PhD students from China get (slightly) more money

The China Scholarship Council and Groningen University will raise the scholarships for PhD candidates with scholarships in 2023. Utrecht University is considering it too.

In Delft, 486 PhD students are currently pursuing their PhDs on external scholarships. (Photo: Justyna Botor)

PhD candidates with scholarships are doctoral researchers who – instead of being employed by their university and receiving a salary – receive a grant from an external organisation. This is usually from the country that they come from. Of the PhD candidates in the Netherlands, 11% fall under the PhD candidate with a scholarship category. 

China is one of the countries that extends a lot of grants to PhD candidates. The PhD candidates with scholarships that work in the Netherlands receive about EUR 1,350 every month from the China Scholarship Council (CSC). This amount will be increased. From September 2023, CSC PhD candidates will receive between EUR 1,500 and EUR 1,650 per month, said Professor Harry Steinbusch of Maastricht University recently in an interview with Observant. He is the national contact person for the China Scholarship Council.

While the amount has not yet been publicised on the internet pages of Dutch universities, the increase has been confirmed by PhD candidates with whom Delta has had contact.

Below the minimum wage
University journalistic platforms regularly write about PhD candidates with scholarships, such as Folia (in Dutch) of the University of Amsterdam, as do national media (in Dutch) such as Follow the Money. The grants for this category of researchers vary according to the funding body, but they are usually below the minimum wage in the Netherlands which was EUR 1,756 per month in 2022. In comparison, a doctoral candidate in employment earns between EUR 2,541 and EUR 3,247 gross a month. At least 51% of the doctoral researchers in the Netherlands are employed by a university, according to figures from Universities of the Netherlands updated in early November. 7 per cent of researchers are ‘externally funded’, which usually means they are funded by companies. Almost 5,900 (16 per cent) researchers are outside PhD students: they do their PhD at their own expense. The remaining 5 per cent are not categorised.

The University of Groningen will also increase the monthly allowance of PhD candidates with scholarships by 9.6%, though this time this is in connection with inflation. Earlier this year PhD candidates received EUR 1,850 per month and from 1 January 2023, this will be EUR 2,092 nett. The UKrant, the University of Groningen’s independent news platform, writes that the decision does not come as a surprise. ‘In late September, scholarship PhDs became upset when it turned out their scholarships wouldn’t be adjusted for inflation, even though their contract said so.  Instead, the university had increased their scholarships by 4 percent, in line with the pay increase university employees got as part of their collective agreement’ states the UKrant.

Experiment stops

At present, there are 923 PhD candidates with scholarships associated with the University of Groningen. Of them, 376 fall under the experiment with PhD students that started more than six years ago. In June, it was announced that this experiment will be stopped.

DUB, the independent news site of Utrecht University, made it known in November that the University is currently debating whether or not to increase the grants of PhD candidates with scholarships. If they would do this, the University will need to make a deal with the local tax advisor. The University had tried this before but it appeared that it was not possible, a Utrecht University spokesperson told DUB. ‘In response to the article in Follow the Money, we will again consult the tax inspector in Utrecht to see if an increase would be possible in Utrecht’ stated the spokesperson.

There are currently 486 PhD candidates with scholarships at TU Delft. Of them, 278 receive a grant from the China Scholarship Council. TU Delft does not add to the PhD candidates with scholarships’ grants.


News editor Annebelle de Bruijn

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