[Column] A permanent contract

It took 12 years’ worth of temporary contracts before columnist Bob van Vliet was given a permanent position at TU Delft. He hopes for better things for his peers.

(Photo: Sam Rentmeester)

Well, people. I am in! It took a while, but the time has come. I have a permanent contract. Twelve years after I taught my first subject at TU Delft.

For all that time I taught courses that were a fixture on the curriculum. My students and colleagues were always satisfied with my work, and yet, I could never take it for granted that I could continue to do it.

For five-and-a-half years, next to working as an independent designer, I taught at Industrial Design Engineering (IDE). I was part of a regular group of freelancers that was closely involved in the Faculty. I taught a whole series of courses, throughout the bachelor programme. For a short while I even produced a sort of Faculty newspaper for which I interviewed people about the education in the Faculty.

But then I wrote a critical piece in Delta about the Faculty’s new vision. The Dean was not amused and I was no longer welcome.

‘Architecture did not pay as well as IDE’

Luckily, deans only have power over their own faculties. Later in that same academic year, I became one of the regular guest teachers in the course on the pedagogy of design education for the teacher training programme at Science Education & Communication (in the Faculty of Applied Sciences). After all, I did know one or two things about it at that point.

The academic year after that, I also started working as a teacher at Architecture and the Built Environment. For that little newspaper that I wrote at IDE, I once interviewed someone from Architecture about her research into learning and teaching in design studios. We kept in touch, and by coincidence they were just looking for a good teacher with experience outside architecture.

That too was freelance. And Architecture did not pay as well as IDE. But, oh well. In the meantime, I had done a series of large design projects and realised that I badly missed the contact with students. I  realised I am a teacher at heart, and decided that would be where I would put my efforts. I trusted it would work out in the end.

But then it turned out that the Faculty wanted to get rid of its freelance contracts with design teachers. We were expected to switch to zero hour contracts. That would mean not having a permanent job and suddenly falling outside all the arrangements and regulations for independent contractors. With a group of indignant colleagues, we organised a series of debates and protest meetings. But the Faculty showed little willingness to enter into discussion.

Again by coincidence, just then there was a vacancy for a teacher at Mechanical Engineering. I went there for a coffee and before I knew it, I was offered the job. It was temporary again, though. A contract for four years. But informally – nudge, nudge, wink, wink – I understood that probably something could be arranged when the contract ran out. Probably. Oh well, it was more security than I had had up to then.

But when those four years were nearly up, I found out that it was Faculty policy never to offer teachers without a PhD a permanent position. This time it worked out, however. The Chair of my Department managed to convince the Dean to make an exception.

Luckily I had never written anything critical about this Dean’s plans.

Dutch universities rely on far too many temporary employees. This is unfair, unnecessary, and damaging. I am happy with the exception made for me. But in general, as was recently shown yet again, far too little is done about it.

Bob van Vliet is a lecturer at the 3mE Faculty and is specialised in design education. Reactions are welcome via B.vanVliet@tudelft.nl.

Bob van Vliet / Columnist

Columnist Bob van Vliet

Do you have a question or comment about this article?


Comments are closed.