The Minister of Education, Culture and Science has approved the request made by the University of Groningen to extend the PhD Scholarship Programme Experiment. The request for extension fulfilled the requirements laid out in the Decree on a PhD Scholarship Programme Experiment. This means that the UG may recruit up to 650 PhD Scholarship students over the next three years, who will join the over 850 students recruited after the first request for the programme was approved.
In order to research whether it is possible in the Netherlands – as it is in many other countries – to follow a PhD programme as a PhD student (without employment status), the Minister of Education, Culture and Science enacted the Decree on a PhD Scholarship Programme Experiment (Order in Council) on 23 December 2015. The UG registered to take part in this experiment because it offers extra opportunities to take on more PhD students and to prepare them better for their careers after obtaining their PhD. In September 2016, the UG started a new type of PhD programme that offered positions to 850 PhD students: the
PhD Scholarship Programme
. PhD students who follow this programme have student status, have the opportunity to shape their own research to a large extent and receive targeted training for a career after finishing their PhD.
Over the past few years, current PhD students in Groningen were able to choose from one of two options: to apply for a vacancy as a PhD student (with employment status) or to opt for the new position as a PhD Scholarship student (with student status). In comparison to the other types of PhD student, PhD Scholarship students have some of the same and some different rights and obligations. The goal of PhD Scholarship students is to obtain their PhD (they are trained to become independent academic researchers); however, they may choose their own topic and supervisor(s) and formulate their own research proposal. The UG has also developed a new training programme through which the PhD Scholarship students can prepare well for their further careers. PhD Scholarship students receive a scholarship of € 1,841 net per month.
Points for improvement
Research agency CHEPS evaluated the programme
and issued a positive assessment. This was reason enough for the UG to submit a request for extension at the end of 2019. That being said, criticisms of the programme have also been raised. Rector Magnificus Cisca Wijmenga: ‘We have listened to these criticisms. Now that the request for extension has been approved, we will focus on improvements to the programme. As well as better communication, we will look at whether we can do something about the – possibly avoidable – differences regarding the conditions of PhD students with student status and those with employment status that were raised in the manifesto drawn up by PhD Scholarship students. Eventually, we hope that the PhD Scholarship Programme will not only be viewed as an experiment but will be made standard by law. Our experiences until now have shown that PhD Scholarship students are an asset to the PhD system.’
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