Bursary students

Netherlands is internationally known as a country with a good research climate; there is a lot of high-quality research being published. PhD candidates play an important role in this. They make up over a third of the academic personnel and in the Netherlands, they are usually employed as employees.

For some time, however, there have been voices calling for a change to this system. The UNL and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science view PhD candidates more as candidates than as employees. They therefore wanted to change the employment status and appoint PhD candidates as so-called "promotion students". If PhD candidates are appointed as candidates, however, they do not receive a salary but a grant. They do not accrue pension, have no vacation days, and no right to their own workplace. On the other hand, they would have more freedom in choosing a topic and cannot be obliged to teach, although refusing to teach can be difficult in practice. In short, the situation of PhD candidates will deteriorate, making it less attractive to pursue a PhD.

Therefore, the PhD Candidates Network of the Netherlands (PNN) has always opposed the introduction of the so-called "PhD student" and has expressed this in the media (see the press releases below for more information).

The Minister of Education, Culture and Science, despite a negative advice from the Council of State on the amendment of the Higher Education Act in January 2013, has indicated that she wants to start an experiment with PhD students at various universities. This bestluit experiment promotieonderwijs was submitted to the Parliament in 2015 and approved. The experiment started in 2016 at the University of Groningen (with 850 places) and Erasmus University Rotterdam (15 places). One of the conditions for introducing this experiment was that an interim evaluation would take place to prevent these PhD candidates from being disadvantaged if the experiment turned out to be less positive.

Right from the start, the experiment met with criticism, as described by Science Guide, the Jonge Akademie, labour unions and student organiszations such as ISO and LSVB. Shortly after the introduction of the experiment, objections from the PhD candidates arose, including at PNN. They felt as second-rate PhD candidates  because they have to do the same work as "regular" PhD candidates but have worse working conditions and believe that the promised benefits of the experiment, such as more freedom, are not forthcoming.

In the spring of 2019, the research bureau CHEPS presented a midterm report PNN is of the opinion that this midterm evaluation does not provide the answers to the questions that need to be answered in this midterm evaluation. Please see our extensive response to this. Unfortunately, under pressure from the Parliament, Minister Van Engelshoven has nevertheless promised to continue the experiment. This means that universities can reapply from 2020 onwards. Although the minister initially indicated that she had confidence in the midterm evaluation report, it was announced in October that an independent investigation will be carried out to scrutinize this midterm evaluation.

PNN is closely involved in these developments. Through this page and our news releases, we try to keep you up-to-date. If you have any questions or experience any problems with your own appointment, you can always contact us via info@hetpnn.nl. 

Relevant PNN press releases
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Antonio Pinilla Torres

Labour conditions - external, international and scholarship PhD candidates