A couple of times during the academic year, GRIN organizes the PhD platform meeting. Here all PhD councils have the opportunity to discuss the most pressing PhD-related issues with the Dean of Groningen Graduate Studies (currently Petra Rudolf). In November 2020, we had a virtual platform meeting due to the COVID-19 measures in place. The topics discussed were the following:
The pandemic is causing a lot of problems: both organisational (e.g. due to less efficient work in laboratories) and mental. All councils agree that there should be more budget allocated to PhD extensions for COVID-related delays. Some PhD councils also indicate that their faculties are currently more strict with handing out regular extensions, however, according to the Dean, this should not be the case. Regarding teaching, within some faculties teaching hours have been increased. There are also some PhD candidates who have been infected by their students.
PhD scholarship experiment
There is still a discrepancy of information on the status of bursary students (e.g. supervisors not updated, defining difference between bursary and employee). With a new incoming batch of bursary PhD students, clarity of information is needed to ensure there are no issues arising teaching and rights of bursary PhD students. Although there is a push towards better transparency of information, many students (especially incoming) still perceive a gap of information in relation to the new rules. The Dean is continuously working on improvements of the communication related to the experiment. All updated information is now available online, but it is up to the individual PhD student to make sure that these points are clear to the supervisor.
The GSS is currently working on a platform that will display all university-wide PhD courses. It should be ready within six months. Furthermore, the GSS is establishing means for PhDs to improve their teaching skills. PhDs will be eligible to obtain their UTQ, the qualification for academic teaching. There is also support for PhDs who would like to teach in high school after their PhD (only in Dutch).
It has proved difficult to get PhDs in elected positions, such as the University Council and Faculty Councils. This is especially true for scholarship PhDs who have to be elected in the student factions. There are several examples of faculties where scholarship PhDs tried to get elected, but did not receive sufficient votes. This is a problem that GRIN and the PhD councils will collaborate on later, as the next university elections will be held in May. Information on why it is important to vote, as well as getting PhDs in high positions on the various lists, will be the priority.