraduate students in Ireland, has called on the Science Foundation of Ireland (SFI) to allow the consideration of Irish Residency Permit (IRP) fees and health insurance towards non-EU students’ expenses claims.

In an open letter to the SFI’s Director General Professor Philip Nolan, the Committee of the PWO described the matter as an “issue of immediate concern” amidst government plans for a review into state supports for postgraduate workers and researchers.

The letter stated: “Non-EU postgraduate researchers face an inordinately large financial burden on an already small budget.”

“This is due to their requirement to renew their Irish Residency Permit at a cost of €300 a year, in addition to purchasing health insurance that can cost in excess of €600 a year.”

“In addition to the administrative burden that this places on these researchers, this brings non-EU researchers almost €1000 further beneath an already below-minimum wage salary.”

The PWO alleges that these incurrences are “pushing non-EU researchers to breaking point” amidst the ongoing cost of living crisis, with many students living in “precarious or unsafe housing” and relying on external support to cover basic needs.

“It is further tarnishing Ireland’s reputation as a great place to do research and damaging our position on the world stage,” the letter continued.

The union says that the “vast majority” of research centres affiliated with the SFI do not provide for the consideration of IRP fees and health insurance as “eligible costs” as part of students’ expense claims, despite budget underspends in many SFI centres and against the standard practice at such institutions.

“We are therefore asking you now to unequivocally advise all SFI research centres and research training centres to consider IRP fees and insurance for non-EU researchers an eligible expense without delay,” the letter to Prof Nolan declared.

“The reality is that non-EU researchers are struggling now and cannot wait for the outcome of the review to potentially improve their welfare.”

“We ask you to take this opportunity to show leadership in your position as Director General and take this opportunity to improve the lives of the researchers you are responsible for,” the letter concluded.

Last week, it was confirmed that a planned Department of Further and Higher Education review into state supports for postgraduate researchers had been delayed to the second quarter of the year, having originally been scheduled for the first quarter. The PWO criticised the delay, labelling it “unacceptable”.

Evan Skidmore O’Reilly

Evan Skidmore O’Reilly is News Co-Editor for the 70th volume of Trinity News. He is a former Deputy News Editor, and is a current final year Business and Politics student.