PhD trajectories in the Netherlands are internationally recognized as being of high quality. PhD publications are in both qualitative and quantitative terms highly ranked. Overall, PhD candidates play an important role in the  academic output of Dutch universities. They make up almost thirty percent of the total number of scientific staff of universities. In general, PhDs in the Netherlands are regarded as employees rather than students.

However, this employee status has recently came under pressure. The association of universities in The Netherlands (VSNU) and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science increasingly regard PhDs as students rather than as employees. Consequently, they want to employ PhDs on bursaries instead of on employment terms. This implies that PhDs will not receive a salary anymore, but a bursary instead. Furthermore, they are not eligible for, for instance, unemployment benefits once their contract ends and (paid) maternity leave. Besides that, a desk and office within the university is at stake. In short, treating PhDs as students instead of seeing them as employees, has severe consequences for PhDs and are likely to make doing a PhD less attractive to talented students.

As a result of the above mentioned reasons, PNN is against a student status for PhDs. This viewpoint has been expressed by PNN in national media (see the list of press releases below), to members of Parliament and to the Dutch Ministry of Education. As a consequence of the controversy that the bursary experiment caused within higher education, the current Minister of Education (Jet Bussemaker, PvdA) decided to stop with the implementation of ‘bursary-student-legislation’. She decided to start with experimental leglisation  to investigate the effect of so-called bursary PhDs on a small scale, before making her final decision. Despite the negative advice of the Council of State to continue with this. Given that a majority of the members of Parliament approved the experiment, a number of  universities is currently preparing plans to join the experiment and employ PhD students. Each university council, consisting of both students and employees, has to give a positive advice in order for universities to be able to participate in this experiment.

The detailed plans of different universities that want to participate in the bursary experiment are not yet presented. With this page, we will try to keep you up-to-date on what the proposed plans are. Any questions on this topic may be adressed to PNN through

Overview of relevant PNN press releases:


11 September 2015: University council in Leiden disapproves of bursary experiment 
17 January 2014: PNN expresses worries and recommendations regarding student PhD candidate experiment
15 May 2013: Eurodoc statement: Best practice of employee status for PhDs in the Netherlands 

11 mei 2016: Promotiestudent toch niet zo populair bij universiteiten
26 februari 2016: Alleen Groningen dol op Promotiestudenten
19 januari 2016: Raad van State Kritisch over Promotiestudent
8 januari 2016: Officiële bekendmaking experiment Promotiestudent
3  juli 2015: Promovendi betalen of beurs
2 June 2015:Duizenden handtekeningen tegen experimenteren met promotiestudenten
2 March 2015: Overzicht inbreng schriftelijk overleg experiment promotieonderwijs
12 February 2015: Ervaringen van een beurspromovendus
11 February 2015: On-wetenschappelijk experiment met promovendi
17 June 2014: Reconstructie ervaringen met experiment promotiestudent jaren 90
2 December 2013:
PNN uit zorgen over en geeft aanbevelingen voor experiment promotiestudenten
13 July 2013: Promovendi kritisch over bursalensysteem
22 May 2013: Zaak promovendi kansrijk bij Hoge Raad
26 April 2013: Teleurstellende uitspraak in zaak bursaalpromovendi 
22 January 2013: Promotiestudent geschrapt uit de wijziging op de Wet op het hoger onderwijs 
4 October 2011: Artikel in Trouw 
27 September 2011: Bursalenstelsel 
11 April 2011: Kamervragen over invoering bursalenstel 
2 March 2011: Campagne tegen het bursalenstelsel