Board forces law faculty to hire scholarship PhDs

‘The faculty is basically being punished’

Board forces law faculty to hire scholarship PhDs

The UG will no longer support faculties who refuse to hire scholarship PhDs with funds for employed PhD positions. The Faculty of Law has caved and will once again start hiring scholarship PhDs in 2021.
14 December om 16:48 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 14 December 2020
om 16:48 uur.
December 14 at 16:48 PM.
Last modified on December 14, 2020
at 16:48 PM.

Door Christien Boomsma

14 December om 16:48 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 14 December 2020
om 16:48 uur.

By Christien Boomsma

December 14 at 16:48 PM.
Last modified on December 14, 2020
at 16:48 PM.

Christien Boomsma

Achtergrondcoördinator en wetenschapsredacteur Volledig bio » Background coordinator and science editor Full bio »

To soften the blow a little, the faculty board suggests hiring the scholarship PhDs for a year in a lecturer position after they finished their promotion track. This would also apply to the current PhDs. The faculty council will discuss the proposal on Friday.

Almost a year ago, the faculty decided to bow out of the national scholarship PhD experiment and to look for alternatives. The decision came after angry scholarship PhDs expressed their dissatisfaction in a manifesto.

Paid less

Scholarship PhDs aren’t paid as much as PhDs on an employment contract. They do not earn a pension, either, and do not receive holiday or end of year bonuses. They don’t have access to accommodations like laptops paid for by the university, either. However, their job is the exact same as that of PhDs on an employment contract.

There are also some ‘really silly things’ that show that the university doesn’t appreciate them, says scholarship PhD Jitske Sijbrandij. One example: everyone at her place of work received a token of thanks for their work during the pandemic, except for the scholarship PhDs. ‘So we’re not just underpaid, we also feel like we’re being excluded.’

No more funds

But the faculty might decide to hire more scholarship PhDs after all, ‘since the board of directors decided to only give the faculty any part of the central co-financing for PhD positions in the Ubbo Emmius programme if the faculty participates in the scholarship PhD experiment’, the faculty board writes in a memo to the faculty council.

Any faculty who refuses will have to pay all the costs of a PhD. In the case of the law faculty, this means they’ll only have the funds to hire two employed PhDs, as opposed to nine scholarship PhDs. This would make the research master less appealing, since there would be fewer chances of a PhD position afterwards.

Law scholarship PhD Wybrand van der Meulen is disappointed. He ‘really appreciated’ his faculty board taking a step back to consider the experiment. ‘They are basically being punished for that.’

Objections

The faculty board says its objections are still ‘valid’ and that it has ‘tried to figure out how to meet these objections’, it writes in the proposal to the council. ‘But with our hands being tied by the experiment, it’s not easy.’

PhDs are a breeding ground for new lecturers, the faculty board also writes. This was one of the arguments clearly in favour of continuing the experiment, says dean Wilbert Kolkman. That is why they want to offer the PhDs an extra year after their promotion to work as lecturer and write research proposals.

At the same time, all faculties had to make it clear that scholarship PhDs were not expected to teach. ‘Expectation management’, Kolkman calls it. ‘We have to make the situation extremely clear, right from the start of the track. Not just to the students, but also to their supervisors and the department board.’

Other requirements

Van der Meulen knew when he started that his job had other requirements. That he could refuse to teach. He did so, and his decision was respected. But he also knows that scholarship PhDs are still being made to teach. He understands that. ‘Teaching is an important part of getting your PhD.’

He expected to get a separate position for his teaching work, as a student-assistant. But this was impossible, as it would lead to issues with taxes. ‘But it’s an experiment, isn’t it? Why couldn’t they figure it out?’

Faculty council member Matthijs van Wolferen says the breeding ground isn’t a valid reason. ‘The whole system is overloaded. We’re delivering way more PhDs than we have room for. It’s not like there’s a job waiting for every single person who gets their PhD.’

Complicated process

Anyone who is unable to find a job then has to deal with a complicated process at the UWV, the Employee Insurance Agency, says Sijbrandij. ‘The system doesn’t have the correct data on us. So the first thing we have to do is apply for a correction.’ That’s not just complicated, but also time-consuming, she says.

If the council ends up voting on the issue, Van Wolferen will vote against it. ‘Who cares if we only have two PhD positions. Maybe we can free up some funds or find some external means to help us. But I don’t understand why we should exploit people just to keep the research master going.’

Nederlands

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