On 18 December 2014, the Experiments on Animal Act was revised in order to implement EU-Directive 2010/63/EU. The new act aims to create more transparency. Compared to the old system, the most important differences are the creation of the Animal Welfare Body and the fact that there is a Non-Technical Summary (NTS) that has to be written in Dutch. Except for these language requirements, which can be a problem for international PhD candidates, all PhD candidates who perform animal experiments will have to deal with the consequences of this change in legislation. Problems may arise from timing issues, a fee that needs to be paid and the fact that these project proposals can be written for a period of 5 years. It is important that PhD candidates are informed about this situation in order to circumvent these potential problems. Visit our website or visit the website of the CCD or Animal Welfare Body for more information
On 24 February 2015, members of university councils and representatives of PhD organisations from the Netherlands have sent a letter to the Executive boards and Boards of directors of all Dutch universities and university medical centers on their concerns about the plans of the government to implement a bursary PhD experiment. This experiment would entail that researchers who are working on a dissertation can be considered students, instead of employees.
The aim of the letter is to draw the attention of the Executive boards to the concerns about the proposed experiment, to initiate further discussion within the university (or works) councils, and to convince the Executive boards not to take part in the experiment. The possible negative consequences are examined, and a response is given to the arguments of proponents of the experiment.
The letter was signed by more than 100 members of university councils, works councils, student councils, and representatives and national PhD organisations. Prout has signed the letter, and fully supports its content.
Minister Bussemaker van Onderwijs wil per 2016 een experiment starten waarbij promovendi geen werknemers van de universiteit meer zijn, maar studenten met een studiebeurs. Prout, het netwerk van Utrechtse promovendi, is kritisch. In een eerder experiment met het zogeheten bursalensysteem werden de beoogde doelen niet behaald. Prout vreest dat het experiment in zijn huidige vorm te weinig verschilt van het eerdere experiment om tot betere resultaten te leiden.
In tegenstelling tot de werknemerpromovendi hoeven promotiestudenten geen onderwijs te geven. Daardoor zouden ze zich meer kunnen concentreren op hun eigen opleiding en onderzoek. In het experiment met promotiestudenten dat de Universiteit Utrecht in de jaren negentig uitvoerde, bleek echter dat de twee typen promovendi in de praktijk niet van elkaar verschilden: het beloofde extra onderwijs voor promotiestudenten was niet beschikbaar, zij kregen niet meer begeleiding van hun promotor, en zij gaven nog steeds onderwijs.
Prout maakt zich vooral zorgen over de financiële en sociale positie van promotiestudenten en hun carrièreperspectieven. Promotiestudenten krijgen geen reiskostenvergoeding, bouwen geen pensioen op en hebben geen arbeidsongeschiktheidsverzekering. Als zij een beurs krijgen die even hoog is als het nettosalaris van een werknemerpromovendus, dan moeten zij deze onkosten dus uit eigen portemonnee betalen. De kans op een baan na afronding van de promotie is volgens Prout ook kleiner: werkgevers buiten de universiteit zullen het promotietraject niet als ‘werkervaring’ beschouwen, terwijl universiteiten zullen wijzen op het gebrek aan onderwijservaring.
Promoveren wordt volgens Prout op deze manier onaantrekkelijk. “Als promotiestudent kun je eind twintig zijn en nog steeds student, terwijl je voormalige studiegenoten al een paar jaar een ‘echte’ baan hebben,” aldus Prout-voorzitter Sophie van Uijen. “De Minister wil meer promovendi aantrekken, maar wij verwachten exact het tegenovergestelde.”
The Minister of Education, Culture and Science has recently presented a policy document Wetenschapsvisie 2025: Keuzes voor de toekomst (Academic Vision: Choices for the Future). Two items are particularly relevant for PhD candidates.
The Minister announces – again – plans for the introduction of a bursary PhD experiment. A bursary PhD candidate is a PhD student, whereas currently most PhD candidates in the Netherlands are university employees. Prout keeps a close and critical watch on these developments.
Executive Boards (Colleges van Bestuur) will receive the legal option to give the ius promovendi to associate professors (universitair hoofddocenten). If an Executive Board decides to do so, also associate professors can become a member of the examination committee (beoordelingscommissie).
Recently there has been growing uneasiness surrounding the bursary system for PhD candidates at Dutch universities. In April 2013, a judge ruled that PhD candidates at the University of Groningen could be appointed as students with a scholarship, but the Dutch Tax Administration disagrees with this ruling. Nevertheless, in May 2013, the Minister of Education, Culture and Science, Jet Bussemaker, gauged the opinion of Dutch universities on an experiment with a bursary system for PhDs. In December 2013, the national PhD network PNN published a position paper on the issue. Although there are no indications that anything will change in Utrecht any time soon, it would not be the first time that an attempt to reform the system has been made.
Recently there has been growing uneasiness surrounding the bursary system for PhD candidates at Dutch universities. In April 2013, a judge ruled that PhD candidates at the University of Groningen could be appointed as students with a scholarship, but the Dutch Tax Administration does not agree. Nevertheless, in May 2013 the Minister of Education, Culture and Science, Jet Bussemaker, gauged the opinion of Dutch universities on an experiment with a bursary system for PhDs. In December 2013, the national PhD network PNN published a position paper on the issue. Although there are no indications that anything will change in Utrecht any time soon, it would not be the first time that the system is reformed.
On April 16th 2014 we sent a survey to the PhD candidates at Utrecht University. A total of 773 individuals filled in the survey, of which 700 respondents indicated that they were currently working on a PhD project at Utrecht University. The full report can be accessed through here, below follows a short summary of the most salient points. Background information on the questions can be found here.
The option to trade holiday hours (leave) for additional salary has been reinstated. In previous years this option, which is part of the “multiple choice model”, was not available due to the financial situation of the university. However, because our university had a large financial surplus over 2013, the option has now been reinstated. In practice this means you may trade a maximum of 38 hours (i.e. half of the 76 hours that you are allowed to spend on “extras” such as a bicycle) for extra salary. Please note that taxes will be deducted from this amount; in particular, if you benefit from the 30% scheme you may also use this option. See also this DUB article (in Dutch).
PrOUt is concerned by the recent debate on the implementation of a bursary PhD student system in the Netherlands. In contrast to previous political views, the current government seeks to legally enable Dutch universities to facilitate Dutch bursary PhD students. Although this could possibly lead to an increase in cost efficiency for universities and hence to a larger number of PhD students, PrOUt believes the introduction of bursary PhD students is a bad idea. We wrote a charter that was offered to the University Council (U-raad [Dutch]), the University Board (CvB) and the rector magnificus.
Also, the national PhD candidates network (PNN) calls upon all PhD candidates to sign a petition on www.promovendus.org, which also contains a list of arguments (NB: the website is in Dutch). So let’s all join our forces!