Winter 2021 PhD platform meeting

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). Last Wednesday, we had a platform meeting where the following points were discussed:

COVID-19

There are different experiences regarding extensions in all faculties, but one thing is clear: there is a lot of uncertainty. Guidelines regarding the allocation of extensions would be beneficial in this light. However, in the discussion with Petra Rudolf, the message becomes clearer: “Everyone should try to finish within the allotted time – when this is not possible, there will be a regular inventory made, also in the coming years, regarding extensions. This should be discussed during the fourth-year interview.” This means that the extensions were not a one-off thing and should always be discussed with the supervisor first. The Dutch government has recently announced €162 million to be made available for young researchers facing delays. The university board has not yet clarified what share of this money will go to PhDs; GRIN will of course follow this development and try to make sure PhDs will be involved in the decision-making process.

Supervisor relations

This discussion was sparked by a three-part article in the University Newspaper (UK).  Giving the innate hierarchy in the PhD-supervisor relation, it is very hard to address these issues. For councils, when a PhD comes to you with such issues, it is recommended to offer support and direct them to the appropriate channels. The RUG has various structures in place for PhDs dealing with supervisor relation problems. These include: Peer support groups; PhD advisors; the PhD psychologist; confidential advisors (at the faculty or university level), and the occupational physician. The graduate schools are working on courses for PhD supervisors to prevent these problems.

Mental health issues

There remains to be a taboo on discussing mental health issues. Many PhD councils are organizing events to aid PhD candidates in dealing with these issues and the university has e-learning materials available, which have been used by hundreds of PhDs in the past year. There are very positive experiences with peer support groups, which are also organized by some councils.

University elections

There are university elections coming up and GRIN will organize an event in May regarding PhD-related issues. More info is coming later!

Autumn 2020 PhD platform meeting

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:

COVID-19

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.

Education opportunities

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).

PhD representation

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.