UK cold on EU's charter

December 14, 2007

UK universities and research organisations are not likely to sign up to a voluntary agreement aimed at giving European researchers stronger working rights, despite pressure from the European Commission to do so.

In November last year, Research Councils UK published an analysis of the potential impact on institutions of signing up to the 2005 European Charter for Researchers and Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers, created with the aim of making researcher career pathways more appealing.

The analysis concluded that UK institutions were broadly in line with the continental approach but that the charter's requirements that PhD students be given social security and pension rights were among its problematic aspects.

In a letter last week to RCUK, the Commission said there should be "no major problems" preventing the UK's participation. It acknowledges the UK's "partial divergence" on students' rights but says "efforts should be made" to extend social security coverage to all researchers.

Despite the overture, Iain Cameron, head of the RCUK research careers and diversity unit, said: "We are agreeing our own concordat ... Our judgment is that this would be a more effective way to take the issues forward."

A draft of the concordat - updating a 1996 version - was circulated for consultation in March. RCUK will release the final document in June of next year.

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