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Seven questions about PhD scholarship students

Why has the University of Groningen launched the PhD Scholarship Programme?

The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science has drafted an Order in Council (AMvB: Algemene Maatregel van Bestuur) for an experiment with scholarships for PhD students. By participating in this experiment, the University of Groningen (UG) is allowed to allocate more PhD positions, and so offer more talented students the opportunity to gain a PhD. More PhDs means an extra impulse for academic research, but the UG also sees this programme as an opportunity to streamline the transition between the Master’s phase and PhD research.

What is the difference between a PhD scholarship student and a PhD student with employee status?

PhD candidates with employee status are generally given a four-year employment contract with the UG. They almost always apply to work on existing research projects and they also provide teaching to other students. PhD scholarship students are not employed by the University. They are normal students with a four-year scholarship. They are required to write their own research proposal on the basis of their own academic inquisitiveness. They are not required to teach but are permitted to do so as part of teacher training.

A ‘Career Perspectives’ learning pathway has been developed especially for PhD scholarship students which helps prepare them for their future career as a PhD graduate, in or outside the academic world.

PhD scholarship positions are common practice abroad and the UG has already experimented with this system; however, it was initially called to account by the Courts because of an assumed employment relationship between the University and the PhD scholarship students. The UG disagreed with this position and successfully appealed it. This provided the Minister with the leeway needed to begin this experiment.

Who qualifies for a PhD scholarship position?

The faculties recruit candidates from among their own most talented Research Master’s students. These candidates’ research proposals are assessed by their potential supervisors and the Graduate School. The bar is set high: only the best proposals are accepted.

The UG also has positions for talent from outside the University, so students from other universities may also submit proposals. If they are selected they will first follow a short internship with the faculty of their choice, during which they can get to know their potential supervisors and flesh out their research proposal. The internal and external candidates are selected in a competition based on the quality of their CV and their research proposal.

How many students can participate?

The Minister has allocated 2000 positions to this experiment. Initially, the UG had been allocated 850 of these for students from the Netherlands and abroad. The programme is so successful that three years after the start almost all of the 850 positions had been filled. In February 2020, the Minister has given permission to fill 650 extra positions, making a total of 1500.

What is the amount of the scholarship?

PhD scholarship students are paid approximateky €1900 per month (taxes and social security contributions have already been withheld). They will not build up a pension nor do the existing collective labour agreements for employees apply (because scholarship students are not employees). So PhD scholarship students will also not receive an end-of-year bonus or holiday pay. However, these students do have access to the same social security scheme as regular PhD students.

Do PhD scholarship students have access to high quality research facilities?

In order to facilitate high quality research, the Graduate Schools must provide high quality research facilities. This includes a suitable place of study, the right equipment, expense allowances for travel and visits to conferences, an education budget, etc. The Graduate Schools will provide full support to the PhD scholarship students so that they can conduct their research under the best possible conditions.

What are the implications for the PhD if the experiment ends?

The UG considers it highly likely that the experiment will be prolonged. The University has ample experience with PhD scholarship students and therefore has full confidence that it will be a success. The experiment will be extensively evaluated in 2021.

In the unlikely event that the experiment is discontinued, the UG guarantees that all PhD scholarship students will be able to complete their programme under the same conditions.

Last modified:30 June 2021 1.23 p.m.
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