PhD students don’t dare switch

Many PhD candidates don’t dare switch supervisor if they aren’t happy with the relationship.
Dividing roads Photo: Shutterstock

They are afraid this would damage their career, according to a survey by the PhD Network Netherlands (PNN). The interest group organized a large survey among 1600 PhD candidates last spring. About 43 per cent of the respondents have a supervisor who sometimes exhibits ‘questionable behaviour’: they belittle the high workload, put pressure on PhD candidates to take on extra tasks or insist on being a co-author despite not having contributed much.

About 43 per cent have a supervisor who sometimes exhibits ‘questionable behaviour’

One in eight PhD candidates has considered switching supervisor. But the survey shows that only 18 per cent of that group actually took this step. Almost half the respondents who would like a different supervisor did not dare suggest this for fear they would be unable to finish their PhD or because they were worried the switch would damage their career. 

The survey by the PhD Network has implications for Wageningen because a quarter of the 1600 PhD candidates were at Wageningen. PNN calls for simple procedures and for independent ombudsmen to be appointed who can intervene on behalf of the PhD candidate.

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