Academic common room
Anyone with knowledge of the Dutch academic system who can advise?
QueenRefusenik · 03/08/2020 15:07
I'm a permanent grade 9 academic here in the UK, but at my current institution for a while and mildly thinking about a change... A job I'm potentially well suited for has come up at a university in the Netherlands: the money is good and the prospect of an EU passport is very enticing. However, it's an assistant professorship and in the first instance the contract is for five years with 'the possibility of renewal... Discussed after an evaluation in the fourth year'. Googling suggests it's a risk and even if the position got renewed the holder may not be able to progress up the ranks in the way they normally would in the UK... I'll drop them a polite email asking if it's 'tenure track' in that sense, but does anyone have any direct knowledge of the Dutch academic job market to advise? Is it too big a risk to abandon a permanent UK job for (let alone uproot the family)?
Venusflytart · 04/08/2020 12:34
I am a Dutch academic, but have been working in the UK since 2009. I would not consider taking on a post in a Dutch university, unless it is a permanent position in a research institute (e.g., Max Planck Institute). Most permanent academic posts are out of reach unless you've got a meaty grant (think ERC starting or consolidator grant, VIDI grant, etc.). IF you finally manage to get a permanent post, get ready to spend most of your time teaching, markign, doing admin. (Teaching loads are WAY higher in the Netherlands than in the UK and associate professors have a 60% teaching load, not including admin. I have a former colleagues teaching 15+ contact hours a week). When I was a student in the late 90s, students could also enlessly resit exams, so expect to also spend a lot of your time marking.) I'd love to move back (to escape the shitstorm that is the UK currently) but I am contemplating places like Austria, Spain, Switzerland, possibly Germany, and research-focused institutions mostly.
Also, I forgot to mention that the Netherlands does not have an official tenure system, or even a promotions-system like in the UK. Some univeristies do (like Groningen), but they tend to be proud of it and mention it explicitly in their job ads.
Finally, hardly anyone ever makes professor, as there can only be one professor per department/group, whereas in the UK you'll probably be professor in the next few years. I left over 10 years ago, so I am not sure if anything has changed, but the Netherlands is nice to live, but Dutch academia is not an appealing option, imho.
QueenRefusenik · 04/08/2020 19:28
Hi Venusflytart, thanks loads for this, really helpful! That corresponds with what I've been hearing elsewhere... looks like I'll be staying in the UK for a while then!
Venusflytart · 05/08/2020 09:11
That's interesting Queen, I posted my reply yesterday and then began too think whether I'd not been overly negative about the Dutch sytem, but apparently not ;-). Shame as I'd love to move back home, with Brexit and pensions and all...
QueenRefusenik · 05/08/2020 20:07
There was some useful background info here: academicpositions.com/career-advice/dutch-academic-job-titles-explained that hints at some of what you're saying, and some of my European colleagues more or less confirmed your opinion!
lekkerkroketje · 17/08/2020 10:29
I'd email someone higher up and ask what the situation is. The advantage of the Dutch is that they're very straightforward so should answer honestly and not think you're rude for asking! I'm not currently working in NL, but from where I am and talking to UK friends, NL looks a lot less stressful and more secure than the UK without REF etc and better salary, unemployment, maternity etc etc! So some of the gossip may just be familiarity with different systems.
Tenure track is very recent in my department and is almost guaranteed to lead to permanent unless you screw up royally. I know in other Dutch universities the same assistant job is more like the German-style extended senior post-docs with almost certain redundancy at the end. You're certainly expected to bring in funding, but some of the Dutch funding schemes are limited to applicants with semi-permanent contracts so the competition isn't actually that fierce. My university was also very good at support to bring in ERC grants. I would also say though that my department is covertly pretty sexist and racist and would prefer a white Dutch man even if they're not allowed to put it on the application, but I think that's the case in almost all countries really.
QueenRefusenik · 18/08/2020 18:28
Hi Lekkerkroketje, thanks for this, very interesting! Hmm, I'm very torn now... I think I'll drop another email to my Dutch colleague. At the risk of outing myself, the institution is Leiden and the job ad did not mention tenure-track at all in the way I remember a different Dutch institution did when I applied there years ago.
I have to say in the middle of this week's latest shitshow the Netherlands is looking even more attractive than ever ... I'm in a post-92 and hold a role relating to admissions so.... Aaargh!!
lekkerkroketje · 18/08/2020 19:15
Leiden doesn't do my subject so I don't know about staff positions but I know a few people who did PhDs and postdocs there. It's a nice small city close to the sea and actually the university sounds pretty good. Their bureaucracy functions properly (I have low expectations!), they acted really fast after lockdown including centrally organised welfare checkups for staff, and they provided counselling instantly when a friend had a bereavement.
Leiden are lower on the rankings than say Amsterdam and Utrecht and I think they haven't yet moved to quite such an American/British system. Utrecht and Amsterdam started moving towards a more international style, including pressure on staff around the time of Brexit when they realised they could actually attract international students and staff and compete in the rankings.
QueenRefusenik · 19/08/2020 12:46
This is really helpful, thanks. I have actually been interviewed there before years ago (I was interviewed EVERYWHERE during the post-doc limbo!) and it seemed like a lovely place, and is very well regarded for my subject... It's just the potential job security I need to consider...!
Alaimo · 26/08/2020 22:11
A slightly late reply, but what I gather from Dutch colleages (in the Netherlands and ones who have left the Netherlands) is that the pressure to publish is as bad if not worse than in the UK. However, it tends to be quantity over quality (to some degree). So less pressure for 4* publications, but the expected quantity is much higher than in the UK (in my social science field at least).
Also, don't be mistaken about the supposed liberal image of the Netherlands. Dutch academia tends to be fairly old-fashioned, and sexist. The percentage of female professors is about the same as in the UK (less than 25% of all professors), and I've heard plenty of stories from female assistant/associate professors who get lumbered with all the work that male (full) professors don't want to do themselves. Although things are improving, the upper echelons of Dutch universities do often seem very much like an old boys network.
QueenRefusenik · 27/08/2020 18:59
Thanks Alaimo, helpful stuff! I think I will be staying put for a while and just hope it's the right decision!
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