Ius Promovendi - A Call For Change
A group of ILLC staff have addressed a letter to the Rector Magnificus, in which they expressed their views on the need to modernise the regulations that determine who can take formal responsibility for the supervision of a PhD project at the University of Amsterdam. The PhD council strongly agrees with the proposed changes, and we urge all of you to sign our additional letter to the Rector if you agree as well. We wrote a short letter expressing our support and adding the perspective of PhD candidates in this matter.
What and Why
Ius promovendi is the right to promote a PhD candidate into a doctor, i.e., the right to be the official supervisor (promotor) of a PhD candidate. By current Dutch law (Wet op het Hoger Onderwijs en Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek) this right is only granted to Full Professors. In practice mostly Assistant and Associate Professors supervise PhD candidates (in Dutch called promovendi), but formally speaking they neither get the credits for this, nor do they have the responsibility or the power to assess their own PhD candidates.

Currently there is a proposal by the Dutch government to change this law (https://www.rijksoverheid.nl/documenten/kamerstukken/2015/12/09/wetsvoorstel-bevordering-internationalisering-hoger-onderwijs-en-wetenschappelijk-onderzoek), allowing Universities to include also non-Full Professors into the potential pool of promotors. This law is expected to come into force some time in late 2016. It is then up to the universities whether to change their current policies or not. In June, the staff members of the ILLC sent a signed letter (https://sites.google.com/site/uvaiuspromovendi/) to Karen Maex, the Rector Magnificus at the UvA, urging her to "welcome this opportunity to modernise and implement significant changes to the current regulations."

The letter mentions two main reasons for changing the current regulations. (1) The current system is bad for the international competitiveness of the actual supervisors of PhD candidates (often Assistant and Associate Professors), as they cannot be accurately credited for their contributions, whereas their international colleagues are. (2) The current system raises issues with quality control. Given the great diversification of science and scholarship in recent decades, nowadays Full Professors often do not have the expertise to oversee the supervisory work of "their" Assistant and Associate Professors.

The PhD council would like to add a third point to this list, emphasising the perspective of PhD candidates in this matter. (3) The formal power to make important decisions about a PhD candidate (e.g., whether a PhD receives a contract extension or whether a dissertation is approved) should be in the hands of someone who is actively involved in the supervision of the PhD candidate, is well acquainted with the work and progress of the PhD candidate, and has the expertise to assess and take responsibility for the PhD candidate’s dissertation. In many current cases the promotor (who has all the formal power) does not (entirely) fit this description. We think it is best for a PhD candidate if their actual supervisor(s) (often not a Full Professor) gets assigned the ius promovendi and therefore the formal power to make decisions regarding the PhD candidate.

We stress that, like in the original letter, we agree that every PhD project should have two promotors. A second (more experienced) supervisor is a great asset to the supervision team of a PhD student. Granting the ius promovendi to non-Full Professors should not mean that a second supervisor (which in the current system would be the promotor) is no longer required. New regulations should ensure that the supervision team of a PhD student still consists of at least two people.

The PhD council proposes to send a letter to the Rector Magnificus from the PhD candidates of the ILLC (meaning, by those who sign it), supporting the position of the ILLC staff members, and adding also the perspective of PhD candidates in this matter.

Proposed Letter
Esteemed Professor Maex, dear Karen,

We, the undersigned PhD candidates of the ILLC, fully support the letter that has been sent to you on June 1 by our senior colleagues of the ILLC on the issue of the current ius promovendi at the UvA (https://sites.google.com/site/uvaiuspromovendi/). Their letter mentions two main reasons for changing the current regulations. Namely, (1) that the current system is bad for the international competitiveness of the actual supervisors of PhD candidates (often Assistant and Associate Professors), as they cannot be accurately credited for their contributions, whereas their international colleagues are. And (2) that the current system raises issues with quality control. Given the great diversification of science and scholarship in recent decades, nowadays Full Professors often do not have the expertise to oversee the supervisory work of "their" Assistant and Associate Professors.

We would like to add a third reason to this list, emphasising the perspective of PhD candidates in this matter. (3) The formal power to make important decisions about a PhD candidate (e.g., whether a PhD receives a contract extension or whether a dissertation is approved) should be in the hands of someone who is actively involved in the supervision of the PhD candidate, is well acquainted with the work and progress of the PhD candidate, and has the expertise to assess and take responsibility for the PhD candidate’s dissertation. In many current cases the promotor (who has all the formal power) does not fit this description well enough. We think it is best for PhD candidates if their actual supervisors (often not a Full Professor) get assigned the ius promovendi and therefore the formal power to make decisions regarding the PhD candidate.

We stress that, like in the original letter, we agree that every PhD project should have two promotors. A second (more experienced) supervisor is a great asset to the supervision team of a PhD student. Granting the ius promovendi to non-Full Professors should not mean that a second supervisor (which in the current system would be the promotor) is no longer required. New regulations should ensure that the supervision team of a PhD student still consists of at least two people.

We emphasize the urgency of this matter and we would like to see new regulations come into force soon after the amendment of the relevant law has been installed.
With our warmest regards,

Signatories (in alphabetical order)

Joost Bastings (@ ILLC/FNWI)
Dieuwke Hupkes (@ ILLC/FNWI)
Arnold Kochari (@ ILLC/FNWI)
Iris van de Pol (@ ILLC/FNWI)
Sara Veldhoen (@ ILLC/FNWI)

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