Science - April 5, 2011

University wins PhD student's lawsuit

Wageningen University may evaluate the performance of 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 found that this evaluation was carried out eight months too soon; she claimed that 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 ruling at the court in Arnhem. When that too ruled in April 2010 that the university was in the right, she appealed 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 student. According to Vink, this was the first time that a PhD student took the university to court to annul a negative evaluation.

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