‘PhD candidates in charge’

PNN, the interest group representing PhD candidates in the Netherlands, has applied for a vacancy at the Dutch university association VSNU. The PhDs want to become the poster children for the academic institutions.
By Peter Keizer / Translation by Traci White

‘Wouldn’t it be nice if PhD candidates were truly the faces of the universities and could dedicate themselves to creating a high quality academic climate as the chairperson of VSNU?’, PNN chairperson Rolf van Wegberg asks in the application.

The university association is seeking a new chairperson who will represent the academic institutions and lobby on their behalf in The Hague and Brussels. Van Wegberg writes that he is eager to take on the job.


The letter is intended as a joke, but it has a serious undertone. The PhD candidates make a significant contribution to the education and research at the universities, Van Wegberg writes. ‘This contribution is in stark contrast with the lack of presence of PhD candidates in the groups where these fundamental tasks are discussed and policy is formed. Despite the fact that PhD candidates are often the poster children for these core tasks, they remain unrepresented in the policy discussions which have a serious impact on them.’

‘Of course one of our PhDs won’t actually become the chairperson of the VSNU’, Van Wegberg  told told the Hoger Onderwijs Persbureau (Higher Education Press agency, HOP). ‘If you can combine concern and a sense of humour, then you can create a nice hybrid which can hopefully have an impact.’


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