#Ukraine: providing and receiving support

Eurodoc Statement on the Italian Government's Reintroduction of the "Assegni di Ricerca" Scholarship Scheme

Italian Parliament

Illustration photo CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 by Caribb on Flickr.

Eurodoc, the European Council of Doctoral Candidates and Junior Researchers, is highly concerned to hear about the recent developments regarding the employment conditions for postdocs in Italy. This statement is a reaction to the Italian government’s plans regarding the “assegni di ricerca”, which Eurodoc strongly condemns. The full text of this statement is published below and is available on Zenodo – https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7477586

December 20, 2022

Eurodoc, the European Council of Doctoral Candidates and Junior Researchers, is highly concerned to hear about the recent developments regarding the employment conditions for postdocs in Italy.

In a joint hearing with the VII Culture Commission on November 22, the Italian University Minister Anna Maria Bernini announced the government’s intention to extend the use of “assegni di ricerca”, a type of research grants usually used to finance postdocs without offering them employment or social security.

The “assegni di ricerca” had been abolished earlier this year in the Decree Law 36 of 2022, art. 14 “Dispositions regarding University and Research” on university pre-tenure contracts (“preruolo”). The abolishment was well received by doctoral candidates and postdocs as it meant only proper employment contracts, with all the associated rights and benefits, could have been proposed starting from January 2023.

However, following this recent announcement from Minister Anna Maria Bermini, universities will be allowed to continue using the “assegni di ricerca” for those already on these grants after all. Furthermore, the Minister has announced their intention to roll back Decree Law 36, which means that it is possible to continue the use of the “assegni di ricerca” in the future. 

In an EU comparison, the "assegni di ricerca" contract is unique, as remuneration is based on results instead of working hours. Furthermore, it comes with lower social security provisions than those of employees in equivalent research activities (e.g. in terms of pensions, sick or parental leave). Also, their remuneration is substantially lower than the average wage. For these reasons, the eligibility of the costs for "assegni di ricerca" under the terms of Horizon Europe General Model Grant Agreement section 6.2.A.2 can be questioned; indeed, that happened for Horizon 2020 projects, too, where "assegni" were deemed ineligible for a short period of time at the end of 2015 before the Italian Ministry of Research provided additional justifications for the use of this contract.

This development highly disconcerts the board of Eurodoc. Postdocs are professionals and should be employed with proper contracts, just as all other professionals are.

Research and higher education in universities are a crucial part of modern society, and an integral part of the solutions to the problems of the future, whether these problems are related to climate change, the next pandemic, or digital transformation. However, this necessitates that academic careers are sustainable for the individuals that embark upon them. Unfortunately, academic careers are often the opposite, especially if postdocs and doctoral candidates are financed with scholarships rather than through proper employment. 

The Italian government’s announcement means it intends to worsen the already precarious postdoc conditions. Eurodoc fully supports our Italian member organisation Association of Doctoral Candidates and PhDs in Italy (ADI) and calls on other organisations that are working on the improvement of the conditions of research and researchers in Europe to strongly condemn the Italian government’s plans regarding the “assegni di ricerca”.

The Board of Eurodoc

  • Oleksandr Berezko, President
  • Sebastian Dahle, Vice President
  • Hannah Schoch, Secretary
  • Danila Rijavec, Treasurer
  • Nicola Dengo, General Board Member
  • Joanna Rutkowska, General Board Member
  • Patrizia Ferrante, General Board Member