PhD & teaching: your rights and obligations

The doctoral training program at the Faculty of Arts organised the 13th of November a virtual meeting on your rights and obligations as a PhD candidate when it comes to teaching-related tasks.

During the well-attended virtual meetup, two invited trade union staff representatives presented the legal and practical background for this question, and answered questions of PhD candidates.

Jo Coulier (ABVV VUB representative) provided a thorough legal background of complex mix of PhD statutes and regulations. One of the main points discussed is that the lack of a clear and uniform framework regulating the statute of doctoral candidates, dicussions, inequalities and issues keep popping up, including on basic questions such as how much time you can (be asked) to spend on teaching-related tasks.

Our ACV KU Leuven representative Maarten Hermans went further into the details on these rights and obligations of doctoral candidates in practice at the KU Leuven. Not only are the different applicable statutes and regulations complex and contradictory, but it is also an issue of individually and/or collectively excerising these rights.

Because doctoral candidates have a lower employee voice in the KU Leuven, and are frequently in an individually more difficult position to “say no” to certain tasks, it is needed that rights are clarified and strengthened, starting with for instance a proper implementation at the KU Leuven of existing regulations on rights to have a say on task content.

In the meeting we also went into the underlying issues and longer term evolutions leading to frictions on teaching tasks for doctoral candidates, such as the financial pressure to replace AAP-statutes (assisterend academisch personeel) that have a sizeable share of teaching tasks (and rights!) with fiscally cheaper doctoral candidates.

This evolution leads to the gradual widening of the regulations on what a doctoral candidate can and must do, moving this away from the core focus on independent doctoral research. It is there very important that doctoral candidates can effectively have a say in the reforms to the overall and university-specific doctoral regulations that the Belgian universities are curently rolling out. This awareness and involvement is currently however very limited.

For more info on this topic, contact ACV KU Leuven representative Maarten Hermans (, WhatsApp +32485393813, or Twitter DM @acvkuleuven) and/or ABVV KU Leuven representative Maïka De Keyzer.

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