Open letter to the new Minister of Education, Culture and Science

Dear Dr. Bruins, future Minister of Education, Culture, and Science,

Congratulations on your upcoming role! More importantly, we wish you much success. In the coming days, you will be talking to the future Prime Minister, the formateur, and the House of Representatives. These discussions will likely address the significant challenges posed by the outline agreement and how you will handle them as a minister. In this open letter, we would like to share our serious concerns as early-career researchers. 

With a billion-euro cut to Dutch academia, it is not only our future at stake but the future of science. The Netherlands profiles itself as a knowledge economy with a leading academy, which is crucial for the major societal challenges we face now and in the future. 

At the same time, the current state of academia is marked by extremely high workloads, burnouts, social unsafety, competition, and inequality of opportunities. And in this situation, the new government is presenting significant budget cuts - presenting you with an impossible task. 

We, PhD candidates and postdocs — the new generation of researchers, crucial for the future of science — will pay the price for this. Precarious contracts, strong dependence on supervisors, and abuse of power lead to social insecurity, especially among early-career researchers. Improving this while also implementing cuts? Impossible! Reducing workloads, even for those who balance science with family life, caregiving, volunteer work, or other important societal roles? On the contrary! A career perspective in academia, including a permanent contract in the long run and a secure future enabling us to buy a house or start a family? Well... the first hiring freezes at faculties have already been announced. In the coming years, these cuts mean there will be no positions for new talents, making academia an unattractive workplace.

Besides these cuts, the coalition parties speak out against internationalization. But: without internationalization, there is no science. International collaborations and networks lead to the best research and are fundamental to Dutch academia. The current debate causes a lot of stress among international early-career researchers about their future. We are receiving frequent reports that they experience discrimination and racism, are looked down upon for not being Dutch, and are excluded from conversations, education, and research. This is unjust and undermines the international top position of Dutch science. 

In short, we are very concerned about the Dutch academic community and specifically the position of early-career researchers. In your opinion article of June 7 as chair of the Advisory Council for Science, Technology, and Innovation, you showed that structural funding is needed. With this letter, we want to emphasize the great responsibility that lies before you, and the potential consequences of the announced cuts and the debate around internationalization, specifically for early-career researchers. We are making our voices heard and will continue to do so. 


PhD Network Netherlands and PostdocNL

The above letter is based on signals from our constituency, as well as various publications and research on Dutch academia, including:

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