The aim is to guarantee the same minimum standard to all doctoral students. The changes came into force the first day in February and include a minimum amount for doctoral scholarships. According to the new regulation of the Rector of Masaryk University, the amount, which was different at every faculty until now, is unified into the so-called minimum standard of seven thousand crowns.
The doctoral board for each study programme applied specific criteria in a co-decision about setting the amount for the scholarship. These reflected, for example, the year of study, the research activities and the quantity and quality of publications.
"Up to now there has been a common practice that a student of a certain study programme was awarded a scholarship lower by a thousand crowns than a student of another programme," said the vice-rector for student affairs, Jiri Němec, as he described the recent practice. For this reason, he initiated the change in the system that guarantees a minimum standard for doctoral students.
"We reached the decision after a discussion that the grant we receive from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, should be distributed almost throughout as it should cover the primary needs of the student above all," concluded Němec.
The change in policy of paying doctoral scholarships was approved by the Academic Senate already in December, when it approved a slight change in the scholarship regulations. However, the decision on the amount had to wait.
"The amount of money we get to support doctoral students is not communicated by the Ministry until January. Therefore, the Rector's regulation comes into effect from 1st February to the end of December and will continue to do so every year," explains Martina Vlková, the head of the Office for Studies at the Rector's office.
A limit of seven thousand is guaranteed as a minimum. In practice this means that the real amount of scholarship may be higher, for example if the faculty creates its own scholarship programme to support doctoral students. But in rare cases a scholarship may be withdrawn or reduced; there is no claim for it.
"The payment is regulated by the University Scholarship and the Bursary Regulations, which indicates that the Dean or Doctoral board have the right to take into account the student's activity and his/her results," said the head of the Office for Studies, and she described an example of a situation when a student hasn't responded to the request for inserting his/her bank account number into the University even after three requests. Even in such a case the scholarship may be fully taken away.
How this will be reflected in practice
"For me this doesn't mean a sky-high increase in the scholarship I get, but I'm glad and it makes my life easier," Kateřina Fridrichová, a doctoral student from the Faculty of Social Studies commented. She probably welcomes it even more because she will soon turn 26, when the majority of student benefits terminate. She speaks highly about the decision of the university management also because of another reason. "It is a systematic change. I know about faculties where the doctoral students had a much lower scholarship."
The new regulation could be seen as an effort to increase the motivation of the doctoral students to successfully complete their studies, but Fridrichová doubts it. "I saw my colleagues around me terminating their studies, but mainly only indirectly because of money. Those who found a good job often found out that they had no time to study. Others leave because they find the studies unsatisfying. But I don't remember that anyone would literally leave due to lack of money, "says the student of international relations. According to her words, the financial aspect alone didn't play a major role in her decision to continue in her studies.