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FaSoS council: Squabbling about the Dutch term PhD student

Council members from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences are worried about the term ‘PhD student’ that has been included in the Dutch version of the draft regulation for obtaining one's doctoral degree by the new Graduate School FaSoS. “This could lead to a situation in which doctoral students are allowed in on a large scale.”

Both the faculty board and the director of the Graduate School, Tsjalling Swierstra, emphasised time and again during the council meeting last week that the status of PhDs – from employee to student – is not at hand. “We do not intend to adapt the status of our PhDs. That would not even be possible for us, because it is a matter for the university and national government. ” With these words, dean Rein de Wilde tried to steer the discussion in the right direction, but his attempts were in vain. Even Swierstra’s argument that the term PhD student – along with Dutch equivalents of PhD employee and external PhD – were standard in all UM regulations, could not convince the council. Neither could the remark that the term 'promotiestudent' (or graduation student) was only used to allow PhD students with a grant from Asia or India, for example, to attend a graduate school.

“We are concerned that by allowing this term to be included in legal documents, we are providing a gateway for PhD students with a grant to be admitted on a large scale in the future,” explained council member and PhD student Koen Beumer. “We trust this board, but we don’t know what the situation will be in ten years' time.”

Furthermore he stressed another point that remained unclear to some, even though it was explained repeatedly during the meeting. Later: “This is a matter of principle: do we actually want students on grants from China or India who have no social rights and a very small allowance, to come here to get their PhDs? The regulations now state that they will have the same facilities as others, but they do not come under the collective labour agreement and are not entitled to social security, for example. Also, do they have to pay lecture fees?” Dean De Wilde afterwards: “The essence of the matter, as I see it, is: does the UM want to welcome PhD students who wish to come to Maastricht on a scholarship? My answer is: of course, why not? Let us put things in perspective: we are talking about young people who, because of the chances they get here, have the prospect of a better future. So should we say to them: well, sorry, you are less well off when it comes to labour conditions compared to our own PhD students, so it is better if you stay away? I think that is a rather cruel point of view.”

After discussions of more than an hour, the announcement that “the UM will not accept PhD students who are funded by the UM” and with a promise from the dean to look into the term 'PhD student', it was decided to put the regulation on the agenda again in January.

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