The PhD student construct is an experiment organized by the ministry of Education to attract more PhD candidates. Unlike ‘normal’ PhD candidates, PhD students are not hired by the university but rather paid through a grant. In order to take part in the pilot, the RUG must have sufficient financial reserves to offer the students a contract if the experiment is discontinued.
Documents from PNN reveal that the RUG does not have that required reserve. The university says that the chances that the experiment will be called off early are practically non-existence and that the mandatory reserve is ‘disproportionate’. The funds would need to cover roughly 100 students.
The PhD interest group fears that the RUG is treating the pilot as the new reality rather than an experiment. ‘Everything is focused on ensuring the continuity of the experiment and keeping the influx of PhD students as high as possible’, says chairperson Rolf van Wegberg. The PNN wants to avoid the experiment becoming too big to fail and to bring it to an end.
Lou de Leij, who is responsible for PhD-level education at the university, says that the rules are being closely followed. ‘The RUG submitted a proposal, which was agreed upon beforehand and was unanimously approved by the University Council, to the ministry of Education, Culture and Science.’ De Leij says that the faculty councils have been informed and that there is much support for the plans within the university.
The university is also abiding by the financial requirements. ‘The financing has been secured. We guarantee that the PhD students can complete their research even if the experiment ends early’, says De Leij.