Know Your Rights as a PhD Candidate

image: Pixabay

Promovendi Netwerk Nederland (PNN) is proud to present Know Your Rights as a PhD candidate.

PNN has been committed to represent the interests of PhD candidates at the national level for over three decades. Fair contracts and employment rights are important, and therefore PNN actively lobbies during collective agreement bargaining for better rights for PhDs.

Little awareness exists among PhD candidates about the rights to which they are entitled. The collective labour agreement for universities offers a good starting point to inform doctoral candidates about their rights as an employee, as it contains a number of improvements of the position of PhD candidates.

This website is intended to inform PhD candidates in the Netherlands about these rights, as well as general guidelines what is considered acceptable. We hope this page will help you to be more aware of what existing legislation can do for you. Stand up for your rights!

The information presented here is exhaustive nor complete. You cannot derive any rights from this webpage. For the full text of the collective labour agreement of the Dutch universities, please download the English translation of the CAO Nederlandse Universiteiten. For questions about the collective agreement, contact PNN, the HR department of your university or your labour union. If you see inaccuracies or if you have comments concerning this website, please send an email to info@hetpnn.nl.

Read before continuing: does this information apply to you?

For now, the information provided on the following page only applies to PhDs directly employed by Dutch universities, whose first job classification is ‘doctoral candidate’. Unfortunately, for now this also excludes PhDs working at medical centres and research institutions. In due course, PNN aims to broaden the scope of this website and offer tailored information for each of the different types of PhDs.

PNN believes that the existence of different types creates an unacceptable form of legal inequality. After all, the result can be that two doctoral candidates doing the same activities in the same department have different labour conditions. However, as long as differences are not based on discriminatory grounds (e.g. race, age, sex), no legal basis exists yet for two people doing the same job to claim the same rights.1

For this website, we wanted to take as a starting point the situation where most labour rights are unequivocally regulated and clearly documented. We will use this as a basis to differentiate between the various types of doctoral students in the Netherlands in the near future. This will also enable us to highlight the differences in rights.

Click here to proceed to the employee-PhD page.

To provide guidance and to determine which type of PhD you are, the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (Vereniging van Nederlandse Universiteiten, VSNU) formulated a decision tree with definitions that distinguish between four types of PhD candidates.

  1. Employee PhD: an employee who has a contract with the university and an agreement aimed at a PhD trajectory.

How to tell?

  • You have an agreement for a PhD (e.g. access to graduate school, training and guidance plan, promotion plan, promotores appointed)
  • You have an employee number and salary of university > 0
  • Your primary UFO-code2 is PhD candidate.
  1. Regular employee pursuing a PhD: an employee who has a contract for a different job with the university and an agreement to obtain a PhD.

How to tell?

  • You have an agreement for a PhD (e.g. access to graduate school, training and guidance plan, promotion plan, promotores appointed)
  • You have an employee number and salary of university > 0
  • Your primary UFO-code is NOT PhD candidate.
  1. Contract or bursary PhD candidate: someone who does not have an employment contract with the university where the PhD is being completed, but whose main objective is to obtain a PhD and who has funding and/or time made available for this.

How to tell?

  • You have an agreement for a PhD (e.g. access to graduate school, training and guidance plan, promotion plan, promotores appointed)
  • You do not receive a salary from the university
  • Funding and/or time is made available for your promotion

A contract PhD candidate differs from an external PhD candidate in that he is either financed for his PhD (scholarship) or that he is allowed to do a PhD in the time of his other employer (regardless of how much time is made available). Additional distinctions can be made by the type of funding:

  1. Scholarship provided by the ‘own’ university.
  2. Scholarship provided by an organisation other than the ‘own’ university, e.g. the European Union, a foreign university, funding bodies or foundations.
  3. Other scholarship: funding and/or time provided by the employer, e.g. people from companies who are given one day a week to work on the promotion in the boss’s time.
  1. External PhD candidate: Someone who does not have an employment contract with the university where the PhD is being completed, but who does have the objective of obtaining a PhD, and who has no funding and/or time made available for this, e.g. pensioners working on a promotion, people from companies pursuing a PhD in their own time next to their job.

How to tell?

  • You have an agreement for a PhD (e.g. access to graduate school, training and guidance plan, promotion plan, promotores appointed)
  • You do not receive a salary from the university
  • No funding and/or time is made available for your promotion

To make things clearer for you, below you find a decision tree to see what situation applies to you. As mentioned above, we will use the university employee-PhD as a basis to differentiate between the various types of doctoral students in the near future.

Click here to proceed to the employee-PhD page.

1 For some job sectors, collective labour agreements have been declared ‘generally binding’, meaning that the agreement applies to everyone working in that sector. Unfortunately this is not (yet) the case at Dutch universities.

2 Jobs at Dutch universities are organized by means of the university job classification system (Universitair Functie-ordeningsysteem, UFO). Under the UFO, which includes 115 job descriptions, all employees of Dutch universities are assigned a job profile (a brief description of their job) and a corresponding job level.