News Editor Joshua Herman reports on the University of Birmingham not paying postgraduate students on time for on-campus work
Whilst University staff continue to strike over disputes concerning pension funds and wages, Redbrick spoke to postgraduate students who are also facing similar problems because of the University of Birmingham’s failure to pay them on time for on-campus work.
Alongside their studies, postgraduate researchers work on-campus, in labs, and assist with seminar prep to help them fund their living costs whilst undergoing their PhD. Whilst working for the University of Birmingham, postgraduate students often find that they are not given enough hours to prepare for seminars and labs, and they therefore end up having to work overtime to ensure they are prepped to a quality standard.
One postgraduate told Redbrick that: ‘It’s very common for PhD students to be paid late after they start work, and you have a minority of those people who aren’t being paid at all. It’s something not a lot of people are aware of. If not given enough time to prep, we could end up working for free, otherwise you’ll have a seminar or a lab that is not as good as it should be, and not as good as students are paying for it to be as well.’
Often work is carried out regardless of the fact that postgraduates have to start their contract before payment. Once again, this is in order to maintain standards in labs and seminars.
Another postgraduate researcher told Redbrick about their experiences of chasing up payments. Whilst working with the School of Physics and Astronomy, a postgraduate found that they were owed 2 months of payment from the University of Birmingham. After sending them a complaint in response to this delay in payment, the University sent this postgraduate a £50 Amazon voucher.
This postgraduate also told Redbrick that during the 2019/2020 academic year, almost everyone in the School of Physics and Astronomy did not receive their first stipend payment, showing that this is an ongoing issue.
It is also reported that during this academic year in the School of Mathematics, a third of people received less money from their stipend than expected, and another third received more. It became apparent that this was because there was a late announcement of the stipend uplift by United Kingdom Research and Innovation (UKRI) as postgraduate researchers, along with the University College Union (UCU), demanded a change in the stipend.
A University of Birmingham Spokesperson told Redbrick that, ‘There were teething issues when we migrated to our new self-service HR/Finance system, but we’ve put a lot of work into collectively ensuring postgraduate students are paid as swiftly as possible and over the last 12 months made improvements to processes to enable this. We do appreciate that problems can arise occasionally and students should let their manager know if there is a delay in receiving payment – we’ll do our best to resolve the issue as quickly as possible; it may be something as simple as a late timecard or inaccurate bank details.’
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