PNN: Van Engelshoven is leaving us out in the cold
Minister supports evaluation of scholarship PhDs
The Promovendi Network Nederland (PNN) is disappointed with the decision, since even the independent review of the interim evaluation left something to be desired.
The Groningen scholarship PhDs agree with the criticism issued by the PNN. ‘In the end, the review basically says the experiment is just fine’, says Fieke Visser, representing the group. ‘But if you look at it closely, it comes up short on all the important issues.’
The scholarship PhD experiment, which involved PhD candidates receiving a scholarship for their research rather than a salary, is controversial, because the scholarship PhDs end up doing the same job as regular PhD candidates, under worse employment conditions.
Two universities are participating in the experiment: the UG has 850 scholarships and the Erasmus University Rotterdam has fifteen. Last year, minister Van Engelshoven employed independent research agency CHEPS to evaluate the experiment. The results were heavily criticised, since the researchers simply copied the evaluation the UG had done after the first year of the experiment, rather than set up their own evaluation.
Because of the criticism, Van Engelshoven promised to have the interim evaluation’s scientific soundness assessed. This check was performed by independent research consultant Nel Verhoeven and Leiden professor of education sciences Wilfried Admiraal.
They stated that the interim evaluation had been performed in a scientifically correct manner. However, they also said the interim evaluation was missing information, which meant it was difficult to estimate its scientific quality. ‘We’re especially seeing a lack of transparency concerning the data about the UG.’
Verhoeven and Admiraal talked to the CHEPS researchers to find out why the information was missing. The researchers explained they used the UG’s data since they thought it would take too long for people to respond to a new questionnaire. Admiraal and Verhoeven says this was an understandable decision.
PNN had its doubts about this method, since the UG’s interim evaluation is precisely the one that shows a coloured view of the situation in the ministerial interim evaluation. ‘It doesn’t say anything about the fact that the people the researchers interviewed were selected by one of the largest interested parties and proponent of the experiment: the dean of Graduate Schools’, PNN says in a response.
‘It’s also not mentioned that the dean urged the people he selected to say positive things about the experiment. PNN has repeatedly made mention of these issues. It’s these problems that led to this investigation into the interim evaluation’s level of quality.’
The PNN wonders how this could ever happen. The PhD interest group says ‘it sounds like it was a conscious choice to not include these issues in the research or its assignment.’
According to PNN, the scholarship PhDs clearly indicated there were issues through the manifesto they published about these issues late last year. ‘By once again disregarding the quality of the interim evaluation, the ministry is leaving the scholarship PhDs out in the cold, condemning another cohort of PhD candidates to the same issues.’
The Groningen scholarship PhDs completely agrees with the criticism issued by the PNN, but they have another note: ‘None of the parties representing the scholarship PhDs were interviewed or asked for a response for the review’, says Visser.
‘We weren’t asked, and the PNN wasn’t either, it turned out. It was just a matter of desk research, and they only interviewed one party: the researchers who composed the original, controversial report.’