Recently the debate in the public sector concerning universities in the Czech Republic has been focused on the general cost-cutting measures, increasing energy prices or even shorter semesters and the re-introduction of distance teaching. Masaryk University has decided on the opposite and, effective September 1st, PhD students in their standard duration of study will receive scholarship increased from CZK 12,000 to CZK 15,000. Rector Martin Bareš decided to proceed with the increase in spite of the fact that the amount of contributions from the Ministry of Education has remained the same and, therefore, the university will have to bear all costs.
“I believe the human potential is the most valuable capital the university has. I am fully aware of the impacts of the current world on our students, and we do care strongly about their situation. On top of that, PhD students are the future of Czech science and we want to show them respect. We were looking for ways to improve their financial position in spite of the general hardships these times are bringing upon us. I believe this is the first step towards the dignified socioeconomic status of our doctoral students which, for many years now, has been unsatisfactory.”
The increase of the scholarships was discussed during the winter semester at meetings of the management of the university, as well as with deans of individual faculties and at meetings of the Academic Senate. Once increased, the amount will be borne by individual faculties. That being said, these scholarships do not necessarily have to represent the entire income of doctoral students, as they can be eligible to receive further compensation – as they often do – thanks to their participation in grant projects or from employment relationships with their faculty.
“As for the quality of doctoral programmes, Masaryk University has shown improvements for many years. The resolution of the issue of the financial situation of PhD students is a key element of the university’s competitiveness vis-à-vis other excellent institutions with regard to quality and working conditions of PhD students. Doctoral students are expected to show excellent results of their research. We welcome this decision, as the ideal scenario for a PhD student is based on their financial security, so that they can fully focus on research,” says Josef Jiřičný, formerly of the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich. He closely monitors the issues of research and doctoral studies at Masaryk University in the capacity of the Chairman of the International Scientific Advisory Board, an independent body whose members, a panel of renowned scientists, provide to the university third-party evaluations and consultancy in scientific matters.
The most recent measure issued by Rector Bareš concerning the increase of the minimum amount of PhD scholarship to CZK 15,000 will be most helpful in the case of approximately 15% of PhD students who, according to the university’s records, do not have any other source of income. In 2021, the average income of a PhD student, which includes all sources of income including creative and extraordinary scholarships, contracts of work, employment etc., amounted to slightly over CZK 22,000.
“I am glad that while we read in newspapers about plans of some universities to cut PhD scholarships, we managed to do the opposite thanks to Rector Bareš’s decision. Higher PhD scholarships are an opportunity to address the social situation of students in doctoral programmes as well as the quality of their studies, as early as the next academic year. Quality of education, science and research is among the most important pillars of Masaryk University,” says Vice-rector for Research and Doctoral Studies Šárka Pospíšilová.