Press release: 75% of scholarship PhDs prefer to be employees

Scholarship PhDs would much more often prefer to obtain a doctorate as an employee PhD. This is evident from a report by the PhD Network Netherlands, in which 225 PhDs were asked about their experiences and preferences. No less than 74.4% of them indicated that they would prefer to obtain a PhD as an employee PhD . Only 8.8% would prefer to be a scholarship PhD. In many cases, scholarship PhDs are doing their PhD as scholarship PhDs because there were no other positions available or because they could not find a job as an employee PhD .

The PhD Network Netherlands is not surprised by these results. “Scholarship PhDs earn less than employee PhD, do not build up a pension, do not fall under the collective labour agreement and are not protected by labour law. The alleged advantages, such as having more freedom in designing their project, are also not realised. For the scholarship PhDs, it is clear that they simply do the same job as employee PhDs, but under worse conditions,” says PNN president Lucille Mattijssen.

It is also clear from the report that scholarship PhDs earn considerably less than employee PhDs. Although PhDs with a university scholarship often earn about as much as the net salary of a first-year employee PhD in the context of the PhD education experiment, 80.4% of PhDs with an external scholarship earn less than that. 47.6% of them even earn less than €1250 per month. At universities, very highly educated researchers thus work for the minimum wage or even less. 14.6% of the scholarship PhDs indicate that they cannot make ends meet, and another 19.5% indicate that they can barely make ends meet.

Based on these results, PNN recommends discontinuing the PhD education experiment. “It is clear that a scholarship system is mainly something that administrators want, but for PhDs, it is not an improvement.” PNN is however in favour of a top-up system for international scholarship PhDs: this would make it possible to supplement the often low scholarships that international scholarship PhDs receive to the level of employee PhDs. Such a system already exists in Sweden.

PNN’s report focuses on all types of “non-standard” PhD trajectories: PhD trajectories that deviate from the standard of employee PhD. Other findings are that the majority of employees pursuing a PhD and externally financed PhDs do not have enough time to work on their dissertations, that external PhD candidates who work alongside their dissertation often do so in order to earn a living, and that almost half of non-employee PhD candidates do not receive a Christmas present from their institution.

This report is part of a PNN publication series based on the results of the PNN PhD survey. Other reports in this series include teaching, harassment and Open Science.