Universiteit Leiden

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Monique Shaw

3 questions about the PhD survey

In recent weeks, all PhD students and supervisors have received an invitation for a PhD survey. Why was this survey launched? And what happens to the results? Director of the Graduate School Marian Klamer explains why it is worth setting aside 15 minutes to take part in the survey.

Why did you decide to conduct surveys among PhD students and their supervisors?

'We have over six hundred PhD students at the faculty. There are all kinds of ideas about that enormous group of people: what they should do, what they should be able to do. At the same time, we have little factual information. If someone raises a problem, we often don’t know whether it’s a general point or an individual issue. The survey is therefore intended to act as a kind of thermometer: it will give us serious and objective measurements of what is going well and what really needs to change.

We consciously chose to include the perspective of the supervisors in the survey as well. This is often not incorporated in discussions about the supervision of PhD students, but it is important. If a PhD student says, ‘I expect a few hours of supervision from my supervisor every week’, and the supervisor says, ‘I think four hours a month is reasonable’, there is some discrepancey in the expectations. So we would like to compare the feedback from these groups.'

How does this survey differ from the staff monitor, in which PhD students also took part?

'The personnel monitor was also about all kinds of things that are not directly related to PhDs themselves. We also saw this in the response rate: only 19 per cent of PhD students at our faculty completed the questionnaire. As a result, we can do virtually nothing with those results. Our new survey examines many more dimensions of the PhD itself and goes into more detail on specific issues. For instance, we explicitly ask about concerns and pressures surrounding the PhD process, and PhD students themselves can indicate what they encounter. Unlike the staff monitor, we also have open questions, so you can raise more personal points. That might take more time to analyse but we hope this will give us clearer information.'

The survey closes on 3 March. What will be the next steps then?

'We have planned six weeks to have the data analysed by an external agency. That will lead to a report, ready by mid-April, which we will share with the PhD students and supervisors. Then, of course, we will identify points that we need to improve and think about how to do that. In addition, we will indicate what is already going well. In our faculty, we are currently able to guide very many people successfully through the PhD process, so we are already doing something right. Then it is nice to hear what you are on the right track with.'

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