The collective labour agreements (CAO) for university personnel of September 2003 cancelled all local arrangements for PhD students. This implied that PhD students who joined the UT after 1 September 2003 did not get vouchers (tegoedbonnen) and transitional arrangements were made for PhD students who joined the UT before 1 September 2003. The vouchers provided an individual budget for career development and a reimbursement of the costs of the dissertation and a private PC. P-NUT discussed the consequences of the cancelled arrangements with the personnel department (PA&O), in particular the consequences for career development.
The goal was to find out the needs of PhD students and, if necessary, to find alternatives for the individual budget. Some other subjects were discussed in addition, like the quality of the workplace (office, desk and computer) and the relation between the supervisor (promoter) and the PhD student. For a better insight in the needs of PhD students, P-NUT and PA&O formulated a number of questions for PhD students. These questions were combined with the general UT investigation of the contentment among personnel. This investigation, carried out by IVA, took place in the summer of 2004. IVA made the results of the investigation available to P-NUT, as far as they concerned PhD students. Hereafter, the results are summarised. At the end some concluding remarks are made.
The questionnaire was filled out by 257 PhD students, among which were 204 AIO’s, 35 OIO’s, 9 other PhD students and 9 TWAIO’s. The response per faculty is given in Table 1.
Table 1: Response per faculty
Most PhD students are satisfied with their computer facilities; however, 25% of the PhD students at the faculties BBT and TNW is dissatisfied. Most PhD students are also content with their office space, although 20% at EWI, 25% at CTW and even 27% at TNW thinks the space is mediocre or too small. About 30% of the PhD students are dissatisfied with their desks. An exception is BBT, where the percentage is significantly lower (15%). The same holds for the satisfaction with the chair, although the opinions are a little more positive. The amount of storage space is insufficient for 20% of the PhD students at EWI, 25% at BBT, 31% at GW and even 34% at CTW and TNW.
The number of PhD students that agrees with the proposition “My supervisor discusses my career development with me on a regular basis” is slightly larger than the number that disagrees. Most of the PhD students agree with the proposition “My supervisor handles my questions and problems seriously”. About 70% of the PhD students agrees with the summarising proposition “In general I am satisfied with the way my supervisor acts”. Strikingly, 22% of the PhD students at GW and 15% at TNW disagree.
A third of the PhD students think they have sufficient possibilities to realise personal career goals at the UT, a quarter thinks this is not the case. Most PhD students (70%) think the possibilities for education are sufficient, only a small group (7%) disagrees. The majority of the PhD students (87.5%) did not attend a general competence course last year. The PhD students who attended a course gave a 7.1 (on a scale from 1 to 10) for the quality and a 6.7 for the value of the course for their work at the UT.
Job evaluation interview
About a fourth (26%) of the PhD students who work at the UT for over a year never had an evaluation interview or had the interview more than 2 years ago. The evaluation interview is taken seriously according to only 42% of the PhD students, 10% disagrees strongly with this.
Facilities like courses, congress visits, a pc and a library are considered to be of equal importance for their work by 38% of the PhD students. The other PhD students order these facilities, in general, as listed below.
1.A well functioning pc
2.The possibility to attend specialist courses
3.The possibility to visit a congress
4.A library at the university
5.The possibility to attend general competence courses
Most PhD students use a computer from their department. However, a considerable number of PhD students, especially at EWI and TNW, use a private PC. At TNW these PhD students mainly work at chemical engineering. At EWI the private PC users are distributed over all disciplines.
About half of the PhD students (47.5%) who responded received a voucher when they started at the UT. About half of this group was able to spend it for a goal specified by them. Table 2 gives an overview of how the vouchers were used.
Table 2: Use of voucher
Since the voucher has been cancelled, 8% of the PhD students do not have the funds to attend a course. For 3% of the PhD students a planned course had to be cancelled. Attending a course was disallowed once by the supervisor of 12% of the PhD students. In half of the cases the reason was the lack of funds.
The results of the questionnaire indicate that most of the PhD students are satisfied with the UT as employer and the facilities offered by the UT.
A vast majority thinks that the possibilities for career development are sufficient. Most of the respondents think that a specialist, project related course is more important than a general competence course. However, the general competence courses that have been offered by the UT since autumn 2004 (English writing, personal effectiveness) were well attended and approved well., which suggests that, although not supported by the results of the questionnaire, PhD students are indeed interested in general competent courses. As far as following courses outside the UT, the possibilities that PhD students have are mostly depending on group finances and policy. For some PhD students there are problems with respect to funding congress visits or courses. P-NUT expects this problem will get more pronounced in future since the personal budget has been cancelled.
There are some ‘problematic’ groups, where the quality of the workplace is concerned. A vast number of PhD students at TNW (mainly at chemical engineering) use their private PC at work. Furthermore a third of the PhD students is dissatisfied with their workplace (desk, chair and storage space). An exception is BBT; here, all workplaces were checked and, if necessary, adapted to the official (ARBO) guidelines. P-NUT advocates having this kind of check at all groups, coordinated by the UT or the faculties.
Finally it can be concluded that, in general, PhD students are content with their supervisor. Only a small group reports problems with the supervision or the way problems are solved. Although this group is small, P-NUT is concerned about their situation; PhD students depend for supervision, but also for approval to follow courses or conferences, or for discussing working terms (such as having a computer available at work, having appropriate working conditions) on their supervisor, who is often also the appraiser of their dissertation, and in addition the managing the groups finances. This can result in conflicting interests, making it difficult for PhD students to discuss problems. This applies to problems with the workplaces (pc’s), attending courses or congresses visits. It would be advisable to have an independent person in each faculty that can be consulted by PhD students, in case of communication problems with their supervisor.