News

platform meeting

Autumn 2020 PhD platform meeting

A couple of times during the academic year, GRIN organizes the PhD platform meeting. Here all PhD councils have the opportunity to discuss the most pressing PhD-related issues with the Dean of Groningen Graduate Studies (currently Petra Rudolf). In November 2020, we had a virtual platform meeting due to the COVID-19 measures in place. The topics discussed were the following:

COVID-19

The pandemic is causing a lot of problems: both organisational (e.g. due to less efficient work in laboratories) and mental. All councils agree that there should be more budget allocated to PhD extensions for COVID-related delays. Some PhD councils also indicate that their faculties are currently more strict with handing out regular extensions, however, according to the Dean, this should not be the case. Regarding teaching, within some faculties teaching hours have been increased. There are also some PhD candidates who have been infected by their students.

PhD scholarship experiment

There is still a discrepancy of information on the status of bursary students (e.g. supervisors not updated, defining difference between bursary and employee). With a new incoming batch of bursary PhD students, clarity of information is needed to ensure there are no issues arising teaching and rights of bursary PhD students. Although there is a push towards better transparency of information, many students (especially incoming) still perceive a gap of information in relation to the new rules. The Dean is continuously working on improvements of the communication related to the experiment. All updated information is now available online, but it is up to the individual PhD student to make sure that these points are clear to the supervisor.

Education opportunities

The GSS is currently working on a platform that will display all university-wide PhD courses. It should be ready within six months. Furthermore, the GSS is establishing means for PhDs to improve their teaching skills. PhDs will be eligible to obtain their UTQ, the qualification for academic teaching. There is also support for PhDs who would like to teach in high school after their PhD (only in Dutch).

PhD representation

It has proved difficult to get PhDs in elected positions, such as the University Council and Faculty Councils. This is especially true for scholarship PhDs who have to be elected in the student factions. There are several examples of faculties where scholarship PhDs tried to get elected, but did not receive sufficient votes. This is a problem that GRIN and the PhD councils will collaborate on later, as the next university elections will be held in May. Information on why it is important to vote, as well as getting PhDs in high positions on the various lists, will be the priority.

woman having a video call GRIN

GRIN in the new academic year

The academic year has started a while ago. It will be a strange year probably, with all the Corona measures that need to be taken. Nevertheless, GRIN will continue to represent all PhDs in Groningen, especially now that it is needed most. Below you can find what we are planning for the coming months and some information on our board.

Meetings

Upcoming Tuesday the first series of GRIN workshops for PhD councils will start. We hope this gives practical ideas to PhD councils to represent PhDs within their faculties even better. We’re very excited to announce that both PNN and GOPHER have agreed to collaborate with us in in this initiative, and will each be facilitating one workshop respectively. The subjects covered in four hour-long workshops are: RUG governance, role of a PhD council, know Your Rights (by PNN), communicating with your PhDs (by GOPHER).
The workshop series is open for all PhD council members, if you are not a PhD council member, but are interested in participating, please let us know.

A couple of times each year, the PhD platform meeting is organized by GRIN. Here all PhD councils gather and discuss relevant topics with the Dean of Graduate Studies (currently Petra Rudolf). This is currently planned for November 4th.

Board Update

Some changes have been made in the composition of the board of GRIN. First of all, Jaap is stepping down as secretary of the board to take on a more supporting role in the upcoming year. Furthermore, we will be joined this year by Alexine de Wit. Finally, we are changing some functions within the board and have come to the following composition:
• Chair: Samuël Nelemans, chair@grin-groningen.nl
• Secretary: Simon van der Pol, secretary@grin-groningen.nl
• Treasurer: Taichi Ochi, treasurer@grin-groningen.nl
• PhD Council Empowerment: Alexine de Wit, phdcouncilsupport@grin-groningen.nl
We would like to thank Simon and Jaap for reviving GRIN when it was most needed and for their outstanding work over the past year as chair an secretary of the board. We are happy and grateful for their past and continued contribution to the wellbeing of all PhDs throughout the university!

