PhD candidates don’t know their rights

Leave, remuneration, working part-time or full-time: PhD candidates barely know what they’re entitled to. The Promovendi Netwerk Nederland (PNN) aims to change this.
By Thereza Langeler / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

Since Friday, 22 February, the PNN and academic union VAWO haven been organising information sessions to educate PhDs about their employment conditions. The organisation for PhD students says the lack of knowledge leads to ‘abuses and mental issues’.

‘We find that especially international PhDs often don’t know what rights are standard and what aren’t – although some of the Dutch don’t know either’, says Anne de Vries, PNN president. ‘That leads to all kinds of problems.’

De Vries has heard about PhDs being pressured to work full-time when they’d prefer to not work every single day. ‘Everyone has the right to work part-time, unless there are reasonable grounds to refuse allowing that. It’s weird that some PhD students don’t get the opportunity.’


The latest version of the collective agreement for universities, which went into effect in July of last year, more clearly defines the rights of PhDs. They can now get a research extension if they previously had to take parental leave – but only if they ask for it. ‘So they need to be aware of the option. Before the new collective agreement went into effect, the extension wasn’t even an option. It’s all good on paper now, but in practice, we are still catching up to reality.’

Other right have also been added to the collective agreement, including a maximum required duration for the Phd track (four years, no less), and access to severance pay. All staff who were employed for at least two years are entitled to severance pay, including PhD students. But it turns out people aren’t aware of that, either.

RUG meeting

The first information session was held at the University of Wageningen. Later this year, the PNN will visit other universities. ‘We’re still planning a session at the RUG’, De Vries says.

According to De Vries, the Groningen session will be slightly different, because there are so many PhD scholarship students at the RUG. They run into much more specific problems. ‘We often hear that they are required to teach, but that they don’t get paid for it because they’re officially students. Few people actually know the difference between the rights and responsibilities of employed PhDs and scholarship PhDs.’



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