The following is the article as it originally appeared in the September 8th issue of the UCC Express:
“The College of SEFS have introduced a new module for all incoming Post-Graduate students that means that they will have to do 50 hours of unpaid teaching before being paid for their work. The module, titled “PG6026 – Teaching and Demonstrating Skills for College of Science, Engineering and Food Science (SEFS) Postgraduate Students,” means that work done by post-grads through teaching & demonstrating in labs will go unpaid, which was not the case before. For most post-grads, the money earned by demonstrating is their main (if not only) source of income. While individual departments have said that students not in receipt of a grant or other funding can make arrangements with their supervisors to retain this source of funds, it is still a crucial support for many students. Looking at various different departments in SEFS we discovered that while it depended on the individual department, for most of them it would take anywhere up to a semester to complete the 50 hours of work, costing the students anywhere from €800-€1,100.
We spoke to one current post-grad student from the College SEFS (who asked to remain unnamed) who felt that this new measure was unfair, as students are already expected to perform unpaid tasks associated with teaching & demonstrating (preparation for labs, grading of papers etc.), and coupled with other unpaid work done, like supervising the FYPs of undergraduate students, can lead to incredible amounts of stress and can distract from their own course, thus elongating the time spent doing their post-grad course. The student we spoke to also questioned the point of the module itself, as they felt only those looking for careers in academia would benefit from learning how to teach, and even then, those doing postgraduate courses are individuals with qualifications, and before the introduction of this module have been teaching for years without it. This writer attempted to contact members of staff from the College of Science, Engineering and Food Science, but were unable to get a response to these concerns before we went to print.
The student we spoke to was also dissatisfied with the response of the Students’ Union to this issue. “Due to the nature of postgraduate courses, postgrads are hard to mobilise. The Students’ Union seems to have done nothing about this, or at the very least seem to know nothing about this.“ This writer attempted to contact Joe Kennedy (SU Education Officer) & Billy McCarthy (SEFS Rep) but were unable to get a comment before this article went to print. The Students’ Union does have a Postgraduate Representative, Patrick Collins, who sits on its executive and the University Governing Body, but according to the current SU Constitution it is also supposed to have individual College Postgraduate Representatives and indeed a Postgraduate Student Council, neither of which at the time of writing they have.”
Following the publication of this article, we received a comment from the UCC Students’ Union Education Officer Joe Kennedy:
“It’s an unfortunate example of further cost-saving measures within the University which ultimately stem from reductions in exchequer funding. Postgrads have certainly suffered over the past few years with the removal of grants and increased fees. If any students do find themselves struggling with money issues they can contact the SU Welfare Officer or the Student Budgetary Advisor.”