Research Postgraduates Issues

Postgraduate students have specific concerns and issues – it is essential that this is recognised and acted upon. Even amongst the same disciplines, we must also understand that there are two distinct groups of Postgrads (research and taught) with very different needs. While many of the issues addressed throughout my manifesto will affect taught students there are clear issues for those engaged in research.

Planning for Postgraduates
One of the key growth areas in our University is the area of postgraduate research. While there exists a commitment to double the number of Postgraduates in UCC in the coming years, there are not enough facilities for the post grads we have at present and things will only get worse. The ‘Postgraduate Library’ will not be solely for postgraduates. There is a dearth of facilities and space – very few have the desk-space, phone and internet access they need. Supervision in many faculties is also unfocussed and inadequate.

There is a perception within UCC, and not unwarranted, that those researching in arts, social sciences, business and law do not receive the types of facilities, funding and tutorial experience that other research students receive. Within the Sciences there are many funding opportunities, however this is not the case in the humanities.
Many humanities researchers feel like second class citizens within UCC where there research is somehow valued less than those within the sciences. UCC needs to emphasis the importance of both types of research in building our knowledge based economy.

Funding for Postgraduates
UCC cannot hope to maintain its position as a leading research institution where its research students must, in effect, take a second job to survive in college. This is an issue which must be tackled with urgency.

We need to continually increase sources of funding especially where the Strategic Innovation Fund has an inbuilt bias towards Science and engineering. Arts and Humanities are essential for the maintenance Academia and a strong University. Funding levels are minimal for those on studentships which are not subject to external funding. At present research funding appears to reflect a belief that one form of research is more socially valuable than another. As a Students’ Union we must fight to tackle this misconception – all research is important for a knowledge based economy. Funding for Humanities through the IRCHSS needs to be developed further and IRCHSS funding should be placed at the same level as IRCSET. Difference in funding at a national level between humanities and sciences creates an impression that one level of research is more socially valuable than the other.

Training for Postgraduates
Most supervisors have no training in the skills required and become supervisors merely by virtue of their qualifications for their own earlier work. Skills and standards must be established and maintained.

Compulsory teaching lecturing element in all Masters/PhD programs must be encouraged in an effort to ensure the greater quality of potential lecturers. The STEPS Module is a positive step for UCC. However, it is essential that similar free programmes within the other departments of UCC continue to be developed and are made widely available. Central funding should be made available for these departmental training courses. At the moment, many postgraduate demonstrators (almost exclusively within the sciences) are doing an inordinate amount of lab work which is underpaid. The attitude of certain science based academics is that ‘since we did this, then so should they’. It is no longer acceptable for any postgraduate student to be paid a pittance for their tutorial/demonstration work. Postgraduate tutors/demonstrators should also receive feedback from their students on how they may improve their teaching experience.

Postgraduate Representation
Representation for postgraduates is wholly inadequate. Former Postgrad officers like Paul, Liam and the current postgraduate officer John have had to fight all of the usual concerns of postgrads such as funding and facilities AND have taken on the extra representative role across all disciplines. A wholey unforgiving experience while attempting to maintain the standard of their study and tutor at the same time. Postgraduate representation must model the structures of college – with a Rep from each College/ Faculty coordinated by a part time paid officer. At the very least the postgrad officer should not be forced to take on extra employment to fund their Union and other committments.

I will campaign for:
The provision of adequate facilities such as study space and offices for Postgraduates especially those within the Humanities.
Dedicated postgraduate computer labs and printers. Phd students shouldn’t be queuing behind first years to gain access to printers
Adequate Postgraduate only areas of library
Fighting for ‘flexible learning’ – Postgrads need far greater access to their laboratory facilities and office spaces.
Mandatory training for potential Postgraduate supervisors.
Tackle the Supervisor/Student ratio. Contact and flexibility are essential. At the very least we must limit the number of PhD/Research students per supervisor.
Health & Safety Training available for all demonstrators responsible for classes/groups

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