The independent research bureau CHEPS has concluded that Groningen’s approach to the PhD Scholarship Programme experiment is successful. The evaluation report was published by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science on Friday 28 June. The same conclusions had already been drawn following two self-evaluations coordinated by the Groningen Graduate Schools.
The very extensive report describes the way in which the programme was set up in the first two years at both the UG and Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR). It also includes an examination of the background, procedures and provisional assessment of the PhD Scholarship Programme experiment. The UG is pleased to note that this external evaluation confirms the conclusions of the previous self-evaluations coordinated by the Groningen Graduate Schools. These already showed that the UG’s approach to the PhD Scholarship Programme experiment not only amply meets all the requirements formulated by the Minister in the decree on the ‘PhD Scholarship Programme Experiment’, but also that the University has developed a unique training programme for PhD students within the framework of that experiment.
In September 2016, the University of Groningen launched a new PhD training programme as part of the national ‘PhD Scholarship Programme Experiment’, which initially offered places to 850 PhD students.PhD students in this programme have student status, the opportunity to shape their own research and receive targeted training for a career after finishing their PhD.
The first objective is to give more students the opportunity to obtain a PhD and thus, in time, to provide more highly educated knowledge workers for the knowledge society. This is important because, as the OECD clearly shows in its most recent report, the Netherlands has relatively few doctorates compared to other knowledge-intensive countries. Thanks to the programme, the number of PhD positions in Groningen financed by direct government funding has increased considerably, which is expected to result in a 20% increase in the number of PhDs awarded in Groningen from 2021 onwards. The second objective is to create more scope for students to submit their own PhD research proposal. Students following Groningen Research Master programmes have the chance to write such a proposal, and thanks to the large number of places available on the Scholarship Programme, they stand a good chance of being accepted. This is also important because it gives a boost to university research driven by curiosity. The third objective is to provide education that prepares students well for the world of work once they have finished their PhD. To this end, a new and extensive package of courses and workshops has been developed as part of the programme: the ‘Career Perspectives Series’.
As part of the programme’s evaluation, surveys were carried out in May 2017 and September 2018 among all first- and second-year PhD students (both PhD scholarship students and PhD students with employee status). The results show that, on average, PhD scholarship students are equally satisfied as PhD students with employee status. Although they think their income is too low, the vast majority of them would still want to do a PhD if they had to make the choice again.
At the start of the programme, the UG was permitted to admit 850 PhD scholarship students for a period of five years. Almost three years later, that limit has already been reached. Not only are many Master’s students transitioning to the PhD scholarship programme, but a lot of international PhD students with their own funding are also taking part in the programme. This has given them a clear social and legal status. Increasing the number of places would make it possible to continue the programme at its current level in years four and five. Increasing the number is also essential to be able to evaluate the experiment properly, with sufficient statistical evidence, in 2021. As such, the UG is keen to submit an application to participate in the second round.
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