The Bursary System

Since many PhD students at the RUG are still bursary students and since there is still a lot of discussion going on, we compiled information concerning this issue.

The University basically provides information as posted under Rights & Duties but we would like to draw your attention to facts about the bursary system which are usually not “told” !!!

Update (10.10.2011):” Bursary System Update: The ” Tweede Kamer” froze a PvdA/SP sponsored motion on october 4th that asks the government to withdraw its plan to introduce a bursary system.  This comes after the debate on September 26th. Thus, an important step towards a resolution of the bursary issue has not been made. ”

Bursary students have a very low tax rate, but which is only applicable if no extra income is acquired and no change of status occurs. That means that when a bursary student marries during the time of the contract or starts working in the same year his/her contract ended, a lot of taxes have to be repaid. You can find an article about this issue in the UK (in dutch). But the take home message is that during your bursary contract duration:
Don’t get married! and Don’t get a job in the same year the contract ends!

Since you are not an employee of the university, no teaching duties apply. That might not mean that you won’t get asked to teach students (or supervise them) but it is explicitly mentioned in your contract that you don’t have to and are in fact not allowed to teach. Don’t feel bad to tell your supervisor that you can not be asked to teach, it’s your right (that you may wish to enforce).

No pension:
You should be aware that no part of your bursary salary goes into building up a pension. Thus it might be a good idea to save money yourself or apply for a private pension plan.

The legal situation:
ABVAKABO has started a law suit against the universities arguing that bursaries do the same work as AIOs and should thus also legally be treated as employees. Based on all their gathered information they have released an advice for bursary students, which can be find here. After winning the first round, the appeal ruling is scheduled for January 2012 (earliest date, according to the “Gerechtshof Leeuwarden”). However, following Montesquieu, the courts move independently from legislative powers in parliament and government. The government will probably not wait for this and if the law is changed – or in this case created, since legally the bursary does not explicitly exist – the court ruling will only affect a historic period and a limited group of bursary PhDs. Provided the Leeuwarden ruling will uphold the Groningen verdict. It seems most likely that the government will decide earlier than the courts about this issue.

If you would like to contact Abvakabo, please Email Marieke van den Berg.

PNN & GRINs position:
After discussing the bursary issue with the PhD councils of the RUG, many have signed a letter to the “twede kamer”.
And a summary of the main points can be found here.

More links of the bursary issue are provided by PNN and can be found here

PNN Bursary Charter

PNN Position Paper

For important questions concerning all these matters you can always contact us or your PhD coordinator. And in some cases you could also try to ask the International Service Desk. Please sedt them an email with your tax related question (please do not call them or visit them at their desk for your tax related question). Their email address is

If you think anything important is missing or something is wrong here, please let us know.