For years, EUR topped the list of universities having the highest percentage of temporary contracts. In 2021, 70 per cent of lecturers still had a temporary contract, in the latest figures it is down to 42 per cent. Overall, the number of temporary contracts at the EUR fell from 1,100 FTEs to 700, affecting 580 people.
Vice-president of the Executive Board Ellen van Schoten is pleased with the new figures. “We are nicely on the right track after all,” she says happily. According to her, the substantial change in direction is mainly a result of a 2022 government agreement, which gave Erasmus University more money. “For years we had the lowest ‘flat fee’ of all universities, and that made staff insecure to hand out permanent contracts”, she says.
Another factor is the 2021-2022 university collective agreement, which already included agreements to increase the number of permanent contracts, especially among university lecturers and head teachers, professors and support staff.
More in the pipeline
According to Van Schoten, this is not the end of the matter. “In the current collective agreement, we have committed to a decrease to 13.5 per cent lecturers on temporary contracts. That is achievable.” About the infamous ‘carousel’, where scientists move from one university to another and back again without ever getting a permanent contract, Van Schoten says: “That’s not what we want for our people. Of course, you will always see people move from one institution to another, but it cannot be to prevent them from getting a permanent contract.”
Van Schoten acknowledges that there will always be a need for a ‘flexible shell’. “You remain dependent on the first flow of money (funding per student from the ministry, ed.), and you don’t want to have to reorganise if there are fewer students.”
Nationwide, too, there has been a turnaround. Last year, 62 per cent of lecturers without research duties had temporary jobs, now 54 per cent (just above the 2018 level).
University lecturers are now less likely to work on a temporary contract (29 instead of 19 per cent). Similarly, support staff are now slightly more often in permanent jobs.
But the differences between universities are still huge. In Delft, 30 per cent of lecturers have a temporary contract, compared to 89 per cent at Utrecht University. In Wageningen, 40 per cent of university lecturers have a temporary contract, while in Tilburg it is zero per cent.
PhD students are all on temporary contracts, while almost all professors and associate professors have permanent contracts. Nothing has changed in this regard.
“In recent years, universities have made efforts to increase the share of permanent contracts,” argues university association UNL. “Also the recent investments by the government, through sector plans and start-up and incentive grants, contribute to fewer flexible and more permanent contracts.”
Not fewer, but more temporary contracts
The trend is not equally visible at all universities. Little has changed for lecturers and researchers in Utrecht, while that university gives by far the most temporary contracts to this group. At VU University Amsterdam, there are even more lecturers and researchers on temporary contracts than last year. Tilburg, Nijmegen, Groningen and Eindhoven do not show any major change either.