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fact sheet
06 January 2021

Professors

The fact sheet contains information on the role professors, the ratio between the number of male and female professors, and a brief description of the labor market.

In short:

  • The Netherlands has 3,000 professors (fte).
  • This figure excludes the over 1,600 professors (persons) working in health care.
  • 24% of all professors are women.

A professorship is the most senior academic position at a university. The number of fte professors employed by Dutch universities was 3,002 in 2019. In addition, there are 1,198 'professors by special appointment' (persons, as of 2019). These endowed professors hold a chair at a university but are actually financed by companies or civic institutions. This group is described briefly in this factsheet as well.

Role and responsibilities

Professors are responsible for the development of courses, research and valorisation in a field specified on their appointment. This means they must perform (and publish) research, teach, work on the valorisation of the knowledge they acquire and perform management duties. Professors also supervise doctorate students and guide their research.

The 2017 publication ‘Drijfveren van onderzoekers' (What motivates researchers) examined how researchers spend their time. It shows that professors feel they do not have enough time for research (spending 17% of their time on it), and they spend more time supervising the research of others (20%). This is broadly similar to the proportion of their time that university lecturers and senior university lecturers spend on research, though they spend a greater proportion on their own research. Professors spend 28% of their time teaching, proportionally less than senior lecturers (36%) and lecturers (46%). They spend 22% of their time on management duties and 7% on acquisition. When asked how they would prefer to spend their time, they express a clear preference for less management and more research.

Many researchers, including professors, complain about increased pressure of work. There have been no systematic studies of work pressure across the board at all universities and in all disciplines in the Netherlands. There are however clear indications that the workload of academics has increased.

In the period 2003-2016, for example, the number of doctorates awarded rose by 86% and the number of Master’s degrees rose by 57%. The number of professors, excluding healthcare, increased by 16% over the same period. The number of academic papers published (by all academics together) rose from 20,000 in 2004 to 33,000 in 2013 (an increase of 65%), and there is also increased competition for funding. In a number of fields and types of grant, the probability of being awarded a grant by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) or H2020 is reportedly lower than 20%.

Number of male and female professors

A total of 3,002 fte professors are employed by universities. Their numbers have increased slightly every year. Over time, the numbers per scientific field have developed as follows (excluding the field of  'health').


There are relatively few female professors in the Dutch university system. Women hold just 24.4% of chairs. This puts the Netherlands near the bottom of the table in international terms (She Figures, EC). There has however been a gradual rise in the proportion of female lecturers, both in other countries and in the Netherlands. The figure below shows trends in the number of female professors in each sector. Clearly, the proportion of women in such posts has risen almost across the board over the past decade. 

 

Professors by special appointment

Besides the professors who are on the payroll of the universities, another group of professors exists: the ‘professors by special appointment’. These endowed professors are not part of the universities’ official personnel plans, but are financed from special sources. Often, stakeholders of the university (companies or institutions) fund an endowed chair at a university because this appears interesting from the perspective of the organisation’s policies or because they aim to stimulate specific research. Based on information in the Narcis database, we have been able to establish the size and development of this group of scientists. 

We have analyzed the figures from 2013-2020 in order to outline the trend over the last six years.


    Since 2017 there is a decrease in the number of professors by special appointment, especially in the number of male professors by special appointment. The number of female professors is rather stable. The proportion of women is just above the share of women in the "regular" professors (25.1%). In 2020, the most common scientific field among the endowed chairs is Life, medicine and health care (26%), followed by Science & technology (15%). The Behavioural and education sciences (42%) and Social sciences (33%) have a relatively high proportion of female professors.

    Job market for professors

    A professorship is the most senior academic post at a university. For some professors, therefore, it is their final job before they retire. However, the job market for professors is more dynamic than this might suggest. Firstly, large numbers of professors leave and join universities every year. Half of all chairs change hands every seven years.

    63% of new professors come from other positions at Dutch universities, while 37% come from outside the Dutch university system. Around one in four professors who leave the university system do so in order to retire, and roughly the same proportion move to another position at a university, such as another chair or a management post. Just over half take a job outside the Dutch university system. For them, a professorship is not their final position, but merely a stage in their career.

    Sources

    Foto: EyeEm Mobile GmbH/Hollandse Hoogte

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