PhD candidates want to tackle stress and work pressure in WUR Council

Five Wageninger PhD candidates stand for election for a spot on the WUR Council next year.
From left to right: Max Finger Bou, Bram Droppers, Roald Pijpker, Amy van der Heijden and Judith Poelman. Photo: Albert Sikkema

The elections will be held in June. Two of the five will be elected to be council members.

Resource asked the candidates which issues they would like to tackle while on the WUR Council. Their answers reveal that PhD candidates experience a lot of stress and work pressure during their doctorate and ask the university for better support.

Who are the candidates, and what do they think is the primary issue that the WUR Council should bring forth and solve?

1.   Amy van der Heijden, PhD candidate at Human Nutrition & Health and Strategic Communication: ‘Many Wageninger PhD candidates are unable to finish their programme within four years. WUR should contribute better conditions and preconditions to allow PhD candidates to finish within that time span.’

2.   Judith Poelman, PhD candidate at Hydrology and Quantitative Water Management: ‘It is important for policy to offer solutions for the longer-term. There is a realistic risk of high work pressure impeding the quality of research and the personal development and well-being of PhD candidates. I think that policy should offer structural solutions to create more space within the time that PhD candidates have.’

3.   Roald Pijpker, PhD candidate at Health & Society and Rural Sociology: ‘I aim to ensure a work environment that promotes health and well-being, as these are prerequisites for professional development and high-quality research. Instead of only focusing on what goes wrong – for instance reducing high workload, I also want to focus on what goes well – for instance collaborating rather than competing – and scale that up.’

4.   Bram Droppers, PhD candidate at Water Systems & Global Change: ‘Stress is an issue among PhD candidates. And another point: I think there should be more focus on the development of broad skills for PhD candidates, such as teaching, consultancy and get acquainted with other disciplines. Not all PhD candidates pursue a path in research after obtaining their PhD, which is why a proper foundation should be laid for their further professional life.’

5.   Max Finger Bou, PhD candidate at Microbiology: ‘My main concern is PhD candidates’ mental health and the lack of mechanisms to prevent and alleviate mental disorders induced by work pressure and stress. While our work load increases steadily, the support given by the university is insufficient to ensure our psychological well-being and our professional development.’

Wageninger PhD candidates can vote from 3 to 11 June. After the summer break, two of the candidates will take place on the WUR Council for a one-year term.

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