Dutch and international scholarship PhD students are not employees. This follows from the decision announced by the Leeuwarden court of appeal on Wednesday 24 April 2013. The decision was made in an appeal case brought by trade union Abvakabo FNV and a number of PhD students. In an earlier decision, the subdistrict court had ruled in favour of the trade union.
The trade union and the PhD students felt that there was no difference between the way the University treated PhD students with a University appointment and scholarship students.
The University of Groningen is very pleased that the court finds that there is indeed a difference. In the decision, the court states that ‘the role of a PhD supervisor is not essentially different from that of a thesis supervisor of a Bachelor’s or Master’s student’ and that there are ‘no grounds for the opinion that a relationship of authority exists between the University of Groningen and the scholarship students which is characteristic of an employment contract’.
The association of Dutch universities VSNU is also pleased with the decision.
Earlier this year, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW) announced that it wanted to include scholarship PhD students in legislation, but abstained from doing so after criticism from the Council of State. The Ministry will now set up a pilot project to see what the effect of including
PhD students in legislation will be. The University of Groningen and other universities have signed up to participated in this project. It is not yet clear what the effect will be of the decision made by the Leeuwarden court of appeal.
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