Organisation - April 7, 2011

University wins PhD student's lawsuit

Wageningen University may evaluate PhD students and dismiss them during their first doctoral year. This ruling is made by the Council of State last week in a lawsuit brought by a foreign PhD candidate against the Doctorate Board.

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'The evaluation clause in our doctorate regulations has now been subjected to and passed the judicial test', concludes spokesman Simon Vink. Since 2008, the university has modified its doctorate conferral regulations to state that the progress and quality of PhD candidates will be evaluated in their first year based on seventeen criteria.

In February 2009, the Doctorate Board discontinued the PhD programme of a candidate from Armenia because she failed to fulfil eleven of the seventeen evaluation criteria. The PhD candidate objected to this evaluation on the grounds that it was  carried out eight months too soon; she claimed the university could only have given a proper evaluation of her progress and quality after one year. The Doctorate Board declared her objection as unfounded in June 2009. The PhD candidate subsequently filed an appeal against this decision at a court in Arnhem. When that too ruled in April 2010that the university was in the right, she took her appeal higher to the Council of State, which gave its judgement on 30 March.

The Council of State ruled, as the court did, that the university may itself decide when to  appraise a PhD candidate. According to Vink, this is the first time that a PhD candidate has taken the university to court to annul a negative appraisal.

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