First day of PhD but found out my stipend is 1500 e/month instead of 2800 e/month.

04-Dec-17, 21:02
Avatar for WhatToDo
posted about 1 week ago
For those who are not aware, the European Union has these amazing PhD scholarships called Marie Curie. If you get one of these your monthly salary, gross, is 3110 euro multiplied by a country correction coefficient to take into account expensive or cheap countries.
Luckily, I was awarded one of these PhDs and today was my first day and I signed the final contract. None of the previous contracts mentioned the salary.
For these scholarships there is a mention that if the institute you are going to be part of, for whatever reason that has to be agreed on by European Research Commission, can't make an employment contract it can make a fixed amount contract that will be 50% of the value of the stipend. Guess which one I got?
Never throughout the process there was a mention of this aspect. On the PhD's advertising page it said "competitive Marie Curie salary". Well, I don't find this very competitive.
Another issue is, that half of my project I have to spend in Zurich, which is absurdly pricey.
I don't blame my future supervisor, I am certain it is a rule of the research organisation he is part of, however there was no mention from his part that this might be the case.
The first day went well, really interesting people, all very dedicated, helpful and down to earth. I somewhat still think I would have accepted it.
It just that all these months before starting I envisioned a better PhD lifestyle, staying on top of burnout, depression and so on. Affording to visit home for important occasions, visiting the country I moved to without looking at the prices of museums, tasting the food it has to offer. It was just a nice escape from the stress to know that I don't have to also budged my life on top of everything else. And knowing when I finish I will have some money to move onto the next stage.
I don't know if I could consider applying to other PhDs that offer this scholarship. On the other hand, I know that this small stipend, is the reality for many PhDs. It's just that I always postponed my "reward" for this moment, but here I am having to wait another three years until I might get a good salary.
Maybe I just needed to vent I don't know. I, really, do, not, know, anything.
05-Dec-17, 12:56
by tru
Avatar for tru
posted about 1 week ago
Hi WhatToDo,

You are venting a lot of things which you should have used to negotiate with your supervisor and the research org.

Why do you sign the final contract if you do not agree with it? Why did you not ask or negotiate it? Does the final contract state the salary which you are disagreeing on?

If you have signed the final contract with the lower salary clearly stated without any negotiation, then you have sealed your fate. There is no point lamenting about it anymore, unfortunately. Unless you claim you signed being given misleading information or that you were pressured to sign.
05-Dec-17, 15:25
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 1 week ago
I am a little confused here.
You did your research into this funding route as you demonstrate in your post and then you signed a contract without checking the amount of money you were to be paid? You also appear to have realised that some universities wouldn't allow the full rate but you didn't check whether your university was one of them and signed anyway?
I am confused about why you are venting and it is strange that you want to blame the Marie Curie awards people. It seems like you were in control of the entire process from start to finish. Learning to check the salary is an painful lesson to have to learn in this way but I suppose you won't make that mistake again. You don't appear to have done your research properly and there is nobody to blame but yourself. We all make mistakes in life and you will certainly make worse mistakes than this. Own the mistake and learn from it would be advice.
07-Dec-17, 22:29
Avatar for Walter_Opera
posted about 1 week ago
Your post is somewhat confusing. I do not understand what you mean by a "fixed amount contract" instead of an "employment contract". Are the 1500 EUR before or after taxes and social insurance? Because if they pay you 1500 EUR net instead of 2800 EUR gross as a regular employment contract, this pretty much amounts to same thing in many European countries. Either way, the pay isn't that bad for pursuing a PhD. Also, you won a prestigious fellowship, which is a great start for an academic career. Maybe you shouldn't focus on the money so much.
08-Dec-17, 21:33
edited about 5 minutes later
by Dunham
Avatar for Dunham
posted about 1 week ago
It's hard to say something without more details regarding location or field of study but in Germany for instance, it is normal to get a 50% (around 1200€) to 65% (around 1500€) positions in the life sciences. I never heard of any scholarship that provides you with more. You are of course expected to work 100%. Only fields where it is really hard to recruit PhD students such as computer sciences will offer higher salaries.
It's of course disappointing if you expected a higher salary but in most of central Europe you should be able to live comfortably with 1500€. I know many PhD students that are located in Zurich and can promise you that even in Zurich, you'll get by with 1500€. I know several PhD students from South America and Asia personally, who came with their own scholarship that is in this range and they spent 4 years in Zurich. And no, there are no rich parents in the background that could afford to sponsor their child ;) You will live like an undergrad without any luxury but you can certainly manage to get by. I am however relatively sure that they will adjust the amount of money to the Swiss living costs. At least it was like that for a friend of mine with a French scholarship.

Personally, I would suck it up. If you have enough to make a living (and 1500 is enough) then it is all about the institution, your bosses, your project and the colleagues. That's what is impacting your mental health in the end. More money is always nice, but I guess you didn't get into a PhD program to earn a good salary ;)


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