“Innovate For Ireland”? Current Researchers Need Not Apply
An open letter—from the PhDs’ Collective Action Union (PCAU) to Irish universities, funding agencies, and the Department of Education—has been submitted to request appropriate compensation for PhD researchers in Ireland. It has been signed by 900+ PhDs from all over the country. A petition requesting a meeting with Minister Simon Harris to discuss the same has been signed by over 3,200 PhDs and supporters. Minister Harris has yet to respond.
It is the position of the PCAU that the financial situation of the PhD researcher in Ireland is unsustainable. The average stipend (although some are much lower and others are entirely self-funded) of €18.5K is shamefully below both the minimum wage and the rapidly rising cost-of-living in Ireland. Non-EU PhDs have added financial burdens directly related to their lack of worker status. On Stamp 2 (student) immigration permission, they face mandatory health insurance costs of €600-1000/yr, €300/yr immigration costs, and no working permissions for spouses.
Not only is the stipend difficult if not impossible for some to live on, but PhDs remain demoralized by their lack of worker status. A PhD researcher is not a trainee or apprentice – they are an academic worker. They contribute to both academia and the economy through their novel and sometimes patent-producing research.
In addition to propelling state-of-the-art research forward, PhD researchers work as teachers and tutors to thousands of undergraduate students. Without a proper salary or worker status, PhD researchers are ineligible for PRSI benefits, such as dental and optical assistance, as well as paid maternity leave. Thus, all PhDs should receive adequate compensation and full recognition as academic workers.
The government has already acknowledged this. On July 1 of this year, the Taoiseach and Minister Simon Harris announced the “Innovate for Ireland” initiative, which plans to supply a minority of future PhDs with €28K stipends  to recruit and retain research talent, through a programme benchmarked against similar scholarship programmes internationally.
But as pointed out by Dr. Maria O’Brien , the proposals in this announcement don’t fully address the current “brain drain” and deepen the growing inequities across PhD programmes in Ireland. Ireland is behind much of the EU by using an outdated stipend model that does not recognize the value of research produced by PhD workers.
All or most PhDs in France, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and many other western European countries are provided proper salaries instead of stipends. In the Netherlands for example, PhDs have full worker benefits; salaries of €2,500 per month for the first year with increases to €3,250 per month by the final year; and full parental leave and sick leave. PhDs can afford houses and raise families.
By comparison, Irish researcher conditions are highly unattractive. PhDs leaving Ireland after completing their degree are ultimately losses for the Irish taxpayer, who funds many PhDs through Science Foundation Ireland or the Irish Research Council. PhDs may leave for more financially friendly career opportunities, where their compensation is a more accurate reflection of their value to society.
We kindly request that Minister Harris respond to our letter and meet with our representatives to discuss these issues. We also encourage PhDs and senior academics alike to sign our petition.
On 14 Septmeber 2022, PhDs’ Collective Action Union (PCAU) organised a protest at the Dáil.
Follow PCAU on Twitter: @PhdsPcau
To contact PCAU:
Jeffrey Siothrún Sardina | firstname.lastname@example.org | Acting President of PhDs Collective Action Union (PCAU)
Kyle Hamilton | Acting Vice President of PCAU | email@example.com