In an email to philosophy staff this week, director of graduate studies Bart Streumer said the faculty board for philosophy had found a way to address one source of inequality for scholarship students.
Employed PhD candidates are able to change from a 1.0 fte contract to a 0.8 fte contract for any reason, but scholarship PhD candidates are not. By switching to a 0.8 fte contract, employed PhD candidates can extend their contracts from three to four academic years. But scholarship students are stuck with a three-year contract unless they get sick or have a similarly worthy reason to require an extension.
But after feedback from students, ‘we wanted to change that’, says dean Lodi Nauta. ‘For most students, it wasn’t so much about money but about having more time to finish the PhD. We thought that was a justified complaint.’
Philosophy scholarship PhD contracts are typically 36 months long. But now, all scholarship contracts will be extended to a total of 45 months and will be paid at 1.0 fte. Scholarship students working 1.0 fte on a 36 month contract will get more time, and those already working 0.8 fte (because of illness) will get a raise.
According to Streumer’s email, that means ‘PhD candidates with a scholarship can now (in effect) extend the length of their contract by nine months for any reason whatsoever. It also means that we are (in effect) slightly raising the scholarship of PhD candidates who want to extend their contract, thereby lessening the financial difference between the two categories of PhD candidates.’
He thinks this proposal, while still ‘not ideal’, is the best way to lessen inequality within the constraints of university policies and the Dutch tax code.
Nauta says that students are for the most part very happy with the adjustment, though those who started their contracts later may benefit slightly more than others. ‘We try to be as fair as possible, and I think it’s a good temporary measure to support the students. Of course it costs the faculty money, but we had the money to use.’
When the scholarship experiment ends, the faculty will have to decide the appropriate length for a PhD contract moving forward.