Student cannot be used as free labour in our higher education sector

Senator Annie Hoey image
17 September 2020

Labour Spokesperson on Higher Education, Senator. Annie Hoey, has raised concerns with the Minister for Higher and Further Education regarding the use of research students as unpaid teachers in the higher education sector. This follows the issuing of an email to NUI Galway post graduate research students in recent days informing them of their obligation to provide ‘unpaid teaching contribution’.

Senator Hoey commented:

“It is wholly inappropriate to ask postgraduate or research students to contribute to the teaching of a course on an unpaid basis. Postgraduate students already contribute financially to their higher education institutions through the exorbitant fees they pay in Ireland, some of the highest in Europe, while having the most limited access to financial assistance in their studies.

“Unpaid teaching as part of postgraduate studies has been going on under the radar for a number of years now. Some institutions quite rightly offer paid teaching work to their postgraduate students; others do not. The teaching requirements are often not agreed as part of funding packages, but rather are added on at a later date. This ad-hoc basis for teaching at a postgraduate level is not conducive to the learning experience for both the postgraduate students nor for the undergraduate students they teach.

“The further and higher education sector has seen some of the biggest increases in precarious work of any sector in Ireland. Zero hours contracts, term time only, an impossibility to get permanent and pensionable jobs have become common place in academia. Moves such as the one taken by NUIG not only directly harm the students who are being made work for free; it further serves to erode employment standards for all working in this sector.

“I am calling on NUIG to pay its research students for their teaching work, and the Minister for Higher and Further Education to intervene with Higher Education Institutes on behalf of these students.

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