The RUG says the PhD scholarship programme is going well. More students have been given the opportunity to write a doctoral thesis than before. They also have more freedom in their proposal.
This is why the RUG wants to request 650 of the available spots in the second round of the scholarship PhD experiment, in which PhDs aren’t employed by the university, but receive an 1800 euro ‘student’ scholarship.
The university council is critical of the plans. Their worries are compounded by the manifesto the scholarship PhDs recently published, which has the support of eight PhD councils and which has already collected more than five hundred signatures.
‘There is absolutely no support for this experiment in the PhD community’, Simon van der Pol with the personnel faction said during the committee meeting on Thursday. ‘That’s the least that’s needed as an argument to continue the experiment.
Lorenzo Squintani, with the science faction, also remains unconvinced. ‘Perhaps they don’t recognise themselves in the rose-coloured results from earlier studies’, he said. He thinks that’s why they published the manifesto, which is also supported by the Promovendi Netwerk Nederland. ‘They want to raise awareness of the position they’re in.’
Lou de Leij, Dean of Graduate Schools, is unimpressed. He says that many of the points raised in the manifesto are simply untrue. And if the PhD students do run into issues, they should report this so the issues can be resolved. ‘Many of them can be resolved. Not in all cases of course, because they do have a different status.’
He also says the claim that PhDs are forced to teach is incorrect. ‘If that does happen, they should come to us. We’ll act on it.’
He realised that people sometimes feel morally pressured to teach. ‘‘But that’s their own choice.’ He also suggested that the Promovendi Netwerk Nederland is behind the manifesto, rather than the Groningen scholarship PhDs.
Van der Pol refuted this. ‘I started hearing about this manifesto back in July, and I talked to the initiators in September. I’m certain that this was published by the PhDs themselves. PNN got involved later.’
Rector magnificus Cisca Wijmenga emphasised that the PhD experiment is just that, an experiment. ‘It’s naive to think that an experiment will immediately go well. We have to learn as an organisation, so perhaps we should change some things in the secondary employment conditions. I don’t know.’
She wants people to realise that the programme has done a lot of good, and that it enables many PhD students to ‘chase their dreams’.
The council factions aren’t convinced. They want more insight into the costs: how much will it cost if the university pays every scholarship PhD the same as employed PhDs, but without, for example, the end of year and holiday bonuses.
They also want to see a policy in place to prevent abuses, rather than the current approach of handling problems as they come up. ‘If you have forty PhDs, you can solve problems one on one. You can’t do the same for 850 of them, and certainly not when you add another 650.’
Right to consent
The council also wants the right to consent to a second round of the PhD experiment. The previous board of directors had granted this right, but minister Van Engelshoven says its not necessary if the conditions of the experiment don’t change.
The personnel factions say adding 650 new scholarship PhDs will have so much impact that this justifies the right to consent.