University is testing limits with VIDI-policy

21 Oct 2021

Researchers outside of Nijmegen that are coming to Radboud University through a VIDI grant are not automatically offered a permanent contract. This policy appears to contradict the new collective labour agreement, which had recently promised permanent contracts to VIDI-laureates. According to the university, the collective agreement can be interpreted in different ways.

VIDI grants are subsidies of 800.000 euros that allow talented researchers to start their own research groups. Because these naturally involve long-term planning, since 2018, the Dutch Research Council (NWO) requires laureates to receive a permanent contract from their employer. Last year, this requirement was somewhat toned down, additionally allowing so-called tenure track contracts. With those contracts, employees have up to five years to prove their capabilities. The next deadline for applying for a VIDI grant is the 2nd of November.

The new university Collective Labour Agreement (CLA), approved on the 15th of October, has de facto restored the situation from 2018. According to article 2.5, academic staff with a VIDI grant should be given permanent contracts.

That phrasing appears to contradict the internal VIDI-rules in Nijmegen, which state that laureates from outside Radboud University will only be offered a tenure-track position. However, according to the university, this discrepancy is legally sound. ‘We interpreted the new CLA in such a way that it applies to current staff members’, according to a written statement from a spokesperson. In this, the university assumes that ‘the parties involved in the CLA intended to give current staff more job security.’

‘Researchers from outside Nijmegen will be worse off than VIDI laureates already working here’

One important consequence of the broad interpretation from Nijmegen is that researchers from outside of Nijmegen will, employment-wise, be worse off than VIDI laureates who are already working here. This could scare them off from making the transition to Radboud University.

Marijtje Jongsma. Own photo.

The university is not worried because within tenure tracks, concrete agreements regarding performance are made. ‘If an employee lives up to the agreements, which they control, they will be offered a permanent contract.’

Marijtje Jongsma, an active member of the AOb (General Education union) and lecturer at the Faculty of Social Sciences, thinks Radboud’s interpretation of the CLA is remarkable. ‘I think the CLA is clear in this regard. I will have this discrepancy put on the agenda for the next meeting between the unions and the university.’

The university cautiously leaves some room for discussion: ‘Our policy will have to be in line with the CLA. If necessary, changes will be made’, according to the spokesperson.

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