Postgraduate union says delay to PhD supports review “unacceptable”

The announcement comes after an original scheduled date for the first quarter

The Postgraduate Workers Organisation of Ireland (PWO) has said that a three-month delay to the review of state supports for PhD researchers is “unacceptable” and has called for the review to be completed in line with the original schedule.

In a statement posted to Twitter, the PWO said that they had been informed by the Department of Further and Higher Education on Tuesday that the review, originally scheduled to be completed in the first quarter of 2023, would be delayed until the end of the second quarter.

The organisation claimed that the delay “shows the lack of concern from the Government and that the systemic issues faced by some of Ireland’s most talented researchers are not a priority”.

“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 [postgraduate] researchers can have their basic needs and rights addressed.”

PWO implored the government to  “follow through on their promises to have proper postgraduate representation involved in the review and to engage with PGRs in a more meaningful way.”

PWO is an independent campaign group calling for working status, livable wages and fair treatment for postgraduate researchers in Ireland. It formed from the recent merger of two postgraduate unions, the Postgraduate Workers’ Alliance (PGWA) and the PhDs’ Collective Action Union (PCAU).

Jeffrey Sardina, founder and Vice President of PCAU, stated: “This 3-month delay in talks about PhD supports reflects the shocking lack of accountability in the Department of Higher Education.”

“At a time where negligence has created a crisis for the Irish research economy and higher education system the Department of Higher Education has refused to meet the original deadlines it set for itself,” Sardina added.

According to The University Times, a letter from Dr Deidre Lillis, Assistant secretary and head of research, innovation, evidence for policy and EU and international division in the department, confirmed the delay but offered little further detail.

The Maynooth University branch of the PWO said on Twitter: “A delay and little to no clarity on the process is not what PhDs were expecting as an answer from the [department].”

President of TCD PGWA Conor Reddy connected this latest disappointment to previous governmental promises, citing a 2022 announcement of PhD cost of living support that fell short due to a lack of aid for non-Irish Research Council (IRC) and Science Foundatino Ireland (SFI) PhDs and €500 payouts which researchers felt were insufficient funding.

“At the time, the supports and announcement of the review into PhD conditions were seen by some as little more than lip service, and a demonstration of ignorance by the department.”

Reddy continued: “Today, with news of a further delay, it’s hard to disagree with that sentiment. However, he ended on a determined note, promising that the PWO will not only continue but accelerate their advocacy work in the wake of this latest setback.

“We are disappointed but we will use this disappointment to build our Union and raise our voices in the months ahead.”

Jayna Rohslau

Jayna Rohslau is the Arts and Culture Editor and is currently in her Senior Fresh year studying English in the Dual BA