It’s been a while since you’ve heard from PhDoc. We’ve been very busy since we were elected and would like to give an update of what we’ve accomplished the last few months. PhDoc is the political party representing PhD candidates in the University Council. Of course we’re not the only people trying to give a voice to PhD candidates and we are also constantly in contact with LEO and LAP, the two representative groups for PhD candidates at Leiden University and LUMC respectively.
PhD Candidates: four categories
We’ve found out that the university distinguishes four categories of PhD candidates in Leiden and not all of these groups are well-known or well-represented in the university and faculty councils. Group 1 PhDs are employed by the university and their primary task is the PhD (internal PhDs/AIO’s). Group 2 PhDs are not employed by the university but receive a grant and their primary task is the PhD (contract PhDs). Group 3 PhDs are employed by the university but their primary task is not the PhD. Group 4 PhDs are not employed by the university and their primary task is not the PhD (external PhDs). Groups 1 and 3 are able to vote and be elected for the university and faculty councils. Groups 2 and 4 are currently not able to vote or be elected. We have argued to allow Group 2 PhDs to vote and be elected for the councils and are hoping that this will be possible for the coming university and faculty council elections. We have also made enquiries on how PhDs from LUMC or Campus The Hague are represented. Both Campus The Hague and LUMC are faculties of Leiden University, but LUMC has its own governing and co-determination structure. The PhDs of Campus The Hague are officially represented in the councils of Leiden University, but the PhDs of LUMC are officially represented in the Works Council of LUMC and also by LAP in contact with the dean of LUMC.
PhDs in the university policy
One of the main recent agenda points of the university council has been the future long-term plans of the university, the Instellingsplan. In this plan, the university board puts forward their plans for the coming five years and their vision on the years after that. We have ensured that PhDs/postdocs are taken into account in the plan and we will be actively involved in the implementation of the plan with respect to PhDs and the drafting of new PhD policies. We have also argued for better preparation on work and life after the PhD (is there life after your PhD? Yes, there is ;-)). There are now courses in career counseling for PhDs and we have proposed other options for preparing PhDs on work outside academia such as teaching, internships, and better links with industry and government. We are finally pushing for an independent report on (improving) career development for PhDs/postdocs and hope this report will be initiated in the coming term.
We have also focused on the well-being of PhDs. The focus should be on your research, not on any side business. We believe PhDs should have the option of gaining teaching experience, but this should not negatively influence their research. If you would like to have education tasks, you should be able to do that up to a maximum of 20% of your time. We have also discussed ‘werkdruk’, the high workload and pressure on PhDs, with the university board and they have acknowledged the problem and are looking for solutions. If you have any ideas to decrease workload, please share them with us!
For the coming months, we will also focus on the proposed government experiment to allow some universities to legally have PhDs who are not employees receiving a wage (employee PhD system), but are students receiving a grant (bursary PhD system). We have consistently argued, alongside the PhD Candidates Network of the Netherlands (PNN) and several of the main Dutch labour Unions (such as FNV and VAWO), that PhDs are and should not be considered students, but employees who actively contribute to the main tasks of the university, research and education. We are strongly against this experiment and the introduction of the bursary system in the Netherlands are actively campaigning against this on both a university level and on a national level. We are currently in discussion with various PhD organisations around the Netherlands as well as the PhD Association of the Netherlands (PNN) on this matter. More info on that will follow very soon and we will be looking for support from you!
Our focus remains on both PhDs and post-docs and their well-being. If you run into anything, have a good idea or just want to share a thought or good practices, please share this with us. We greatly appreciate that. In the meantime, please keep on following us on facebook < https://www.facebook.com/PhDoc > and Twitter < @PhDocUniv > where we post updates more regularly.
Gareth O’Neill & Jantine Brussee