Young Academy wants to extend right to be PhD promoter

All university professors should be allowed to be PhD promoters.
Photo: Guy Ackermans

All university professors, and not just associate professors, should be allowed to be PhD promoters, or chief supervisors, says the Dutch Young Academy. The Wageningen PhD Council doubts whether PhD students would benefit from this.

In 2017, the Dutch rules changed so that it is no longer only full professors who have the right to be PhD promoters, or lead supervisors. But the Dutch Universities Association VSNU stipulated that this right was only extended to associate professors. Not all universities are playing by the rules, the Young Academy’s investigations showed. The two Amsterdam universities are more flexible and allow assistant professors who hold a PhD themselves to play the role of PhD promoter too.

The Young Academy argues for making the Amsterdam flexibility the norm. ‘All assistant professors who, as the leading expert in the field, supervise a PhD student should be able to act as promoter,’ says Martijn Wieling, vice chair of The Young Academy. Quality requirements should be put in place, and universities should be prepared to withdraw promoter rights if there is reason to do so.

The Wageningen PhD Council wonders whether PhD students stand to benefit from a further extension of the right to be promoter.  

Job Claushuis, Wageningen PhD-Council

‘The important thing for us is not so much who is the promoter as whether the PhD student receives good supervision,’ says Job Claushuis. ‘The quality of the supervision at WUR is generally good, but the intensity leaves a lot to be desired. The term ‘daily supervision’ is just a form of words. PhD students often have to fight to get two hours of supervision a month. It is questionable whether that will change if assistant professors get to be promoters. Especially if it means more PhD students coming to Wageningen. Then the problem will just get bigger.’

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