Press release: Almost a quarter of PhD candidates who teach are not paid

23.3% of the PhD candidates who have teaching responsibilities, are not paid for carrying out their teaching tasks. This has emerged from research by the PNN, based on a survey among 1,601 PhD candidates in the Netherlands. Almost half of PhD candidates should teach according to their contract, but in practice two thirds of PhD candidates carry out teaching tasks. Moreover, the vast majority (86%) of the group that formally should not have to teach, but does so anyway, are not paid for teaching.

For many PhD candidates, teaching experience is a valuable asset. It is often a requirement or an advantage for those who aspire a further career in science. Half of PhD candidates who do not teach, would actually like to do so. “We now see, however, that universities are allocating teaching tasks to PhD candidates without paying them for it. That is undesirable” says PNN chair Rosanne Anholt. Scholarship PhDs also regularly teach without being paid. “This is problematic, because scholarship PhDs do not have an employment contract.” External PhD candidates, on the other hand, are often paid if they teach outside of their contract.

The survey also shows that actual time spent on teaching is often higher than on paper: on average, PhD candidates spend nearly 40% (about 5 percentage points) more time teaching than they should according to their contract. “It is well-known that teaching often takes more time than the hours calculated for it. Of course, this applies to everyone who teaches, but PhD candidates often have little teaching experience and therefore need more time to properly prepare.” PNN therefore advocates for making more realistic estimates of how much time it takes to carry out teaching tasks as well as taking teaching experience into account. Anholt: “After all, you need more time when you teach a course for the first or second time, than when you have been teaching it for five years”.

Although the majority of PhD candidates are satisfied with the amount of teaching they have to do (59.5%), a relationship appears to exist between teaching load and satisfaction: the lower the teaching load and the more in accordance with what is stated in the contract, the more satisfied PhD candidates are with teaching. PNN advocates for giving PhD candidates a maximum of 20% teaching tasks, and preferably less. “Since teaching typically takes longer than the hours allocated for it, that 20% must be ensured. After all, a heavy teaching load comes at the expense of the dissertation.”

This report is part of a PNN publication series based on the results of the PNN PhD Survey. This series will include reports on the collective labor agreement, international PhD candidates and open science.