Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the academic world has taken many initiatives to help refugees. But the support given to refugee scientists should be better, says The Young Academy, a group of relatively young researchers, in a report that was published on Monday.

Minimal demand

So far, five Dutch universities have offered thirteen refugee Ukrainian scientists a guest workplace or a temporary grant. That number is smaller than expected because many refugee scientists are able to continue their work online, often while retaining their contract and salary.

Another contributing factor is that Dutch universities have few possibilities for supporting refugee scientists. They say in the report that tax rules make it “impossible” to issue temporary grants. They are afraid that the Tax and Customs Administration and the Netherlands Labour Authority regard the work of refugee scientists as an employment relationship for which a salary is required rather than a grant.

Naturally, the universities can still give a temporary grant, says Marie-José van Tol, chair of The Young Academy. “But they fear that they could then be accused of being a fictitious employer, and the receivers of the grants could face problems too. In any event, it’s a major obstacle for universities.”


In the view of The Young Academy, it would be better if the grants were to be paid by organisations like Scholars at risk NL or Nuffic. The Education Minister, together with his colleague at the Ministry of Finance and the Netherlands Labour Authority, would then have to guarantee that paying out temporary grants to refugee scientists would not give rise to any tax repercussions.

Furthermore, The Young Academy advocates expanding the Hestia grants issued by the Dutch Research Council to include refugee scientists who would like to settle permanently in the Netherlands.

The Young Academy stresses that the report’s recommendations relate to helping refugee scientists of all nationalities. There ought to be a national centre where they and the universities can register.