Manifesto against experiment PhD Scholarships presented to Parliament

Today (4 February, 13:45), PhD scholarship students from the University of Groningen (RUG) will present their manifesto against the experiment with PhD Scholarship students to parliament. PhD scholarship students do exactly the same work as employee PhDs, but for less money and under poorer employment conditions. For example, the RUG promised PhD scholarship students more freedom in setting up their project, but in practice their freedom did not differ from that of employee PhDs. Also, PhD scholarship students are officially not allowed to teach, but were in some cases urged to do so by their supervisors.

In this manifesto, PhD scholarship students therefore demand the termination of the experiment with PhD Scholarship students, employee status and compensation for the time they have worked as PhD scholarship students. The manifesto is supported by 1075 individual supporters, including 239 PhD candidates from the University of Groningen, and national organizations such as the PhD Network Netherlands, (student) trade unions and WOinActie.

The experiment started in 2016 and has been controversial from the start. Although the (not undisputed) interim evaluation of the experiment indicates that there are no adverse effects of the experiment, the PhD scholarship students themselves send a much more negative signal. In addition to the 239 scholarship PhD scholarship students who have signed this critical manifesto, 58 medical PhD scholarship students have gone to court to demand employee status, and other PhD scholarship students are considering to take the same step.

For the second round of the experiment, the University of Groningen has applied for another 650 PhD scholarship students, in addition to the current 850, despite fierce criticism from the university council. However, two faculties have already indicated that they will no longer participate in the experiment: the Faculty of Law found that there was insufficient difference between PhD scholarship students and employee PhDs to justify a difference in employment conditions, and the Faculty of Philosophy considers having two types of PhD students to be undesirable. In the light of these developments, the presentation of the manifest is good occasion for the members of Parliament to thoroughly reconsider the experiment.

Policy plan PNN

Hereby we publish our Policy plan we have worked on during last fall. We tried to create a document, not only focusing on upcoming year, but also to show a direction for the years afterwards. The document includes three focus points in which our themes are directly or indirectly mentioned.

The VAWO will merge with the AOb! What does this mean for PhD candidates?

VAWO members have voted en masse for the merger with the Algemene Onderwijsbond (AOb). Of all the votes cast, 97% were in favor of the merger. The members of AOb also agreed to the merger. This means that starting January 1 2020, the interests of VAWO members will be represented by AOb. In order to do this properly, AOb will set up a new sector especially for academic education and research (WO&O).

But what changes for you as a member?

Remains the same or improves:

  • Legal assistance remains. Regardless of how long people have been members of the VAWO, everyone who is now a VAWO member will be entitled to legal assistance from 1 January 2020. If necessary, even with a lawyer;
  • The AOb also sits at the table to negotiate a strong collective labour agreement (cao);
  • The AOb will continue to draw attention to important themes, such as the experiment with PhD Scholarship students, but also topics such as high work pressure, interweaving of education & research, equal opportunities and social security will remain on the agenda;
  • Events organised by the VAWO (the opening of the Academic Year and the Academy-Kiss) will remain on the agenda. The trade union will also be present on PhD days as usual;
  • Finally: the people will stay! The local representatives, the board and the staff will continue to be committed to you!

What does change:

  • The name changes. VAWO becomes AOb WO&O;
  • The contribution changes. The AOb uses a different system according to income. For PhD students the monthly contribution increases from € 6,- to € 17,85. At many universities you can exchange this contribution for tax purposes. Furthermore, as compensation for the increase, the membership is free for the first three months;
  • The VAWO Visie disappears. Instead, the Onderwijsblad will be published every month, covering all sectors, including education and training;
  • The website and contact details change. The website of the AOb will contain information about the collective agreement (CAO), legal advice, and events.

The ‘look’ may change, but the ‘feel’ remains the same. Often together with PNN, the VAWO is proud to fight for the interests of PhD candidates. For this reason, a PNN board member has been on the VAWO board for years. Within the AOb, PNN continues to stand up for better labor conditions and a stronger position for PhD candidates. PNN looks forward to a good collaboration with the AOb WO&O to work for a healthy academic environment.