Career development

Career development and professional growth--our vision

Friday, 11 June 2021, 15:00-16:30

Over the last years, demands placed on academics have been rising: calls for more effective, innovative, and digitized teaching, higher research outputs, leaner coordination and administrative skills, and more student-centred approaches have intensified the challenges of working in a University. These challenges have added considerable complexity to the roles of academic staff, and longer working hours to the already overburdened workload. At the same time, however, Universities often fail to provide professional development training and opportunities for their academic staff.

Job insecurity and a lack of recognition and career development prospects continue to be ongoing concerns for staff on temporary contracts, early career academics, and lecturers with no research time.

Casual Leiden strives for a university where academic staff can thrive and provide high quality education based on high quality supervision, career mentoring, professional growth, collaboration, recognition, and reward.

What demands could temporary staff make regarding career prospects? And how?

Which forms of professional growth, training initiatives, and opportunities do we envision, at different career stages?

How do we negotiate our demands with our supervisors, HR, and managers?

To address these questions, university employees, on both temporary and permanent contracts, working at Leiden University, Utrecht University, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Radboud University Nijmegen, and Maastricht University got together on June 11, 2021.


Presentation by Casual Leiden (see Powerpoint slides), focusing on:

  1. Overview of survey results on career prospects for casual staff (emphasis put on the particular challenges faced by staff at Leiden University through a collection of testimonials as well as suggestions for a better workplace)

  2. Proposed vision for thriving educators, focusing on stability and professional growth (suggesting a rethinking of the link between teaching and research)


  1. Erkennen en waarderen: there needs to be more clarity with regard to the allocation/recognition of tasks for different career stages and better coordination at the national level (what is done at Leiden might be different from other institutions)

    1. E.g. Docent 3, scale 11, PhD required, but no research time

    2. Docent 4 includes more traits than UFO profile, but there is no structural recognition or rewards, no time allocated for designing new courses, coordination, preparation

  2. Career development for casual staff: Focus on developing CVs that allow for making the next step in career development→ teaching innovation projects, and other tangible teaching “products” could be more useful than assuming coordination tasks or other responsibilities when making the next career move

Reactions to proposed vision (presentation):

  1. Make higher demands: dual track PhD/Docent 4 might require more than 6 years when the completion of a PhD on full scholarship takes on average 5 years

  1. Risk that concept of Teaching-led research might lead to development of teaching-only tracks that are devalued, with decoupling of teaching and research on paper, with no incentive, money or time to integrate research in teaching

  2. Risk of battle between UDs and teaching-only positions since many UDs are also struggling for research time and making demands for more money

  3. Lack of recognition and vision of career development is the result of explicit decisions made to avoid these issues. It is a structural problem, and no one feels responsible (i.e., they are trying to avoid taking responsibility). It might be more useful to set up an organization of temporary lecturers that can make a positive contribution as a platform to build institutional memory, share insights on how things work, on how to navigate the system and negotiate contracts (organizing as a tool of empowerment).

    1. This could be a more specialized organization within the official unions that could sit at the negotiating table when discussing changes to the CAO, UFO, etc. (even though universities then have certain liberties in the way they implement the CAO).

    2. Enhance role of local organizations + communication and collaboration with unions.

  4. Make more connections with PhD programs → integrating career development with progression of PhD as part of a longer-term process, more integrated in the PhD program--helping PhDs to move to the next career stage.

Response (Casual Leiden)

  1. Contract stability is a precondition for career development. Our primary demand is permanent contracts: since Leiden relies on docenten for its education, they should be recognized as structural members of staff

  2. We developed these proposals based on a perception of lack of vision and imagination on the part of our supervisors, management, human resources, but mostly to push for a rethinking of the function of docenten that allows for permanent contracts--in light of pressing issues of high staff turnover within our own programs.

  3. Importance of forming a more permanent network of support for casual staff, and reorganizing forces inside unions. This could mean creating a section within the union with special membership, in addition to organizing union members meetings at the university (currently no membership meetings)


  1. To gather more ideas for career development from the perspective of temporary lecturers, fill out this survey:

  2. What would break the status quo? Include non negotiable elements (investing in a stable labor pool and making hours available for professional growth) into our vision for career development, attach solutions to demands

    1. E.g. Include percentages of job ads for temporary positions vs. permanent positions as supportive evidence to our claims. See, for example,

June 11 Career development.pptx