Temporary university contracts rise again, despite protests

The number of temporary contracts at Dutch universities is continuing to grow. This revelation emerged from education minister Robbert Dijkgraaf’s response to questions from the House of Representatives.

Professors and associate professors are barely affected by this issue. Almost all of them hold permanent positions. But lower down the academic career ladder, job security is far from the norm.


Thirty percent of university teaching staff are on a temporary contract. That is one percentage point up on last year, despite a whole range of efforts and resolutions by universities to ensure more permanent employment.


Among teaching staff without research duties, this figure is twice as high: 61 percent. Just a few years ago, it was only 53 percent and in 2005 it was even less: 43 percent. The treatment of these teachers in particular is the subject of controversy.


But support staff too are increasingly finding themselves being appointed for a fixed period. This figure once stood at 10 percent, then for years it hovered around 15 percent, but in recent years it has crept up to 18 percent.


© HOP. Source: Universities of the Netherlands (data excl. the healthcare sector).

There are notable differences between universities on this issue. Utrecht is still the champion of temporary contracts: 90 percent of the teaching staff there are not in permanent employment. At the other end of the spectrum there is Eindhoven University of Technology, where only 31 percent of these teachers have an end date in their contract.

© HOP. Source: Universities of the Netherlands (data excl. the healthcare sector).

Without addressing these differences between universities, the education minister does offer an explanation for the recent increase: he says it is related to the temporary resources to address the impact of Covid. He points out that the effect of recent collective labour agreements on permanent contracts is not yet reflected in the tables above.

Dijkgraaf has previously stated that he wants to push hard for permanent contracts in higher education. One approach has been to create starting grants for new university teaching staff and attach conditions to the sector plans that universities are required to draw up collectively.

For years, unions and action groups have been campaigning against temporary appointments. Staff at the University of Amsterdam held a partial strike, refusing to mark students’ work in a move to force more permanent jobs. A ‘disposable teacher’ in Utrecht took the university to court for denying him a permanent contract but he failed to win the case.

Stay tuned

Sign up for our weekly newsletter.