A letter sent recently by the university board to the faculties regarding the rules for PhD education states it clearly: scholarship students are not permitted to be assigned to teach. That goes against the agreement, according to the University Council Personnel Faction.
‘It directly contradicts what was discussed last year,’ says Casper Albers of the Personnel Faction. Teaching experience was one of the faction’s demands when it agreed to the PhD experiment at the RUG, he says.
‘Scholarship students who want to would have the option to gain the same teaching experience as PhD candidates who are employees. It was agreed upon that scholarship students would be able to get a temporary RUG appointment as ‘student assistant’ or temporary teacher in addition to their scholarship in order to take up these teaching tasks,’ Albers says.
A major issue, however, is that unlike a PhD candidate who is employed by the university, a scholarship student does not have a so-called relationship of authority (employee/employer) with their thesis supervisor. As such, teaching by assignment is not possible, RUG president Sibrand Poppema says.
‘I’m not entirely happy with this myself. I’m looking for a way to make this possible. But at the moment, the scholarship student would have a relationship of authority in fiscal terms,’ Poppema stated in the University Council on Thursday.
The university president is meeting with the Tax Authorities and the ministry of finance regarding this issue. ‘It’s a very complicated matter,’ he says. ‘We haven’t given up, but for now, this is how it’s going to be.’
The scholarship students can currently gain experience in teaching and supervising students, but only in the context of the agreed upon educational programme, among others by means of a so-called ‘BKO light (Basis Kwalificatie Onderwijs; Basic Qualification of Education)’ after which he or she is permitted to teach classes and supervise master’s programme students.
‘But this doesn’t really mean much in terms of gaining teaching experience,’ Albers says. There’s no other way, he feels, because the experience must be gained within the three years of PhD time, contrary to prior agreements. ‘Prior to this, PhD students were given four years, and three years really is the lower limit: if you take away six months for teaching tasks from those three years, then we’re not talking about a PhD programme, but a glorified research master’s programme.’
Albers thinks Poppema’s reaction is ‘encouraging’. ‘They’re not happy about it either and are looking for solutions. To be continued,’ he says.