New Corona measures

For anyone who missed it, please have a look at the new measures the university took with regards to the Corona virus, as well as the measures announced by the government. In short, for PhDs this means we should go back to working at home as much as possible, but can still access university facilities if we really need to. Condition is that we uphold the regulations with regards to social distancing and personal hygiene, and we are strongly recommended to bring a face mask when visiting the university.

vacancy

PNN vacancies

All PhDs are represented on the national level by the PhD Network Netherlands (PNN). Currently, PNN is looking for new board members. For this opportunity you have to be fluent speaker of Dutch. You can find all necessary information (in Dutch) here. The deadline to submit your application is September 11.

elections

Elections this week

This week, the student parties have elections at the University of Groningen for the University Council and Faculty Councils. This means that all PhD students under the scholarship experiment and some PhDs with other grants (such as an Indonesian DIKTI scholarship) can vote! This is an important way to make sure the interests of PhDs are represented at the central and faculty levels. So please go to rug.nl/vote and cast your vote.

We would have liked to provide a list of PhD students you could vote for, but unfortunately, no PhDs are on the lists for the University Council elections. But please, have a look at your faculty council list and see whether a PhD is on there who can use your vote!

policy

Open letter to the new Dean

GRIN has written an open letter to the new Dean of Graduate Studies, together with the PhDs behind the manifesto and the PhDs in the University Council. In the letter, we discuss the recent developments of the PhD scholarship experiment and how things should move forward.

Read the full letter in the UKRANT.

memo

Memo on PhD scholarship experiment

After the board of the University of Groningen decided to apply for an additional 650 PhD scholarship positions, policy changes were promised to accommodate to issues raised by PNN, the University Council and, most importantly, scholarship PhDs themselves, in the form of a manifesto. This memo by the Groningen Graduate Interest Network (GRIN) was created after collecting input from all PhD Councils and aims to propose specific changes to the University of Groningen (RUG)

Promised benefits

Various benefits offered to employees to facilitate their functioning as researchers do not befall upon scholarship PhD candidates, even though these benefits are equally essential for either type of PhD candidate to facilitate their research activities and guarantee their occupational health. These benefits include but are not limited to travel reimbursements, the laptop- and tablet reimbursement scheme, the bike plan, a free eye test and computer glasses. Furthermore, various additional benefits were promised to scholarship PhD candidates but not granted uniformly, such as freedom of research topic, no teaching obligations, additional educational opportunities, freedom of working hours and freedom of residence.

GRIN urges the RUG to grant scholarship PhD candidates the various benefits offered to employee PhD candidates which support their functioning and well-being as researchers. Furthermore, the university should ensure that the benefits promised to scholarship PhD candidates are granted in practice and not only on paper, as well as enforce the freedom of working conditions outlined in the scholarship contract.

Teaching opportunities and obligations

Opportunities for teaching are very limited for scholarship PhD candidates who wish to obtain teaching qualifications, with only one teaching course and barely any formal recognition of the skills obtained during this programme. Meanwhile, scholarship PhD candidates at some faculties were expected and in some cases even forced to teach, despite their contract indicating that they have no obligation in this regard . Moreover, these PhDs were not financially compensated for these activities on basis of the contract prohibiting teaching.

GRIN proposes that current opportunities for scholarship PhD candidates to gain teaching experience and qualifications are expanded in three ways: first of all, the university should facilitate advanced courses in teaching beyond “starting to teach”, enabling scholarship PhD candidates to acquire a University Teaching Qualification (“BKO”). Second, a separate course focussing on thesis supervision is desired. Lastly, there should be no teaching activities outside of these courses for PhDs that fall under the experiment, unless a way is found to financially compensate them. To verify this, all education and supervision provided by PhD students should be registered in Hora Finita.

Information

Information granted to scholarship PhD candidates regarding the nature of their position and of the experiment as a whole has been lacking to the point that many scholarship PhD candidates cannot speak of providing their informed consent to participate in the experiment. At the point of writing, no clear comparison between the contracts of scholarship PhD candidates and those of employed PhDs has been provided by the RUG.

GRIN stresses that the university has the responsibility to fully inform new scholarship PhD candidates of any differences between their position and employment status, stressing the fact that they are participating in an experiment, befitting the standards of informed consent.

Compensation

Whereas the new generation of scholarship PhD candidates will enjoy more reasonable working conditions if the proposals of this letter are accepted, 850 candidates have already started with their PhD, many of whom have suffered financially or otherwise from the problems outlined above. GRIN asks compensation for the scholarship PhD candidates currently working for the RUG, on the basis that the university has not upheld the terms of the scholarship contract and that many scholarship PhD candidates did not grant their informed consent with participation in the scholarship experiment due to a lack of information provided as outlined above.