If you are going to do a work placement outside of the UvA, it is important to put the agreements with your work placement company in writing and to sign them in advance, so it is clear to everyone what the agreements are. Most companies have a standard work placement agreement.
When you sign an agreement, it is binding. Consequently, you need to carefully read the agreement in advance so that you know what you are signing up for. Also, show the agreement to your degree programme before you sign it to make sure that its contents suit your academic plan.
Pay particular attention to the following:
Companies want to protect their competitive position and therefore have an interest in preventing the disclosure of information about their organisation and/or work processes. The work placement agreement therefore often contains a provision on confidentiality. You may also be asked to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA).
Although you have a duty of confidentiality, you must also submit a work placement report to the degree programme that contains information about the company.
How do you handle this? In consultation with the company, choose one of the following options:
1. Make an exception for obligations in the context of enrolment in your degree programme. Many NDAs or contracts for trainees already contain such an exception. Check whether your agreement includes such a provision, or have one included.
Text example: ‘The trainee will only use the information for purposes that are directly related to the trainee's enrolment in the [name of degree programme] degree programme at the University of Amsterdam's Faculty of Science (FNWI). The work placement report can be used by the FNWI for the legally required accreditation of the degree programme by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.'
Or more specifically: ‘The trainee will only use the information for the sake of the work placement report and the presentation of the work placement results, as well as their assessment, during a meeting at the University of Amsterdam's Faculty of Science (FNWI). The work placement report can be used by the FNWI for the legally required accreditation of the degree programme by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.'
2. Does the company want the option to inspect your work placement report in advance? If so, make sure that you can still get your required credits in time and that you do not incur a study delay as a result of the company keeping your report for too long. For example, you could include the following text in the NDA or your work placement agreement: ‘The trainee and the company agree that these provisions will not stand in the way of the trainee's study progress.' In addition, agree a maximum inspection period for the company in writing. Text example: ‘Before submitting the work placement report to the FNWI, the trainee will grant the [name of company] company the opportunity to inspect this report. The [name of company] company will have a maximum of two weeks for this inspection.' Check in advance with your work placement coordinator to see if this period fits your academic schedule; if necessary, agree a shorter period with the company.
When you submit your work placement report, degree programme staff may also gain access to confidential information from the company. All UvA staff have a duty of confidentiality pursuant to Article 1.16 of the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities. In other words, they do not need to sign a separate confidentiality agreement. Sometimes, the company will nevertheless ask for such a supplemental agreement. That is allowed, but you can also refer to the collective labour agreement.
An exception for educational purposes must be made for these NDAs as well.
Text example: ‘This NDA does not apply to purposes that are directly related to the trainee's enrolment in the [name of degree programme] degree programme at the University of Amsterdam's Faculty of Science (FNWI). The work placement report can be used by the FNWI for the legally required accreditation of the degree programme by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.'
If your work placement results in a thesis, you may have the opportunity to publish it. If the company where you do your work placement has an interest in confidentiality, you will have to make agreements about that, too. Consider the following options: 1. Your thesis remains under embargo for a certain period of time; you and the company can agree on the period. Check with your work placement coordinator whether this works in terms of scheduling. 2. There will be a public version of the thesis, with a confidential appendix under embargo for a specified or unspecified period of time. 3. There will be two separate versions of the thesis, a confidential and a public version. You could also come up with a different solution in consultation with the company, of course.
Does the NDA or work placement agreement state that the Intellectual Property Rights belong to the company where you do your work placement? This means that, if you invent or come up with something new as part of your work placement at this company, all rights to it belong to the company – and not to you. This includes the rights to further develop, use commercially and/or patent this invention. Whether you agree with this, because you really want the work placement in question, for example, is up to you. Still, it is important to think about this before signing, so that you know what you are agreeing to.
Sometimes, the work placement agreement includes a provision about reimbursement for the trainee in exchange for giving up these rights. Alternatively, it may be agreed that, if you come up with a new idea during your work placement, you will meet with the company at that time to agree on a reasonable arrangement. This is allowed, and again depends in part on your personal consideration.
As a general rule, each party only signs for their own obligations, and not for someone else's obligations. In other words, you will be obliged to personally sign the work placement agreement with the company because you are the person who will be doing the work placement.
Whether the FNWI must also sign the work placement agreement depends on the content of the agreement and especially on whether the work placement agreement contains obligations for the faculty. In any case, the FNWI must agree to the work placement in relation to the number of credits to be awarded upon successful completion of the work placement, but that does not need to be arranged through the work placement agreement. Still, it is important that your degree programme has seen the work placement agreement before you sign it.
The work placement company itself will determine who signs the work placement agreement on their end.
Always try to arrive at a mutually agreeable result in good consultation with the company. While you benefit from an interesting work placement position, the company itself can benefit from placing promising trainees. In other words, you both stand to gain from the work placement and clear agreements on the work placement.
If you have any questions, please contact the work placement coordinator for your degree programme.