When will funders take action on PhD and postdoc conditions?

A massive hand reaches out to tiny protesters grouped in the shape of another massive hand

Source: © Nick Shepherd/Ikon Images

Campaigns in the UK, Ireland and Canada await announcements

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has announced that it will increase the minimum stipend for the PhD students it funds to £18,622 for the 2023–2024 academic year – an increase of nearly £1000 above the current minimum (and nearly £1460 above the standard take-home pay of someone working 37 hours a week on minimum wage). But we’ll have to wait a little longer to find out if it’s implementing further changes that could affect the working conditions of PhD researchers and the nature of the PhD itself.

Last year, UKRI opened a consultation on their New Deal for Postgraduate Research, which aims to ensure that PhD researchers receive effective training and the support they need. UKRI has now published a report analysing the responses to the consultation. Key issues raised by respondents include a need for better financial support, more flexibility in course structure and more opportunities for career development. UKRI says it will publish its own response to this feedback before the summer.

Similar action is on the horizon in Ireland. The Irish Times reports that a draft review of the state support on offer to PhD researchers recommends increasing stipends from €18,500 to €25,000 a year. However, the review reportedly does not commit to a recommendation on the much-debated issue of whether PhD students should be granted employment status. The final report is due to go to the Minister for Further and Higher Education later this month, so it will still be some time before we will know how the recommendations will be acted on.