PhD students are worried about the consequences of a lockout

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Will I be compensated for the time I lose as a consequence of the lockout? Will I be called home from research abroad? And what about my students’ exams? These are some of the questions PhD students have been worrying about since Innovation Minister Sophie Løhde announced a potential lockout which would affect the majority of AU’s employees.

2018.03.16 | Marie Groth Andersen

Nicolai Krejberg Knudsen (left) and Magnus Møller Ziegler are both phD students at the Department of Philosophy and the History of Ideas. Photo: Private

In a PhD office at the Department of Philosophy and the History of Ideas, a few PhD students are sitting around – and worrying. Not just about their dissertations. But also about the fact that they might be suspended from work by a lockout starting on 10 April. 

For PhD student Nicolai Krejberg Knudsen, the situation is particularly nerve-wracking: he is set to deliver his PhD in late August. And every week counts when you’re that close to the deadline, he explains.

“I have a fairly tight schedule, and if there’s a total lockout for a month, it could be difficult to finish. I can’t get any supervision, either.”    

A non-negotiable deadline    

Knudsen explains that not much information about what will happen if the lockout becomes a reality has been made available.

“We’ve been informed that we don’t have a legal right to get our stipends extended to compensate us for the time we might lose as a consequence of a lockout. But in my case, that wouldn’t be an option in any case. I have to deliver my dissertation on the agreed deadline, because afterwards I’m going to apply for postdoc funding and other grants this autumn. The deadlines are strict, and if I don’t meet them, I’ll have to wait a whole year before applying again.” 

What about the students?

Fellow PhD student Magnus Møller Ziegler has two years left of his stipend, and so he’s not under such intense time pressure. But nonetheless, he wants to know if he can regain the lost time by having his stipend extended.

In addition to lost time, the lockout notice also has other consequences for him. 

“Well, we PhD students handle a lot of the teaching, and my situation is that half of my class has exams on the April 10 and 11, which is when there’s a risk of a lockout. This creates a huge amount of uncertainty among the students. And even though they’ll probably get some information from the administration, I’m the one dealing with their uncertainty and frustration.”

He also wonders what will happen with his fellow PhD students who are doing research or fieldwork abroad.    

“On the staff services website, it says that employees on business trips will be called home. But it can be difficult to interrupt fieldwork, and it would also be really awful to interrupt a research stay abroad that you’ve worked hard to bring about, and which is also a requirement for your PhD degree.”  

No clear answers yet

Vice-dean Anne Marie Kragh Pahuus is the head of the graduate school at Arts and is aware of the questions brought up by the PhD students. But she doesn’t have any clear answers at this point. 

“We are in the process of figuring out what our options are. But I can’t simply decide to give the PhD students here at the faculty more time to complete their degree, because it’s been decided at the national level that a PhD programme takes three years.”

In relation to the PhD students who are studying abroad, Pahuus is in the process of clarifying whether they can simply stop working while abroad without having to return home. 

“But that’s an insurance issue. We have to clarify whether they’d still have insurance coverage in that case. And if not, we have to bring them home.”    

Information to all PhD students is on the way

The PhD students at Arts aren’t alone in their uncertainty. It’s shared by PhD students at all four AU faculties, and AU’s talent development unit, which provides administrative support to all four graduate schools at AU, is currently working on an announcement which will answers questions relevant to all PhD students at AU, explains Special Consultant Jette Røgild.

“It will be general information , and you will always be able to get more faculty-specific information from the graduate schools.” 

 

Røgild hopes that the announcement will be ready within a week.    

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