It is no secret that around half of university lecturers are on temporary contracts. Furthermore, they do not always earn much, with some taking home a salary comparable with that of a primary school teacher, reported HOP. Nearly three in ten university lecturers are also on temporary contracts. The Rathenau Institute has set out the differences in an interpretive overview.

When it comes to temporary contracts concerning lecturers, the differences are the greatest anyway: at Utrecht University, almost 90 percent of lecturers are in temporary employment, compared to 30 percent in Eindhoven.

Other positions, such as professors and associate professors, do not diverge as much. Holding one of these positions in Groningen or Maastricht does not make much of a difference in terms of the type of contract. The same applies to support staff.

Two explanations

Why is the situation so different for lecturers? The Rathenau Institute considers two explanations for the high number of temporary contracts: growing student numbers and the increase in project-based financing (i.e. temporary funding).

“However, the number of lecturers on temporary contracts does not seem to depend exclusively on the influx of new students,” the researchers have determined. “Other causes could be busy periods or temporary replacements in the event of illness.” Moreover, rising student numbers certainly do not explain the situation for all university lecturers.


The problem of temporary contracts is particularly significant in the postdoctoral phase, when researchers have obtained their PhDs and hop from post to post. Within Europe, the Netherlands is among the countries with the most temporary contracts, along with Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Belgium.