UMCG PhDs: ‘Proceed with caution’

PhD candidates at UMCG are worried about the experiment with PhD students. They are scared that the Graduate School will suffer from the experiment.

The GSMS (Graduate School of Medical Sciences) PhD Council, the representative body for the PhD candidates at the Graduate School of Medical Sciences, submitted a list of questions about the experiment to the O&O council of the UMCG and the director of the research school, Martin Smit, on Wednesday.

‘We want to be sure that the current PhD candidates, staff and professors will not be unduly burdened by the decision to participate in the experiment’, they write to the director and council members.


The PhD candidates were invited by the council to talk with Smit about the proposed plans for the bursary experiment, but little came out of the discussions. Smit’s presentation took longer than expected and the PhD students had to leave quickly to make their next meeting. ‘But we will leave our questions here and we hope that you will discuss them’, the members said as they left the room.

The PhD candidates asked the director of the research school to limit the number of PhD students to a minimum ‘in light of our own experiences with supervision, courses and capacity’, they write.


Together with UMCG, the Faculty of Medical Sciences wants to bring in 300 PhD students. According to Smit, the goal of the Graduate School is to produce ‘as many high quality PhDs as possible’. The Graduate School is participating in the experiment because these PhD students are simply cheaper than traditional PhD candidates, according to Smit.

The PhD candidates in the PhD Council feel the experiment can only succeed if a realistic plan is maintained and the experiment is implemented with care. Smit made clear on Wednesday that he has every confidence in the experiment and that it is indeed essential for the RUG. ‘It is becoming increasingly difficult to find financing for PhD students via Dutch and European funds. Without the experiment, the number of PhDs would decrease. If we get the number of PhD students that we have asked for, I think that we can grow by 20 per cent.’


The PhD Council wants to know exactly how many PhD students are expected, who is responsible for the implementation and evaluation of the experiment, how the quality of the Graduate School will be guaranteed and what exactly the difference is between the PhD students and current PhD candidates. The members hope that Smit will have the answers. The University Board previously held broad discussions about the questions in the University Council.

In the meantime, the RUG has signed up for the experiment which, at the request of the university, was set up by education minister Jet Bussemaker. The RUG wants to bring in 850 PhD students. All faculties have expressed interest in participating in the experiment.