Scholarship PhDs at the UG will get a 9.6 percent ‘pay increase’ after all. The increase will become effective retroactively from September. The board of directors announced this during a university council meeting on Thursday.
The scholarships will increase starting January 1. The four months the scholarship PhDs missed out on this year will be compensated in 2023, board member Hans Biemans promised. The decision will cost the UG 880,000 euros.
Biemans says the board deliberately decided not to implement the inflation adjustment, as scholarship PhDs would then exceed the threshold of a maximum of 40 percent of minimum wage.
‘They’d be confronted with different tax and benefits brackets that they wouldn’t be familiar with’, according to Biemans.
But the minimum wage is increasing on January 1, which means there’s room to up the scholarships. ‘We could have done better in our communication concerning our intentions to see what could be done in January 2023’, Biemans admits.
The board wants to index pay rates based on inflation in 2023, too. It’s the last time it’ll do this, because after that, the scholarship PhD experiment will be over. The UG had 1,500 scholarship PhD candidates at the moment.
Björn de Kruijf with PhD interest group Groningen Graduate Interest Network (GRIN) is ‘overjoyed’. ‘We understand why the board decided on this approach. We’re excited to communicate with the board about their decision and hope they can improve this in the future.’
The decision does not come as a surprise. In late September, scholarship PhDs became upset when it turned out their scholarships wouldn’t be adjusted for inflation, even though their contract said so. Instead, the university had increased their scholarships by 4 percent, in line with the pay increase university employees got as part of their collective agreement.
This was interesting, since the university insistently said the scholarship PhDs constituted a different group. While they do the same work as their employed colleagues, they get paid less, don’t get an end-of-year bonus, and don’t get a pension. But, the UG keeps saying, they also have more freedom.
PhD interest groups PNN and GRIN fought the decision. The university council also voiced its concerns. Unions threatened to take the matter to court if the UG didn’t honour its contract with the PhDs.