Training of PhD supervisors – evaluation of results

The Netherlands Centre of Expertise for Doctoral Education (NECPO) is organizing a meeting at Tilburg University on Friday 20 September 2019. Topic: exchange of experiences with the professionalization of PhD supervision. We will therefore, among other things, compare existing programs.


A few questions that we would like to address in this regard are the following. Do judgments of PhD students about their supervision give cause to support the PhD supervisors? Which subjects should be part of the programs? What is a realistic set-up in terms of time? Who should provide these programs and how can we determine whether they have an effect?


The registration for the meeting is closed.

Doctoral Project Meetings – a manual

Doing a PhD is a collaboration. Central to this is the PhD candidate, but many other people are involved too. They collaborate with the PhD candidate in order to make it as
successful as possible: supervisors, PhD mentors, and representatives
of the departments and Graduate School. The manual describes the Doctoral Project Meetings of all parties involved.

Throughout the PhD process, the collaboration includes a number of milestones; the mandatory progress meetings. These serve to facilitate and document the research
progress. The meetings are the place to explain things, make plans and evaluate results. Depending on the type of meeting, different people collaborating in a PhD process are involved.

Manual describing the meetings
This manual of the Delft Graduate school of Industrial Design Engineering describes who is present at which meeting, and explains who does what before, during, and after each meeting. And why. In the first year, five meetings serve to ensure that the PhD project gets a strong definition and gets off to a good start. In the later years up to the doctoral defense, there is a yearly progress meeting where the candidate gets feedback on the development of his skills. IDE GS Meeting Manual Sept 2018

Supporting External PhD Candidates

The Netherlands Expertise Centre for Doctoral Education and the Dual PhD Centre of the University of Leiden organize a workshop on supporting external PhD students on Friday October 12, 2018.


We have a large group of PhD students in the Netherlands who are not employed by the university but are still working on a doctoral research project. Although the revenue for the university is the same, these external PhD students often receive little attention and support. Often the supervisors form the only connection with the university and they are scarcely visible on the radar of graduate schools. While graduate schools can have added value for external PhD students too.

Examples of external PhD candidates are: (1) persons who (in addition to their job) work on a doctoral project completely in their own time; (2) persons who are given a limited amount of time, for example 1 day per week, to work in the boss’s time on the dissertation; (3) pensioners working on a doctoral project.

Workshop on External PhD candidates support

In this interactive workshop we pay attention to the question of how universities can optimally support external PhD students. Participants get a picture of the various programs that universities and other organizations in the Netherlands have developed for external PhD students. We report results from research on external PhD candidates. And external PhD students themselves will share their experiences with the participants.


Chairman of the day: Hans Sonneveld

Opening – by Johannes Magliano-Tromp (director of the Dual PhD Center)

The support of external PhD students – by Pieter Slaman (Dual PhD Center)

Experiences of external PhD students – including Jos de Jong & Anita van der Hulst

Research into external PhD candidates – by Inge van der Weijden (CWTS) & The best conditions for an external PhD project – by Hans Sonneveld (Expertise Centre)

Existing programs for external PhD students – Break out sessions
– Kerstin van Tiggelen, Expertise Centrum Buitenpromovendi
– Patty Leijten, Child Development and Education Research Institute, UvA
– Menno Fenger, Dutch School for Public Administration (NSOB)
– Heleen van Luijn, Netherlands Institute for Research and Promotion Supervision

Promising employees: added value? – Panel with employers
– Peter Edelman, Berenschot
– Daniël Meijer, Municipality of Leiden
– Caroline Hamm, Ministry of Defense

Stress among PhD candidates

38% of the PhD candidates at Leiden University are at risk of serious mental health problems. That is concluded by Inge van der Weijden and Ingeborg Meijer after having surveyed 250 PhD candidates and having interviewed twelve of them. Especially young and international candidates are at risk. Whether PhD candidates have an employment contract or not doesn’t affect their mental well-being, neither does autonomy or workload. However, how PhD candidates deal with their workload influences their mental health. This study used the same method as previous research at Flemish universities and found quite similar results. The full policy report is available in English and Dutch.

PhD candidates who take very long for the completion of their doctoral thesis. Report of a research project

Hans Sonneveld (2015, published in 2017). PhD candidates who take very long for the completion of their doctoral thesis. Report of a research project. Tilburg Law School.
Central questions in this report: What are the working conditions of PhD students who take more than five or six years for the completion of their dissertation? When did it become clear that the thesis would not be ready in time? What are the main causes of this delay? Does the long duration as such threaten a successful completion of the dissertation? What kind of support does the candidate need who is suffering from delay? In what way can we avoid this problem of delayed doctoral projects? Text. (in Dutch)

Professionals in Doctoral Education

Zinner e.a. (2016) Professionals in Doctoral Education. University of Vienna
There is no doubt, that the last decade has been marked by changes in Higher Education. These changes have in some areas been accompanied by an ascent of Higher Education Professionals. But although the area of doctoral education has especially been affected by structural changes the roles of the strongly developing supporting staff in this area so far has been neglected. We believe it is time to put Professionals in Doctoral Education under the spotlight. Who are they, what do they do, why are they so important? This handbook intends to provide hands-on and practical information on the roles and activities of doctoral education professionals. The proposed target audience are administrators in doctoral education, HR managers and academic leaders in higher education institutions. Modern doctoral education needs professional staff and this handbook aims at helping to reach this goal.  Text

Dissertations in heavy weather. Rejected dissertations of the Tilburg Law School

Hans Sonneveld (2016, published in 2017) Dissertations in heavy weather. Rejected dissertations of the Tilburg Law School. An analysis of the records of eleven theses that have been rejected in first instance by the dissertation committees. Questions: Who are these candidates? Do all categories (full time PhD students in an employee position, scholarship candidates, external candidates) meet these problems? Or are there specific categories that stand out? Who are the dissenting evaluators? What forms can take their criticism? How do the primary supervisors react on the objections? Section six deals with the substance of this report, the content of the criticism. If a dissertation is initially rejected,on which aspects does the criticism focus? The report concludes with the effects of the rejection for the candidates. Text (in Dutch)

Which grass is greener? Personal stories of PhDs on their careers inside and outside science

Inge van der Weijden, Evan de Gelder, Christine Teelken, Marian Thunnissen (2017) Which grass is greener? Personal stories of PhDs on their careers inside and outside science. 10 portraits of PhDs working outside the science & 3 personal stories of employers. Focus on transferable skills and recommendations for doctoral candidates and PhD recipients, universities and employers outside science (in Dutch). Link

Dissertation quality in the Netherlands

On January 20, 2017, the Netherlands Centre of Expertise for Doctoral Education organized by and with support from the TU Delft a conference on the quality of dissertations defended in the Netherlands. The immediate reason for organizing this day is that we know a lot in the Netherlands on completion rates of doctoral programs, the time to degree and labor market prospects of PhD recipients, but cannot draw firm conclusions regarding the quality of the end product of all these doctoral efforts. Based on the previously collected information and discussions during the discussion day we wrote a report: Dissertation Quality – Standings 2017. In Dutch.

The Role of Gender in the Employment, Career Perception and Research Performance of Recent PhD Graduates from Dutch Universities

Waaijer CJF, Sonneveld H, Buitendijk SE, van Bochove CA, van der Weijden ICM (2016) The Role of Gender in the Employment, Career Perception and Research Performance of Recent PhD Graduates from Dutch Universities. PLoS ONE 11(10): e0164784. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0164784
The study is based on a survey of persons who obtained a PhD from one of five Dutch universities between 2008 and early 2012. We show that gender differences in post-PhD careers are non-existent in some aspects studied, but there are small differences in other aspects, such as sector of employment, type of contract, involvement in teaching and management, and career perception. In contrast, male and female PhDs differ sharply on two factors. The first is field of PhD, females being heavily underrepresented in engineering and the natural sciences. The second is part-time employment, females being much more likely to work part-time than males, especially if they work in the Netherlands. Text