University of Amsterdam

Herring out of Brine: Indefensible

Herring out of Brine: Indefensible

The PhD defense or viva voce examination is the Humanities’ ultimate rite of passage. In part, a court of your own, soon-to-be peers; in part, a speech act conferring and in some less lucky cases denying the status of a Philosophiae Doctor. Despite its arcane name, the variety of graduation formats and procedures is surprisingly broad, and it tells arguably more about the granting institution and its surrounding culture than the discipline, department or quality of research being evaluated.

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Downwards Accountability

Despite a welcome increase in transparency and openness at the UvA/HvA, its stonewalling Supervisory Board (RvT) remains both a symptom of old-school politics and a cause for unrest well beyond Amsterdam. The situation at our institution exemplifies a problem common throughout the Dutch public sector: top management operates unconstrained by any meaningful form of democratic accountability, as crucial decision-making power is held by inaccessible political appointees drawn from entrenched elite business circles.

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