Last year, the percentage of flex staff at Dutch universities remained almost the same as in the previous year. This has emerged from new statistics for 2016 produced by the VSNU, the association of universities in the Netherlands.

In 2016, 41.7 percent of university staff were on temporary contracts. That represents a 0.2 percent fall compared with 2015.

Only Radboud University and VU Amsterdam show any serious reduction: 2.1 in Nijmegen and 2.6 percentage points in Amsterdam.

EUR on the 'flex podium'

However, there are also universities where the reverse is true. TU Eindhoven is still the flex champion: over half of its staff are on a temporary contract and that percentage has increased. After Eindhoven and Leiden, Erasmus University is on the ‘flex podium’: here, the number of flex workers rose from 43.2 to 44 percent.

University staff and ‘ordinary’ lecturers in particular were more likely to be given a permanent contract. Professors and associate professors were less likely, but they usually already have a permanent job. Support staff were also more likely to be on a permanent contract. At EUR, a relatively high number of teaching staff are on temporary contracts according to an earlier survey.

Agreements still met

In the university collective labour agreement (cla), agreements were made about reducing the number of temporary contracts: only 22 percent of the tutors may be on a temporary contract. The universities do not therefore seem to be anywhere near achieving this, but appearances can be deceiving. According to the VSNU, these agreements have been ‘amply’ met.

These cla agreements apparently only relate to temporary contracts extending over a maximum of four years. The rest are described as ‘permanent’. And that means that the universities would actually be on 21 percent.

It is not possible to see whether all the universities achieve the cla standard from the published statistics: these only relate to all the temporary contracts, even if they are longer than four years. The VAWO trade union is appealing for more transparency in the figures.