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