Green light for bursary experiment

The University Council has unanimously voted in favour of the RUG plans for the experiment with PhD students.

‘Thank you for your vote of confidence’, said Lou de Leij, dean at the Groningen Graduate Schools and driving force behind the plans, on Thursday afternoon as he left the University Council meeting. It quickly became clear that the parties were in favour, but it took hours of debate and two adjournments before everyone was satisfied.

The Personnel Faction was the first to present a laundry list of demands stealing the other factions’ thunder. Among other things, the employees wanted more clarity on the size of the scholarship, the rules concerning sick and pregnancy leave, and the options for students to get educational experience.


RUG president Sibrand Poppema was quick to reassure the council members. ‘We will guarantee that they will receive 1,700 euros, with or without a deal with the Ministry of Finances. The social facilities will be taken care of, whatever it takes. And yes, the PhD students will have the opportunity to gain educational experience, if the faculty offers this’, he argued.

The increased workload will be modest, according to Poppema. ‘We are not drowning in enormous numbers of PhD students. There is a 20 per cent increase. Compared to the rest of the world, the Netherlands has a ridiculously low amount of PhD students.’


And yes, the experiment will be evaluated, he assured everyone, even though it is not really necessary, says Poppema. ‘We did this for 15 years and it was a success in every way. So why are we joining in? After all, we won the court case, so we could have just continued with our own bursary programme. But the reason we’re joining in on this national experiment is because we want to give the bursaries legal status. If we don’t do that, they’re neither students, nor employees.’

And all parties involved could agree on those promises. They are just in time, because the plan has to be delivered to the Ministry of Education before 15 March.