Dijkgraaf puts an end to ‘doctoral student’

Do you want to take a Ph.D. with a scholarship instead of a salary? After a lengthy experiment, Minister Dijkgraaf draws a line through it. AOb sector director Donald Pechler: “Already at the introduction of the experiment, we and PNN called on the participating councils not to agree to the experiment. The Minister agrees with us. ”

The universities lobbied endlessly for a new kind of PhD student who would not be employed but students. The University of Groningen in particular strongly supported this. Dijkgraaf now puts an end to the experiment. He does not want to involve the undergraduate doctoral student in law and draws his conclusion: he sees no added value. It stops from 2024.

Fewer rights

That was exactly what the unions and the PNN wanted. In fact, they would have preferred not to participate in the whole experiment at all. Pechler: “There are no differences in the work between fellow PhDs and PhD candidates with an employee contract: they both write their dissertations.”

However, stipendieph.ds have far fewer rights, according to the AOb sector director. “They do not earn a pension and do not participate in the wage development as agreed in the agreements. We have always resisted that, and the Minister now agrees with us. “
AOb believes, however, that the trial should be abolished with immediate effect. The current group of scholarship PhD students must have a compensation and a normal contract where legal protection and pension accrual are ensured so that the disadvantage has disappeared.

“We have always resisted this and the Minister now agrees with us.”

In 2016, a controversial experiment with undergraduate PhD students began, in which Groningen participated fully with 1,500 PhD students. In addition, only Erasmus University Rotterdam included a total of fifteen PhD students.

fragile support

The PhD students themselves had all sorts of objections to the experiment, the minister explains. ‘I see that the support for the PhD program is very fragile,’ he writes. It ‘weighs heavily’ in his decision.

Minister Dijkgraaf: ‘I can see that the support for PhD education is very fragile’

‘PhD education’ is intended as a 3rd cycle after a bachelor’s and master’s degree. PhD students abroad are often students, but in the Netherlands the vast majority are employed as employees.

According to the minister, a system of undergraduate students does not fit ‘with my goal of more peace and space in the science system and a good position for all researchers.’

He can rely on a critical final evaluation. PhD students feel underestimated, it sounds. For example, they do not earn a pension and do not receive holiday pay. The ‘students’ feel more free to choose a PhD subject than the employed PhD students, but in their daily work they experience no difference in autonomy.

Two camps

Despite all the criticism, the University of Groningen is strongly in favor of the new system, especially to give more students the opportunity to take their PhD. According to the evaluation, two ‘camps’ have emerged, and this situation cannot be seen separately from the other advantages and disadvantages of the PhD program.

The University of Groningen is strongly in favor of the new system

‘It is my ambition to bring more peace, space and continuity to the science system and to give talents more space’, writes Dijkgraaf. ‘It is more appropriate to strive for uniformity and good conditions with regard to the (legal) position of all PhD students in this direction.’ The PhD program does not contribute convincingly to this, he believes.

One of the purposes of the experiment was to educate ‘more PhD students’. But according to the minister, this can also be done in another way, now that the government is investing in research. ‘In this way, space can be created for unrestrained research, for talented researchers and new PhD positions, where necessary, and to strengthen the connection between education and research.’

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