PNN: RUG influenced evaluation of PhD experiment. ‘Too one-sided’

According to the Promovendi Netwerk Nederland (PNN), the RUG is influencing the independent interim evaluation of the PhD scholarship candidate experiment. Today, PNN submitted a complaint against the research centre at the University of Twente responsible for the evaluation.
By Giulia Fabrizi / Translation bij Sarah van Steenderen

PNN is worried that the results of the evaluation will be excessively positive, which benefits the RUG. The network feels critical remarks from the scholarship candidates themselves are not being taken into consideration. The definitive report hasn’t been published yet.

According to PNN, the interim evaluation of the national experiment is predominantly based on earlier self-evaluations and surveys by the RUG. Moreover, the Center for Higher Education Policy Studies (CHEPS), which is responsible for the evaluation, was supposedly denied access to the RUG’s ‘underlying raw data’.

PNN acknowledges that the RUG’s data was supplemented by new interviews, but they’re worried about the impartiality of the new data. According to their website, ‘PNN has received complaints that these people, who were approached (and partly selected) by the RUG, were encouraged to be positive about the experiment’.


The RUG has been part of the national PhD scholarship experiment since 2016. For this experiment, rather than hire people as PhDs, – a common practice in the Netherlands –  universities give students a scholarship for their promotion track.

In a first test round, the Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science made two thousand promotion spots available. Only the RUG and the Erasmus University in Rotterdam took part in the experiment, with 850 and 15 PhDs, respectively.

Last fall, education minister Ingrid van Engelshoven (D66) decided to put an end to the experiment due to a lack of interest. After political parties CDA, VVD, and later the PVV and SGP asked parliamentary questions, the minister said that even though ‘only’ 865 people participated, the amount can still lead to a good evaluation of the experiment.

RUG evaluation positive

After the first year of the experiment, the RUG did its own evaluation. According to the anonymous survey, scholarship candidates were happy with how things had gone during the first twelve months. The promotion slots were ultimately filled quickly.

‘It’s no secret that we would have loved to expand the experiment and offer more slots’, says RUG spokesperson Jorien Bakker. ‘But it doesn’t look like we’ll succeed there.’

Bakker does not want to respond to PNN’s accusations. ‘We haven’t seen the report yet, so we can’t say anything about it.’



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