No new scholarship PhDs at law faculty

‘The differences are negligible’

No new scholarship PhDs at law faculty

The Faculty of Law will not be hiring any more scholarship PhDs for the foreseeable future. Internal research has shown that the difference with employed PhDs is too small. They will work out possible remuneration for the scholarship PhDs currently at the faculty.
By Christien Boomsma and René Hoogschagen
27 January om 16:35 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 22 November 2020
om 16:18 uur.
January 27 at 16:35 PM.
Last modified on November 22, 2020
at 16:18 PM.

The discussion about the difference between scholarship PhDs and regular PhDs reached its nadir in December when a group of scholarship PhDs published a manifesto in which they demanded equal treatment. The initiators say the two position are basically the same and that the difference in remuneration isn’t justified. 

The law faculty board and the Graduate School of Law entered into discussions with the PhDs. ‘All the participants agreed that the practical differences are negligible’, the faculty board writes. ‘There is hardly any difference in freedom of choice, and in spite of the lack of a formal hierarchy, the relationship between supervisor and PhD candidate can be characterised as a master/apprentice relationship, which in reality means it’s hierarchical.’

Natural pressure

This leads to ‘natural pressure’ on the PhDs, and it can’t be ruled out that ‘in incidental cases, people are clearly teaching too much’. Besides, scholarship PhDs actually want to teach, as they need the experience and the edge it will give them in the labour market. 

Finally, it also turned out that people treat scholarship PhDs differently. ‘That is extremely unpleasant for them. People shouldn’t make jokes about how scholarship PhDs are ‘just’ students’, says Pauline Westerman with the Groningen Graduate School of Law.

The faculty board has said it wants to explore revising the current system, ‘taking into account the fiscal (lack of) possibilities, equality between PhD students’, and the RUG’s policies. 

Slow down

The coming year, the faculty will be paying for employed PhD positions itself. They also want to create five PhD positions for people with a sandwich or top-up scholarship. They are positions for PhDs who have a foreign scholarship that the RUG adds to, or who spend part of their PhD track at a different university.

Vice-dean Jan Jans: ‘We find ourself in the lucky position of being able to slow down. We want to take a little more time to think about this. We want young and talented researchers to come here and grow into good lecturers and employees. It’s important to modernise things from the bottom up.’

Jans emphasises that he’ll also look into the current cases. ‘To determine how their work life can be improved and how we can help with that.’ Westerman wants to make it clearer that teaching is voluntary for scholarship PhDs. ‘I’ll be keeping a closer eye on that.


Rolf Hoving, with the personnel faction in the faculty council, is happy with the development, although he thinks even more could be done. ‘They should really say that they’ll never participate in an experiment like this again.’

Faculty council chairperson Michiel Duchateau: ‘My signal to the board of director would be that this construction might work under some circumstances, but that it’s different at our faculty.’

Martha Buit, one of the manifesto’s initiators and PhD candidate at the law faculty, is happy that her faculty board looked for a solution itself and didn’t blindly trust the vision of the coordinating Graduate School. ‘I really hope this has a spill-over effect to other faculty boards.’



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