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Defending the interests of PhDs and postdocs at Leiden University


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PhDoc defends the interests of PhDs and postdocs at Leiden University. We have had a consistent presence in the University Council since 2012. We are a group of energetic early-career academics who care about the future of our university. PhDoc is guided by the following three principles:

Tradition is nice, equity is nicer

We respect the impressive history of Leiden University, but where our history has led to inequality we, respectfully, do not care about how impressive it is. Should we have more female professors? Yes. Should our buildings and events be accessible to all, regardless of disability? Yes! Should the cultural diversity of students, PhDs and postdocs be better represented higher up in our hierarchy? YES!

Actions should be driven by principles, not practical considerations

The climate crisis is the biggest challenge of our time. Yet, we struggle to formulate a firm statement on collaboration with the fossil fuel industry, in fear of hurting Shell’s feelings. The privacy of our students and staff is of utmost importance. Yet, we need to be actively convinced by our community to not place camera scanners in all our buildings. Work pressure is a pressing issue. Yet, when PhDoc unearthed issues with annual agreements that meant people took up fewer holiday days, our board waited until the new collective labour agreement to act. Principles should always come before practical considerations.

Transparency and trust should be our foundation

It is not normal to be fearful of open debate just because a topic is controversial. It is not normal that it takes investigative journalists to find out we are using shady practices to finance our LUMC PhDs. It is not normal for a professor to misbehave for decades before we finally act. At the heart of these problems lies a lack of trust in each other, leading to a lack of transparency. This is especially problematic when people high up in our hierarchy do not trust the people doing the real work. We need to actively engage in conversation with each other to build respect and trust, and to eliminate fear.


Our principles feed into the five main themes you can find in our election program:

  1. Sustainability: In a time of climate crisis, we need to take responsibility.
  2. Equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI): Everyone deserves a fair chance.
  3. Representation: No voice should go unheard in university decision-making.
  4. Well-being: Moving from work pressure to work enjoyment.
  5. Personal growth: Balancing guidance and freedom to foster growth.

Achievements 2022-2024

Below you can find a short overview of what we did with our single seat in the University Council in 2022-2024. We will leave it up to you to imagine what we could do with more seats.

  • Building trust with PhDs and postdocs. PhDoc values in-person interaction above all else. Since the previous election, we have had 143 meetings with and for PhDs and postdocs, not counting official University Council meetings. This is how we build trust with PhDs and postdocs throughout the university, and how we ensure the right topics are on the University Council agenda.
  • Improving the university commuting allowance. We have consistently called for better reimbursement of commuting costs, with a focus on public transport. The university budget for 2024 now includes a €1.2mln mobility fund to improve the commuting allowance.
  • No more misuse of annual agreements. PhDoc wrote a report on the problematic misuse of annual agreements at Leiden University. Despite initial inaction by the university board, PhDoc collaborated with the labour unions in ensuring annual agreements are now no longer permitted for junior staff.
  • Fighting for early-career academic inclusion in R&R. PhDoc has been very active in the Recognition & Rewards (R&R) movement. Our workshop at the 2023 R&R festival paved the way for the inclusion of PhDs and postdocs in national R&R decision-making. At Leiden University, we were one of the main drivers behind the introduction of the lay talk at PhD ceremonies, starting September 2024.
  • Equity for external PhDs. PhDoc actively supported the taskforce external PhDs, whose 2023 report contains many recommendations to improve equity between internal and external PhDs. We have continuously raised awareness about the report recommendations, which include giving external PhDs voting rights in university elections.
  • And much, much, much more. Interested to learn more about what we do? Or want to join the PhDoc team? Contact one of our representatives, and make sure to follow us on LinkedIn and X.
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