Proposition 9: Dutch universities (used to) pay PhD candidates not to act like students.

During my PhD I have been the president of the PhD Network of the University of Twente (P-NUT). This network attempts to connect, inform and to represent PhD candidates.One of the key debates during my term as president (and still current) was the introduction of bursary candidates in the Netherlands.

Currently, most PhD candidates (some candidates have foreign bursaries) are employed by the university. In return for their salary they provide some administrative services and / or do some teaching. The introduction of PhD candidates on bursaries would possibly reduce their income, but additionally they do not save for their pension, lack benefits when they’re ill and are not entitled to parental leave.

These plans do not comply with my understanding of the function of doing a PhD, as formulated in the acknowledgements of my own dissertation:

Doing a PhD represents several years of supervised training, developing oneself to become a researcher capable of independently contributing to, and participating in, a scientific discipline. Contributing to a scientific discipline means that a PhD candidate is supervised to create scientific products of the highest possible quality, and does so in an increasingly independent manner. Participating in a scientific discipline entails presenting these scientific products to others, frequently discussing these with colleagues, and collaborating with representatives of that discipline.

Dutch PhD candidates are highly regarded internationally. Hans Clevers, the current president of the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences, argued in an interview that PhDs from the Netherlands are well regarded internationally, because they are independent, creative and critical. That’s how we currently train PhDs: as young, independent professionals. Let’s not break that system by making students out of PhDs, or by overemphasizing on efficiency.

Dutch universities (used to) pay PhD candidates not to act like students.

This is a series on the 10 propositions that are part of my PhD dissertation. These propositions are a Dutch tradition to highlight key findings of a dissertation and some additional insights by the author. My dissertation is titled “Family Policy Outcomes: Combining Institutional and Demographic Explanations of Women’s Employment and Earnings Inequality in OECD countries, 1975-2005″ and I will defend my dissertation on January 10 2014. So, this series is also a count down. Find out more about my dissertation.

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