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Third Level Education

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 17 May 2022

Tuesday, 17 May 2022

Questions (563)

Rose Conway-Walsh


563. Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if his attention has been drawn to the fact that part-time PhD students who apply to the Irish Research Council for funding have any prior year of part-time PhD research counted as full-time, meaning, if successful, they are eligible for less support from the IRC; if he will engage with IRC to rectify this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24116/22]

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Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

The awarding of funding is, in the first instance, a matter for the awarding authority.

The reason why part-time and full-time PhDs are treated the same for those applicants that have already commenced a PhD programme is that there is no agreed national approach for determining equivalence between these two modes.

The IRC will engage with the National Forum for Doctoral Education (NFDE) on this matter; the forum, which is representative of both higher education institutions and research funders, is the appropriate vehicle through which to explore potential mechanisms for progressing the issue of equivalence.

All IRC funding is linked with the HEA-Athena Swan accreditation framework. This framework requires that research-performing institutions must meet the minimum accreditation standard in order to be eligible to host a research award provided by the IRC. Athena Swan is currently undertaking a review process with a view to broadening its remit from gender to address wider equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI). The IRC will be examining this EDI policy and strategy further in 2022, building on the recommendations set out in its recent review of its first gender strategy and action plan, and collaborating with the other funders and the HEA. Within the national policy framework, the IRC keeps its own policies under continuous review.

A new national strategy for research and innovation, will be published shortly. There will be an enhanced emphasis on EDI in research in the new strategy, aligned with the Department’s strategic pillars as set out in its own Statement of Strategy 2021-2023. Inclusion is one of the core strategic goals for my Department, and my ambition is to ensure that we provide supports and opportunities for learning to all. This means recognising the needs of vulnerable learners, people who are most marginalised, and people with special and additional needs.

The new research and innovation strategy will have associated work programmes over the lifetime of the strategy, with specific actions. The IRC, along with the other research funders and wider stakeholders will engage with my Department on the implementation of the strategy and the further development of national policy and practice.