Opening Academic Year 2017-2018

The eyes of guests attending the opening of the Academic Year went up as well as aside. Boxes with slogans as publication pressure, bureaucracy and valorization were piled up far above the heads. This way, together with the Dutch PhD network (PNN) and PostdocNL, VAWO wanted to show that the workload is literally too high.

And it seriously is. Research shows that at least 20% extra work is done in leisure time. A full working week means more than 9 weeks of unpaid work per year! We started calculating and were shocked by the number that more than 295 million euros of unpaid work is being done each year. And then we have not even included the skipping of lunch breaks and working during illness.

Experiences of employees confirm the high work pressure culture: "I can't get sick, my experiments can't take a break" wrote a PhD student to us. Another reaction to the question about experience with work pressure came from a postdoc: "Recently at work I told them that I was so tired. Their response was: ‘So? Everyone is tired'. Apparently it has become so common to be tired that we don’t see for ourselves how absurd that is.

Although the playful action was a succes, chairwoman Marijtje Jongsma hopes that both the minister and universities will finaly deal with the extreme work pressure. That is why Jongsma, together with PNN board member Marten van der Meulen, handed over a cheque to outgoing minister Bussemaker of Education. She attended the opening of the Academic Year in Nijmegen and acknowledged that the high workload is a problem. When asked what she, or her successor, would do about this, she replied that the funds from the loan system would eventually provide relief. But in that statement the minister  still doesn't take responsibility for providing real funding for the current work of universities, says Jongsma. “There are more students, more additional tasks such as obtaining research funding and the introduction of educational innovations, but there is no additional staff, because there is no money for that. Yet that is what is needed in many places to reduce the work pressure: more colleagues for a consistently good quality of research and education."