Dear members of the Executive Board of the University of Amsterdam,

Over the past few weeks, the Rethink-UvA movement has shed new and important light upon the increasingly precarious working conditions of UvA-employees. We share this concern and are particularly worried about the recently proposed ‘Ontwerpbesluit promotieonderwijs’ by The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. This ‘experiment’ proposes to allow the appointment of PhD candidates with a scholarships instead of regular contracts, demoting the status of PhDs from employees to students (i.e. bursary PhDs).

The proposed experiment has been analyzed and discussed at length, and numerous reports have pointed out the weaknesses and disadvantages of the proposal.[1] We join over 26 labor unions, PhD councils and workers councils, in saying we strongly oppose this initiative. We see the experiment as part of a dangerous trend in the academic work environment to reduce the price of academic research at the cost of working and living conditions of researchers. It thereby goes directly against the Board’s commitment to improving the employee working conditions at the UvA.

Ours is not a fight to defend privileges; indeed the situation of many PhDs within the UvA is already worrisome. We ask the Board to acknowledge the fact that PhDs are workers, and as such should have the same rights as other employees.

The University of Nijmegen, Utrecht and Eindhoven have already publicly opposed the proposed bursary experiment. We understand that during the debate organized by the CSR and COR on March 26, Louise Gunning declared that the Board also intends to oppose this experiment; yet so far the University of Amsterdam has not taken an official position.

With this letter we request the Executive Board to fully, formally and publicly dismiss the bursary experiment and to stand up for the rights of its employees.


ReThink UvA PhD

[1] see: letter of February 2015, by the “worried members of university councils and works councils and representatives of local and national PhD organization. An overview of the negative evaluation of the beurzalen experiment in Utrecht in 1998, see ‘Prout, overzicht beurzalensysteem’, 20 mei 2014.