It is difficult to formulate a general policy for the working conditions and financial position of PhD candidates, says Rector Magnificus Arthur Mol in response to a letter from researcher Mark Zwart, who speaks out against the working conditions of sandwich PhDs.
Zwart, researcher at NIOO-KNAW, thinks there should be clear regulations regarding the working conditions of sandwich PhDs, who carry out their research partially in the Netherlands and partially abroad. According to him, the working conditions of some sandwich PhDs are deplorable. They earn very little and sometimes have to carry out their research in their spare time. According to Mol, however, it is difficult to formulate a general policy, as it would need to encompass many different individual situations. ‘For example, there are also Dutch PhD candidates who do their PhD alongside their job.’
Mol admits that the financial position of the various “types” of PhD candidates can differ. ‘We do not employ sandwich PhDs; they work according to the terms of employment and the collective labour agreements of their own employer.’ According to Mol, it has occurred that no proper agreements were made about the financing, especially in the past. ‘We have since implemented a stricter policy; we make clear agreements with the funding bodies and take action if these are not observed.’
According to Mol, the chair groups are the ones that keep in touch with the university in the PhD’s home country and that make agreements about the employment conditions. ‘In the past, it sometimes happened that we only noticed something was wrong once it was too late. At that point, we could refuse to collaborate, but that would mainly harm the PhD candidate. We have since adjusted our approach, and hard financial agreements are now made.’