Press release: PhDs demand the termination of the experiment with PhD Scholarship students

This Tuesday, December 3rd, 2019, PhDs at the University of Groningen (RUG) and the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG) demand the abolishment of the experiment with PhD Scholarship students. In a manifesto prepared by PhD scholarship students, they indicate that the experiment, in which PhD students were hired as a student rather than as an employee, has led to a deterioration of the research climate. In addition, the well-being of PhD scholarship students has not been taken into account. That is why, in addition to the abolishment of the experiment, they also demand employee status and compensation for the time they have worked as PhD scholarship students.

“It is now or never to make the excessive negative consequences of the Experiment public”, the initiators of the manifesto state. “At the moment, universities decide whether they will participate in the second round of the experiment. We want to prevent the experiment from continuing. That is in our own interest, but also in the interest of future PhDs. “

The experiment has a major influence on the research, private life and future careers of PhD scholarship students, while they actually do the same work as PhD employees. “We are not paid for our teaching, we are missing the legal protection that PhD employees have and have a serious financial disadvantage. This is all because of our student status. The promised benefits of the experiment do not outweigh the disadvantages, and are often completely absent. “

The manifesto is supported by PhD councils from the RUG, but also receives wide support from national organizations such as the PhD Network Netherlands (PNN), trade unions (VAWO, FNV, CNV and LAD), student organizations (ISO and LSVb) and academic interest groups and action groups (PostdocNL, WOinActie). From today, other supporters, whether they are PhDs or not, can also support the manifesto, anonymously if desired, via this page.

The PNN is happy that the PhD scholarship students have spoken up about the adverse consequences they are experiencing from the experiment. “This manifesto clearly shows that the experiment has failed,” said Lucille Mattijssen, president of PNN. “The experiment has created major inequalities between PhDs, while actually doing the same work. Moreover, it is easier to take advantage of PhDs with student status because they are in a dependency relationship without protection of labor or social security law. The fact that PhD scholarship students are forced to teach without being paid, while that is not allowed at all, is an example of this. So it is great that the student PhD candidates now raise their voices and demand that the experiment is stopped. “

The aim of the experiment was to increase the number of PhDs and at the same time give PhDs more freedom in setting up their own research project. This was achieved by not hiring PhDs as employees, as usual, but by giving them a (lower) grant for the duration of their PhD trajectory. As a result, in addition to 20,000 to 30,000 euros, PhD scholarship students also miss out on all kinds of rights that PhD employees do have. For example, they do not build up a pension, they are not entitled to holiday allowance or an end-of-year bonus, nor are they entitled to unemployment benefits at the end of their PhD trajectory.

Currently, only the RUG (850 PhD scholarship students) and Erasmus University Rotterdam (15 PhD scholarship students) are participating in the experiment. The experiment was extended for a second round in July, at the insistence of a majority in Parliament. However, according to the Experimental Education Experiment Decree, negative effects on the research climate are sufficient grounds to terminate the experiment and to compensate PhD scholarship students.