Minister warns RUG for litigious scholarship PhDs

The scholarship PhD students who spoke out against the experiment are disappointed that the university is allowed to continue with it. Photo: Reyer Boxem

Experiment can continue

Minister warns RUG for litigious scholarship PhDs

Education minister Ingrid van Engelshoven will not put a stop to the controversial scholarship PhD experiment. She does warn universities that some scholarship PhD students might be protected under labour laws.

21 January om 12:59 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 22 January 2020
om 11:48 uur.
January 21 at 12:59 PM.
Last modified on January 22, 2020
at 11:48 AM.


Giulia Fabrizi

Door Giulia Fabrizi

21 January om 12:59 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 22 January 2020
om 11:48 uur.
Giulia Fabrizi

By Giulia Fabrizi

January 21 at 12:59 PM.
Last modified on January 22, 2020
at 11:48 AM.
Giulia Fabrizi

Giulia Fabrizi

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The minister decided to continue the experiment because last year’s interim evaluation ‘did not indicate any adverse effect on the research climate at one or more universities’.

The interim evaluation, which was much criticised, still has to be assessed for scientific reliability. In a written answer to questions asked in the Lower House, the minister said she expects the results of this independent assessment early this year.

Lawsuit

But if the financial remuneration is the only difference between employed PhDs and scholarship PhDs, Van Engelshoven says, a court could decide that the contract is in fact an employment contract. If scholarship PhDs are doing the same work as employed PhDs, they should be paid the same.

This is why a group of twenty RUG scholarship PhDs protested last year. In a manifesto, they outlined a number of criticisms – they say they’re pressured to teach when this is not actually required of scholarship PhDs – and called for a stop to the experiment as it is currently designed.

With 850 scholarship PhDs, the RUG is the biggest participant in the experiment. Over two hundred of these PhDs have signed the manifest since it was published.

Disappointed

‘We’re disappointed by minister Van Engelshoven’s decision’, says Martha Buit, who represents the scholarship PhDs who wrote the manifesto. ‘Earlier, it looked like she might put a stop to the experiment, but now she’s continuing it based on a controversial interim evaluation. It’s also surprising that she expects the RUG to solve the problems concerning the experiment.’

The group mainly regrets that the minister hints at inequalities but doesn’t outright name them. ‘She’s basically saying that while the experiment has its issues, she won’t acknowledge them and leaves it up to the PhDs themselves to put it before the courts’, explains Buit. 

That’s a step the scholarship PhDs would rather not take. ‘We love our work and love doing it. In an ideal world, that would be all we did. But we are exploring our options.’ They would have preferred it if Van Engelshoven took action to correct the inequality in the current terms of employment.

Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

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