Last week, our board members Benthe and Anna attended the ‘Iedereen Professor’ (Everyone Professor) symposium organized by The Young Academy (DJA). ‘Iedereen Professor’ is an initiative by the Young Academy to separate the rights surrounding a PhD trajectory from the professor job profile and granting these rights to all (experienced) supervisors. Promovendi Netwerk Nederland (PNN) was present to represent PhD perspectives, and to learn more about the debate surrounding this topic.

The afternoon kicked off with an introduction of ‘Iedereen Professor’ by DJA chair Marie-José van Tol. She pleaded to call all young assistant and associate professors ‘professor’ to improve their international position and remove cosmetic differences during PhD defenses. This includes, in addition to using the title of professor, wearing a toga during ceremonies, serving on reading committees in one's own and other universities; voting on cum laude; and if appropriate, promoting one's own doctoral students to the degree of "doctor,": giving you the ius promovendi .

When asking the opinion of attendees about this initiative, a majority of the attendees was in favor of calling all assistant and associate professors a professor - though due to the attendance bias this is likely not very representative of the broader academic community. However, there were some differences of opinion concerning the details, such as when should the right to promote PhD candidates be given, and is wearing a toga really that important?

In a panel discussion, Marjolijn Antheunis, Joost Frenken, Ioana Illie and Henk Kummeling raised arguments in favor or against ‘Iedereen Professor’. Antheunis (Tilburg University, vice dean) stated that, although DJA argues that this might be the case, social safety will not improve if all assistant and associate professors become professors. She argued that academia is inherently hierarchical, and the hierarchy in relationships would still be present in i.e. committees or other leadership roles. Frenken (University of Groningen, dean) shared his personal experiences of the injustice that he experienced when supervising PhD candidates, but not being given the right to formally award them the doctorate. Illie (University of Amsterdam, chair Assistant Professor Network) shared how the international differences in awarding the professor title - most countries give this title much earlier in an academic career than in the Netherlands - has a negative effect on the international position of Dutch academic staff. Lastly, Kummeling (rector magnificus Utrecht University) concluded the pitch by arguing that the discussion should focus on how to ensure that PhD candidates are supervised best. 

In the discussion that followed after, the attendees raised several questions around PhD supervision. Antheunis stressed the importance of supervision training. Frenken mainly highlighted the current reality of PhD supervision: many postdocs, assistant and associate professors are involved in PhD supervision, yet they go uncredited, because they do not have ius promovendi. According to Frenken, this is an injustice. Kummeling added that academic staff first needs to demonstrate their competence before getting ius promovendi, in order to safeguard the quality of PhD supervision. What stood out from this discussion is the emphasis that was put on good PhD supervision: in the current system and debate, supervision often seems to be taken for granted, something you just do. However, when discussing this initiative, all of sudden PhD supervision is given much attention. PNN Chair Benthe van Wanrooij and other attendees raised this question: does the current right to supervise and award the doctorate ensure good supervision? What makes a good supervisor, and through what system do we encourage good supervision? Interestingly, the quality of PhD supervision is used as an argument against granting assistant and associate professors ius promovendi, when PhD supervision quality of more senior staff is not subjected to the same scrutiny.

Not all attendees were in favor of the solution as suggested by DJA. Perhaps, the number of professors in Dutch academia compared to other academic staff is just too little, and there is a need to democratize professorship rather than treating the symptoms of structural issues and just giving assistant and associate professors the title ‘professor’.

While Benthe and Anna were the only PhD candidates at the symposium (and board member Lotte joining online), this topic is of high importance to PhD candidates - specifically because it involves the ius promovendi. Right now, PhD candidates are rarely involved in the discussion on this topic. During the symposium, the question was asked to PNN: What do PhD candidates think about ‘Iedereen professor!’? Frankly, many of us have not yet thought about this question, or did not discuss this among colleagues. Perhaps you can start the discussion among your colleagues! 

If you have any questions or thoughts on ‘Iedereen Professor’ or PhD supervision in relation to this topic, please reach out to us at

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