PNN considering taking UG and UMCG to court over remuneration scholarship PhDs

The Promovendi Network Netherlands (PNN) is looking into the feasibility of taking the UG and UMCG to court. They would sue the institutes over the question whether PhDs hired through the PhD Scholarship Experiment are employees or students.

PNN is looking into the matter because of the interlocutory judgement in the case that forty-four MD/PhDs had brought against the UMCG.

They say they were unjustly considered students, while PhDs who had been hired in similar positions before 2016 or after 2018 were given an employee contract. This meant the scholarship PhDs missed out on thousands of euros in holiday pay and end-of-year bonuses.

Last week, the court agreed with their appeal: they are indeed employees. It will be announced in August how much the UMCG will have to compensate the MD/PhDs.


The PNN, which over the past few years has been protesting the PhD Scholarship Experiment, in which PhDs are seen as students instead of employees so they’re cheaper, is happy to hear it. ‘The court was very clear’, says president Anneke Katelein. ‘There is no difference. We’re now looking into whether this can apply to all scholarship PhDs.’

While the judgement applies to a specific group of MD/PhDs, Kastelein says: ‘The system is similar for other scholarship PhDs. I don’t have a legal background, but reading the judgement, I can’t immediately think of a way this group differs from regular scholarship PhDs.’

New court case

PNN will be talking to other unions as well as lawyers in the next few weeks, and if they agree, there’s a good chance the matter will go to court again. ‘We’ve received several emails from scholarship PhDs asking if this situation applies to them as well’, says Kastelein. ‘People are pretty upset, especially national scholarship PhDs.’

A case like this would have serious consequences for the UG and UMCG. Compensation for the forty-four MD/PhDs is estimated at 500,000 euros in missed income. But the UG and UMCG hired a total of 1,5000 PhDs as part of the experiment.

UMCG lawyer Damir Lacevic calculated during court proceedings in March that ‘if everyone joins up’, the UG and UMCG might be looking at an expense between eight and twelve million euros.

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