Doughnut Party wants to bridge gap between student and lecturer

The Doughnut Party, a new student party, is up for election for the university council for the first time this year. The party is made up of scholarship PhDs and wants to bridge the gap between students and lecturers.

Taichi Ochi (29), the party’s number one, is on the train from The Hague to Groningen when we talk to him. He’s a scholarship PhD at the Faculty of Science and Engineering. Most of his research is done on a computer. That’s a good thing, since he lives in Voorburg, near The Hague.

‘I started my PhD in 2018, and I didn’t know there was such a big difference between employed PhDs and scholarship PhDs’, he says. The difference expressed itself in relatively small things, like the lack of a moving budget. ‘Later, there were bigger things that showed the disparity. The fact that employed PhDs are guaranteed a teaching position, but that we have to ask for one that we don’t even get paid for.’

Hot topic

The scholarship PhD experiment is a hot topic at the UG. The Groningen university is the only one in the country that has hundreds of scholarship PhDs. These PhD candidates been speaking up over the past few years because they feel they’re being made to do the same work as employed PhDs, but for less money.

Last year, they published a manifest in an effort to change this. ‘The manifest attracted some attention, but we need to take it further’, says Ochi. ‘We want to give scholarship PhDs a more active voice. The pandemic has only shone a brighter light on the disparities and since this is a university-wide problem, we want to use the university council as a platform to make our voice heard.’

Circular economy

The name was inspired by what’s known as the doughnut model. Ochi: ‘It’s based on the concept of a circular economy, where you get into trouble if you run things too tightly or too loosely.’

One example is the actions that have been taken to improve PhDs’ mental health. ‘They appointed a PhD counsellor, which is a good step. But they’re just one person, and there are 1,500 PhDs. So that’s not enough.’

With this action, the university is falling through the doughnut hole, says Ochi. ‘But if you do nothing, the PhDs suffer, which then trickles down to the master and bachelor students they supervise.’ Ochi says they need to find a compromise that would lead to the actions expanding to the rest of the university in a circular pattern.

Generational gap

The Dougnut Party doesn’t exist to only help scholarship PhDs, says Ochi. ‘We created this party initially to make our voices heard. But we can also share our experiences with the student parties. I did my bachelor ten years ago, which means there’s a sort of miniature generational gap, allowing me to use my experiences to help today’s students.’

As researchers, student supervisors, and occasionally as lecturers, they’re at the start of their academic career. This means the party members have a closer bond with lecturers and researchers than students do. Therefore, the experience the nine members of the Doughnut Party have might just bridge the gap between students and lecturers, Ochi hopes.



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