PhD students at the University of Canterbury (UC) who started studying before this year will now have their stipends increased from $21,000 to $28,000.
The move comes to match its other major award for PhD students, the Accelerator Scholarship.
But the increase only applies to students beginning their Doctoral study in 2022, with around 150 students missing out.
Most Doctoral students receive a tax-free stipend to support themselves during their studies, which usually takes three years full-time. The amount varies at each of New Zealand’s eight universities but is around $28,800 a year.
Green MP for Tertiary Education, Chlöe Swarbrick, wrote to the UC Vice-Chancellor in April, questioning why the $7000 stipend increase was not applied equitably to all students with the scholarship.
Swarbrick announced the outcome on social media last week, thanking UC leadership for their further consideration of the issue and students for their advocacy. Students who began their studies before 2022 will also receive back-pay for the increased pay they missed this year.
Otago PhD Student Claire told Craccum that while this is a small step towards improvement, that PhD students are still not getting a liveable wage.
“It’s still not enough to live on, especially when stipend contracts restrict the number of employed hours a PhD student may do to supplement their income. PhD and Masters stipends need a thorough review.”
The University of Auckland increased its stipend by $300 in 2022 to $28,800 per annum. But Swarbrick, a UoA alumni, has called out UoA on social media to increase their stipends to meet the living wage.
In 2021, Craccum reported that the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences Post Graduate Student Association (FMHS PGSA) had expressed concerns about the currently offered UoA Doctoral Scholarship PhD stipend amount, which is below minimum wage.
In response to these concerns, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research, James Metson, stated that the University has a difficult balance between the value of the scholarship and the number they can offer.
UoA student Phoebe spends 40 hours a week on PhD study, which she says works out to be around $13.75 per hour with the current stipend.
“That coupled with the restriction on the amount of hours we can work per year while receiving the stipend (500 hours, regardless of hourly rate) makes it a pretty shit deal. Either up the stipend or remove the restrictions.”