Dear Colleagues,

As the ReThink UvA PhD working group we discussed the reaction from the CvB today. We would like to contribute to the discussion by sending you an overview of our views and demands.

We read the letter as a relatively positive gesture from the CvB, taking a more constructive tone than other communication thus far. Yet, we are also wary of the vagueness of the letter, not committing to anything concretely. In addition, PhD’s were not mentioned explicitly in the letter, so our response seeks to place us within the discussion and make some concrete demands.

We emphasize that PhDs are an important part of the academic staff, both in their numbers and in the size of their contribution to the university’s research, publications and teaching. We believe that the main goal of a PhD-trajectory is to train young academics to become capable researchers and educators. It is important to safeguard this process, because it relates directly to the (future) quality of university education and academic research. Therefore, we provide three suggestions for inclusion into the broader response to the CvB by Rethink UvA.

1) Within the context of democratisation and representative bodies, we would like to see the establishment of representation for PhDs as staff members. This representation should have power in the making of decisions that affect PhDs and the broader education and research management of the university, not just advisory bodies as is the present case. We are currently working on a proposal for the form that this representation should take.

2) Given that the CvB is emphasizing creativity and innovation, we believe it is necessary that internal funding (eerste geldstroom) for independent PhD research is maintained in all faculties. We therefore condemn the elimination of the ‘eerste geldstroom’ as is presently being proposed at the Humanities Faculty. This funding is vital in ensuring that a) it is not just the state and the markets who set the research agendas and b) put a halt to the increasing number of PhDs conducting research through precarious arrangements.

3) We reject the proposed experiment of downgrading PhD candidates to bursary students. Instead, we recommend that all PhDs should be considered full staff members and that they should have a basic set of rights. Within this frame, at the top of our concerns is adequate support for all PhD researchers, including Dutch, EU-, and non-EU students, both internal and external PhDs, and both those who work within larger projects and independent researchers. This support includes the use of university resources and facilities, as well as sufficient financial support.

Finally, we support the call for the democratic election of the CvB within a practical and feasible time frame that ensures that this process maintains its momentum.

The ReThink UvA / Phd Working Group

This statement is supported by to following organizations (more to come):

  • FNWI PhD Council