Too many PhDs and lecturers doing unpaid work
The university council has approved the university's financial plans for the coming years. However, there are serious concerns about PhD candidates and teachers performing extra duties without being paid for them. ‘PhD candidates are angry and frustrated.’
Vincent Bongers
Monday 3 June 2024
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The council on Monday approved the university’s finacial plans for 2025-2029. Only student party Students' Collective did not approve. The agreement was reached because the board had promised to have further discussions with the council on several points.

One of those points is that the council receives many signals that lecturers and PhD candidates have to do work that falls outside their profiles in the so-called university job classification system (UFO). This concerns, for example, employees who have the classfication ‘teacher 4’ but do work that belongs to ‘teacher 3’. According to the council, there are especially many PhD candidates who have to teach too much, but there are university-wide problems with assigning correct function roles.

At the Science Faculty, a good number of PhD candidates are teaching more than they should, according to Max van Haastrecht of staff party PhDoc. The state of affairs at the faculty causes ‘angry and frustrated PhD candidates.’

The board has also recognised this problem. 'A customised solution is being sought in close consultation with the PhD candidates,' vice board president Martijn Ridderbos wrote in a letter to the council. 'Some PhD candidates (ten in total) have now agreed to an arrangement, the faculty is still in discussion with the four others.'

‘Several PhD candidates disagree with the board but want to avoid further conflict’

According to Van Haastrecht, the faculty has presented the situation to the board as too rosy. 'There is still a problem. Indeed, ten people have agreed, but one PhD candidate is considering legal action. I know several who disagree with the board but want to avoid further conflict, also because they are at the end of their contracts.'

Ridderbos was upset that things are not yet in order. 'We need to see what steps we still need to take now that we are getting these new signals. The university board has told the faculty that it needs to be resolved.’ Ridderbos also promised to consult with the council on the issue.

Van Haastrecht then widened the issue, citing the recent report by the labor inspection into working conditions at universities. The inspection writes that ‘employees indicate that they are structurally burdened with more tasks and responsibilities than they are assigned to. They work on average six hours a week more than agreed in the contract.'

Budget cuts

'It often happens that employees perform tasks that do not fit their profiles,' Van Haastrecht said. 'Shouldn't there be an investigation into the extent to which UFO profiles are met in Leiden? There is a lot of ambiguity within the university itself about what is allowed and what is not. Even institute directors are not too aware of this.'

'We just have to comply with the law and the collective bargaining agreement,' Ridderbos responded. 'Apparently we need to push that even more. Should faculties fail to comply on a large scale, fixing it is going to cost an enormous amount of money. If that money is not there, it will lead to cuts. But should there be a problem, we have to fix it.'