Two-tier system

Two-tier system

By Niall Torris
17 December om 14:37 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 17 December 2019
om 15:00 uur.
December 17 at 14:37 PM.
Last modified on December 17, 2019
at 15:00 PM.

This week I was stunned to read that the RUG board applied for 650 more scholarship PhD positions, and all while demonstrating an understanding of consent that would be seriously disturbing in the bedroom (‘you said yes last time, so it’s happening’ is never a good argument).

This decision defies belief, especially with scholarship PhD candidates demanding an end to the experiment which created the relationship. Board president De Vries even claimed, ‘the RUG’s future is at stake’. Are the board blind to the damage this experiment causes?

At the recent council, rector magnificus Cisca Wijmenga said ‘if a salary is that important to them, they can go get a job in business’ and last year Lou De Leij, Director of Graduate Schools, said ‘if they don’t like it, there’s the door’.

Yet a scholarship pays 1800 euros per month while an employed PhD receives about 2300 euros. Honestly, just giving scholarship PhDs the proper salary for the job they already do is clearly a more sensible strategy than pushing them toward the door for asking. What does the board think they should like about that?

That 500 euros a month says to scholarship PhDs that they are bottom in a two-tier system. But the RUG defends the system, saying scholarship PhDs enjoy more freedom than their employed colleagues. Really? I fail to see how reduced pay, less holidays, the same workload, and the same requirements for graduation translate to greater freedom. So, why is the RUG doing this?

In Ireland, a scholarship-only system has existed for years and conditions for PhD candidates have rotted away

The answer is simple: scholarships are cheaper. The RUG openly says that scholarships allow the university to offer more PhD places. This little bit of spin lets the RUG board pretend that they’re a defender of justice and equal access to education, while eroding the rights and incomes of PhD candidates.

Eventually the two-tier system will vanish with everyone forced to the bottom; I know this from experience. For two years I represented PhD candidates as Graduate Officer for University College Dublin Students’ Union. The PhDs I helped came to me with supervisor issues, departmental conflict and many other problems. Without fail, their scholarships always placed them in an awful position.

In Ireland, a scholarship-only system has existed for years and conditions for PhD candidates have rotted away. I could do almost nothing to help many PhD candidates who sat in my office crying when they were refused sick pay, maternity leave or even a non-university job under the terms of their scholarships.

Sure, scholarship systems are normal in many countries. But that does nothing to justify the horrors of scholarship systems. The RUG needs to hold on to the things that sets it apart as better than the rest, and the PhD system here has been a perfect example of that, until now. De Vries is right when he says that the RUG’s future is at stake here, but not as he thinks it is. This fight must be won.