SUPRA calls for better protections for HDR Fellowship holders
Amidst ongoing negotiations between the NTEU and University of Sydney management, SUPRA says its main concern is that HDR students will be left in a worse condition in fellowships than on the casual contracts which they will replace.
The Sydney University Postgraduate Representative Association (SUPRA) has released a statement calling on the University of Sydney to ensure appropriate pay and conditions for staff working in Higher Degree by Research (HDR) Fellowships.
Amidst ongoing negotiations between the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and University of Sydney management, SUPRA says its main concern is that HDR students will be left in a worse condition in fellowships than on the casual contracts which they will replace.
HDR fellowships are to be granted in three-year periods, and have requirements of a number of tutorials taught per semester. SUPRA is in support of the three-year fellowships as they promise to provide job security and teaching experience for HDR students. However, SUPRA has indicated their desire to see the NTEU push for fair changes for HDR students.
The concerns and advice regarding these fellowships were outlined in a statement by SUPRA President, Weihong Liang, who was recently elected to a fourth term as President.
The first issue SUPRA has emphasised is the concern of making sure HDR students are receiving appropriate pay for the hours they work. They have stated that with a rate of 0.2 Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) — one paid day per week — a reasonable requirement of teaching hours would be a maximum of three one-hour tutorials per week. SUPRA says this should provide HDR fellows with “sufficient remuneration” for tutorial preparation, the time teaching, providing students with satisfactory marking feedback, administration work, and communications with students (outside of working hours).
SUPRA opposes the notion of limitation on the job opportunities for HDR students within the university. Adding that, “As the proposed PhD fellowships do not provide living wages, HDR students not in receipt of other stipends will need to access additional employment.
“PhD fellows should be able to work additional paid hours at the University, in discussion with their supervisors and considering the needs of their HDR progression.”
SUPRA has also placed concern on the use of fellowships to replace HDR stipends and contracts. Stipends (fixed sum paid as salary/expenses) are an essential part of economic support for PhD candidates to allow full engagement with the HDR system.
SUPRA says a replacement of stipends “is concerning because stipends are essential economic support for PhD candidates to engage in higher degree research.
“Further, fellowships alone are significantly below the poverty line and should not be a sole source of income.”
Enterprise negotiations between the University of Sydney and NTEU are ongoing, the longest period in USyd’s history.