Erasmus MC will not be taking part in the national experiment of financially treating PhD candidates as students. The faculty is concerned that the experiment will devalue the PhD programme.

PhD candidates are currently official employees of the university. In the experiment, PhD’s won’t be anymore. Instead of a salary they will receive a scholarship, and therefore won’t receive pension plans or other job-related advantages. On the other hand, they won’t be expected to teach anymore.

The way in which PhD candidates are now linked to universities contributes to the high quality of the PhD programme, says Maud Vissers, policy officer at Erasmus MC. One of the advantages is that PhD students employed by the university are also able to do other activities. PhD candidates with a scholarship may not do this.

This is a disadvantage for the PhD candidates too: “The current system gives them the opportunity to do other work alongside their research, like teaching. That diversity and the opportunity to obtain experience improves their chances of finding a job after their PhD.” Other UMCs share Erasmus MC’s opinion.

This spring, Minister Bussemaker presented an opportunity to treat PhD candidates as students rather than as employees. Universities can take part in an experiment which offers the opportunity for 2.000 candidates to obtain a PhD with a scholarship, instead of as university employees. This means that more people can obtain a PhD, for less money. Some universities have been wanting to work with PhD scholarships for some time. However, this has attracted a lot of opposition from unions and the PhD candidates themselves. In 2013, even the Council of State advised against the Ministry’s plan to work with PhD students. TF