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Professor Sterken, Rector Magnificus of the University of Groningen, proposes to shorten the PhD track to from four to three years (Observant 27) to make an end to the longer-than-planned duration of these tracks.

My point of view differs from Professor Sterken's on the consequences. Is the PhD track best represented by the walk, or by its destination? A reform of the PhD system should focus on consolidating and protecting the right to education, and to higher education according to merits, rather than focusing on the rate of PhD diplomas endowed. 

Mine is not just a philosophical warning. Internationally there is an open debate on whether or not we are producing too many PhDs, and on whether this is not jeopardizing the value of the title and raising social sustainability issues. In facts career tracks for PhD’s are becoming ever more uncertain.

The vision of higher education as an Industry, where students are selected at entry and pushed through the track to ensure high success rates, is flawed. It puts the right to education at stake, and estranges the diploma from the excellence it should acknowledge.

At the University of Maastricht, Provum has found an ally in the Rector Magnificus Gerard Mols, with whom we are designing a set of standards and best practices to ensure PhD candidates the most empowering environment possible, and to defend the value of PhD diplomas. We hope this will pave the way for other Dutch Universities to follow.


Marco Manca, chairman of Provum



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