During the General Members’ Meeting (GMM) of September 20th 2019, Lucille Mattijssen was elected new president of the PhD Network Netherlands (PNN), the interest group for and by PhD students. Mattijssen is a PhD candidate of the VU University Amsterdam, and will succeed Anne de Vries, who will leave the board of PNN after having been president for more than a year.
Mattijssen is looking forward to improving the position of PhD candidates in the coming year, together with the PNN board members and the PhD representatives from the universities. “PhDs are crucial for research and education at universities. At the same time, they are in a vulnerable position: their employment prospects in science are limited and they are highly dependent on their supervisors. The PNN unites PhD candidates and thus has the opportunity to put their interests on the agenda of policy makers.”
Various topics require specific attention in the coming academic year. For example, PNN is closely following developments regarding the experiment on PhD students in Groningen. Mattijssen: “The argument that, as students rather than employees, PhDs would have more freedom in their project in no way outweighs the employment rights they lose. Giving PhDs a student status therefore means a net deterioration of PhD programs.” The influx of international bursary PhDs also brings new issues. “The scholarships these PhD students receive are often insufficient to make ends meet in the Netherlands.” Furthermore, the mental well-being of PhD candidates, the quality of the PhD programs and the labour market opportunities of PhD candidates remain important issues that PNN continues to stand up for.
Within the PNN board, two new portfolios have been created for topics that the PNN wants to pay more attention to in the coming years. Tjitske van Engelen (Amsterdam UMC) will take on the portfolio Diversity and will focus on the problems that specific groups of PhDs in the Netherlands face. Carola Schoor (Maastricht University), an external PhD candidate herself, will be focusing in particular on the interests of external PhD candidates, a large group of PhDs who are often lost out of sight. She will also act as communication adviser for the PNN. Kimberley Anneveldt (Isala Zwolle) and Nicolien van Vliet (LUMC) have already taken office before the summer, as new secretary and board member for PhDs in academic medical centres respectively. Mattijssen: “With a total of nine board members, PNN is fully set for all challenges in the new academic year!”