Ireland plans to review State supports for PhD researchers

20 Oct 2022

Minister Simon Harris at Inspirefest 2018. Image: Conor McCabe Photography

Minister Simon Harris said the review will ‘hear from the frontline’ as researchers have ‘made it clear’ that they are facing a range of financial and broader issues.

A national review of State supports for PhD researchers is set to begin next month.

This will look over a broad range of issues, such as the adequacy, consistency and equity of arrangements across research funders and higher education institutions. It will also review existing financial supports such as stipends and SUSI grants.

The review was announced by Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris, TD, who said it will “hear from the frontline”.

“Its first step will be to engage with relevant stakeholders including PhD researchers, host institutions, research funders, employers and relevant Government departments,” Harris added.

The review is set to be completed by early 2023. It will investigate the status of both student and employee PhD researchers, while looking at international comparators and models.

It will also look at visa requirements and duration for non-EU students, along with the outcomes for PhD graduates such as the return on investment and benefits to the researcher.

“I have met with these researchers over the past year who have made it clear there are a range of issues facing them,” Harris said. “Some of these are financial but there are broader issues too.”

The Minister added that the review ties into Impact 2030, Ireland’s national strategy to boost research and innovation that was launched in May. He said the overarching objective of this strategy is to maximise the impact of research and innovation on Ireland’s economy and society.

Impact 2030 set out several objectives, including the establishment of a new funding agency that will amalgamate the functions of Ireland’s two major research bodies – the Irish Research Council and Science Foundation Ireland – through a landmark bill due to go before the Government.

“We want Ireland to be a leader in talent,” Harris said. “In order to do that, we have to ensure that our brightest talent here in Ireland can pursue their research ambitions in a supportive environment.”

Last month, students held a protest outside the Dáil demanding fairer pay for PhD researchers. The PhDs’ Collective Action Union is campaigning to increase the stipend given to PhD researchers beyond €18,500, The Irish Times reported.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic