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

Temporary contracts: effect on job satisfaction and personal lives of recent PhD graduates

Cathelijn J. F. Waaijer • Rosalie Belder • Hans Sonneveld • Cornelis A. van Bochove • Inge C. M. van der Weijden: Temporary contracts: effect on job satisfaction and personal lives of recent PhD graduates. In this study, we assess the effects of temporary employment on job satisfaction and the personal lives of recent PhD graduates. Compared to PhDs employed on a permanent contract, PhDs on a temporary contract are less satis?ed with their terms of employment, especially if they have no prospect of permanence. Temporary contracts with no prospect of permanence also decrease satisfaction with job content. Conversely, self-employment increases satisfaction with job content. Educational level required for the job also in?uences job satisfaction to a large degree: working below PhD level negatively affects job satisfaction. Finally, the type of contract affects different aspects of the personal lives of PhDs, such as the ability to obtain a mortgage, the stability of family life, and the possibility to start a family.

Text: 2016 Temporary contracts Waaijer etc. Interview about this research, page 13 Research Europe.

Your doctoral adventure, your story

A TuDelft magazine for PhD candidates…. Your doctoral adventure, your story.

“This Magazine is a platform for PhD candidates (Noeska Smit and Eleni Papadonikolaki), alumnus (Robert Nieuwenhuizen), DE trainers (Margaret Welten & Niels Tekke), a supervisor (Fulvio Scarano) and industry (Andre Steenhuis from Allseas) to share with you the importance of the skills that are acquired and how you will apply them to your PhD and future careers. The magazine also shows: facts and figures, examples and insights of doctoral candidates about the content of their current job and their acquired skills; the DE competences and skills model; description of the competences and skills; the competency guide to help to review competences and performance levels.”

Link: Doctoral-education-magazine