The influx of PhD students exceeds the university’s prior estimates, RUG spokesperson Gernant Deekens says. ‘Right now, we anticipate already running out of positions for the international students over the course of next year.’
University director Sibrand Poppema confirms that various faculties, including the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, are asking for more PhD students.
In September, 160 PhD students started at the RUG as part of the PhD Scholarship Programme. They are viewed as students instead of employees because they write their own research proposal, set their own working hours and do not have to accept assignments from their thesis supervisor.
In total, the minister provided for 2,000 positions in eight years. The RUG requested 850, and Erasmus University Rotterdam was assigned 15. ‘There is certainly room for more,’ Poppema says.
‘We are considering expanding our current appointment with positions for foreign PhD students with their own scholarships in particular’, says Lou de Leij, dean of the Groningen Graduate Schools and driving force behind the PhD experiment. ‘The influx is so popular that we will quickly run out of positions for this category’, he says.
Interest group Promovendi Netwerk Nederland (PNN) is surprised by the new plan. ‘We were in Groningen last week and this was not discussed in any way’, chairman Rolf van Wegberg says.
According to Van Wegberg, the RUG is getting ahead of itself with these new plans. ‘The minister has not informed me of any plans for a second round of applications. But let’s first see whether everything is in order before talking about new rounds.’
The PNN chairman also states that much is unclear regarding the experiment. ‘Four out of eight faculty boards have not yet agreed with the regulations required for offering the PhD students the necessary guarantees. Moreover, it is not clear at all how and when the experiment will be evaluated, even though the minister indicated that this really needs to be the case. I think it’s strange to have a new round of PhD students without knowing whether or not the experiment achieves the desired effect.’
The PNN worries that the RUG is mainly focusing on foreign students with a scholarship. ‘The experiment is now being used for something completely different than what it was intended for. It was intended to make a doctoral degree programme possible for both foreign and Dutch students. Most positions are now allocated to people who already have a scholarship. But the RUG doesn’t need the experiment for this; there is no law that hinders them from hiring PhD students with a scholarship and then compensating them for the agreed upon net 1,700 euros.’
Minister Bussemaker recently stated that the RUG complied with the rules with respect to appointing PhD students contrary to what the PNN said. For instance, according to Bussemaker the RUG is not appointing more PhD students than agreed upon and the appointment of scholarship students for a period other than four years is not against the rules.
After the Christmas break, the House of Representatives will have a debate on the PhD experiment.