UU gives associate professors right to promote PhDs

Until this summer, Dutch law stated that only professors were allowed to hand a PhD candidate their doctorate. In June, after a long discussion, the Senate approved an expansion of this right to promote. Associate professors would, in some cases, be eligible to have the same right. It was up to the Association of Universities (VSNU) and the universities themselves to find a way to incorporate this.

Utrecht University has now presented a framework in which the criteria are defined. For instance, not every associate professor will automatically be eligible. They have to have a PhD themselves, have to work at either the UU or the UMCU, and they need to have done a Senior Qualification Research. The UU has also listed several criteria concerning the quality of their research. The associate professor needs to be an experienced scientist, with his or her own research program. He also needs to have experience mentoring PhD candidates as a co-supervisor.

A dean will nominate an associate professor. The Board of Supervisors will decide. Those who gain the ius promovendi will keep the status as long as they’re employed by the UU. The Board of Supervisors consists of all university deans, who meet on a monthly basis. At the moment, they’re already in charge of assess all nominated professors.

“With this rule, we’re satisfying the rightful request of associate professors who are principal investigators,” says rector Bert van der Zwaan. “Principal investigators are scientists who lead large-scale projects independently. They have received ERC Grants, or Vici grants, for instance. Until now, they were not allowed to supervise their own PhD candidates all the way to receiving their doctorate. Now, they are.”

Van der Zwaan says the right to promote was exclusive to professors in the Netherlands as a way to guard the quality of research. “If you’re expanding on this, you need to have clearly stated rules that ensure a constant guarding of that quality.”

He doesn’t expect to see a huge amount of applications this January. “We agreed that you can only apply when an associate professor starts a new PhD track. All current tracks will stay the way they are.”