Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Questions (683, 689)

Holly Cairns

Question:

683. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the steps he is taking to address workers' rights for postgraduate researchers in universities and institutes of technology, ITs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38876/20]

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Holly Cairns

Question:

689. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if his attention has been drawn to postgraduate students being required to engage in unpaid teaching in some HEIs; and the steps he is taking to address this practice. [38882/20]

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Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 683 and 689 together.

Postgraduate programmes are comprised of a range of elements designed to further the training and development of students. In particular PhD students, in addition to conducting research, participate in other activities to develop generic and transferable skills. These activities are regarded as an integral part of their training and typically include teaching. Teaching contribution assists in the acquisition of generic and transferable skills, as described in the National Framework for Doctoral Education and the PhD Graduate Skills statement provided by the Irish Universities Association.

PhD students may contribute to teaching, often at a level of 120-150 hours per year over the course of their studies, without extra payment. Such duties, which are commonly part of their terms and constitute an element in an up skilling programme, should not be viewed as unpaid teaching. A range of activities can be included under the teaching contribution, such as taking tutorial groups, demonstrating at practical classes, co-supervising undergraduate projects and student mentoring. Hours may be included that are spent in class preparation, advising, monitoring student projects, and correcting projects, notebooks or essays and will vary according to School/Discipline.

While contributing to teaching is an integral part of the training of a research Master’s or PhD student the core component of research programmes across all universities is the advancement of knowledge through original research, which must remain the primary focus of the activity of research students.

The delivery of teaching duties by graduate students in a higher education institution is a matter for the institution concerned reflecting their independent self-governed status. It is important that the allocation and conduct of such work is undertaken in accordance with the objectives of the National Framework for Doctoral Education and the PhD Graduate Skills Statement in enabling the development of key skills and competencies for postgraduate students. In circumstances where issues arise relating to teaching duties of postgraduate students in terms of the Framework and Skills Statement, all parties should engage constructively in the interest of securing balanced solutions.