PhD Mental Health Symposium

uusaneposter_final-01Prout is co-organizing a symposium on PhD mental health that will take place on January 25th 2018, at Utrecht University. The event is title “Keeping sane in your PhD – What can you do? What can UU do?”, and it is co-organized with the Utrecht PhD Party and with the University Council.  Check the programme and register here.

Report working conference Graduate Schools

On Thursday the 23rd of March, the Graduate Schools organized their third Working Conference as a part of the Graduate Agenda. During a sunny afternoon, PhD candidates, deans and vice-deans, policy advisors and more discussed current trends and challenges in PhD education. Developments at Utrecht University were complemented with examples from other universities in the Netherlands and abroad.

Marijk van der Wende, Dean of Graduate Studies, started the afternoon addressing current national and international challenges and issues brought up by PhD candidates, LERU, KNAW and other institutions. PhDs in Life Sciences have written a manifesto to ask for more time to develop themselves, KNAW has published the report “The PhD System Works” about career development of PhDs, the University of Amsterdam PhD Network stated that more than one third of PhDs are clinically depressed. On the other hand, quality of PhD experience and programs are a great priority to European research university, as shown in the LERU advise paper about the quality culture in PhD education published in 2016.

Having started in September 2016, three working groups led by Janneke Plantenga (vice-dean REBO) worked on defining the most important issues and developments in PhD education at Utrecht University. In preparation for recommendations to the Graduate Committee, Plantenga presented the starting point of the working groups, and the three main topics: training and skills, community and identity and quality assurance processes. “PhD candidates are an important part of our university for a rather long period of time, and we – as a university – invest rather a lot in our PhD candidates.”

David Bogle, Head of the University College London Graduate School and chair of the LERU Doctoral Studies Community, elaborated on the LERU advise paper “Maintaining a quality culture in doctoral education” (March 2016) and gave several examples of how he does this at UCL. “Skills development is the cornerstone of the modern doctorate.” Furthermore, at UCL there’s a great attention to the quality of supervisors. For example, there is a supervisor approval process with mandatory training and a PhD supervisors forum.

Another (inter)national development that’s very relevant to Utrecht University as well, is the growing diversity of our PhD population. Next to PhDs that are employed by the university, we welcome more and more (international) bursary PhDs. Jan Fransoo, Dean of Graduate Studies at Eindhoven University of Technology: “At Eindhoven, we want bursary PhDs to be treated basically like employed PhDs. They have the same rights and obligations.” In order to make this possible, every department who wants to invite a bursary PhD to do their research in Eindhoven, should make sure there are enough resources to support the candidate when it comes to participating in courses or conferences.

Roland Bertens, PhD candidate, and member of the Graduate Student Think Tank, shared some PhD perspectives with the audience. He emphasized on the importance of a couple of topics for PhDs: teaching, supervision, courses and training, and the status of international/bursary candidates. He stated there is a great need for better communication about rights and obligations of all PhD candidates, and for bundling courses and training for PhDs ánd (future) supervisors.

With several ‘inspiration tables’ on the first floor, the participants in the working conference were invited to discuss challenges and solutions in PhD educations along the lines of community and identity, training and skills and quality assurance processes. PhD candidates presented their ideas and good practices, but the Graduate Schools, Career Services, Alumni Relations and others were represented as well with examples and Q&A sessions.

The working conference was concluded with a panel discussion with two PhD candidates: Tina Venema (Prout) and Haoran Ye (CUSA), dean Gerrit van Meer, vice-dean Ted Sanders, David Bogle and Jan Fransoo. The panelists realized that there’s a tension because of different interests of PhD candidates, research group leaders, supervisors and the university as a whole. Sanders: “PhDs are learning to become a professional, whereas supervisors have a main interest in the progress of research projects.”Venema: “For PhDs, doing research is the number one priority. That’s why courses for PhDs shouldn’t be mandatory”. Van Meer: “The question is: what are the final objectives of the PhD program?”.

There’s also the argument that skills development affect the progress of candidates negatively. But Bogle and Fransoo refute this view: they believe good progress is encouraged by the mindset of the Graduate School, but also by good and professional guidance. The improvement of the progress of candidates shouldn’t go at the expense of skills development. Bogle: “Career skills are not only expected outside of academia. But PhD candidates are the sole driver of their development.”
Another issue is the different statuses of PhD candidates that exist, as well as differences of rights and obligations. Ye: “There are a lot of differences between employed PhDs and bursary candidates. How can we equalize this more?” Ye mentions examples like the consequences of delay and access to courses. “Chinese candidates aren’t used to discussing about what’s expected from them with their supervisor.” International bursary candidates experience a lack of clarity when it comes to their opportunities to follow courses. Van Meer: “An aspect that hasn’t been mentioned before is money: how do we finance Graduate Schools? This question is related to the availability of courses for different groups of PhDs.”

Plantenga concluded the working conference and summed up the main takeaways for the PhD Agenda. The PhD candidate as a driver of their own development should be open for opportunities, but the university has the responsibility to offer professional supervision, to enhance equality between candidates and to realize a welcoming and transparent PhD community for (international) candidates. The working conference this afternoon has provided important input for the PhD Agenda. In June, the Graduate Committee will discuss the final recommendations of the PhD Agenda working groups.

Newsletter May 2017

See our newsletter of May 2017 below!

Dear fellow PhD candidate,

With spring finally well on its way, at Prout we’ve been spending most of our time looking ahead. To be able to keep on representing PhD interests in the university council, we need to elect some new PhD candidates in the election that is only about a week away. The Utrecht PhD Party (UPP) is a new party specifically devoted to your interests as a PhD candidate, as you can read in their new programme. If you can, please take the time to vote next week, as it tremendously helps representing PhD interests at the university.

Finally, if you’re nearing the end of your project, the Prout information market that’s coming up will be instrumental in making the final stretch just that little bit easier, which I think we can all use in those hectic last few months.

Kind regards,


University Council elections (URaad)

Between 8 and 10 May 2017, there will be elections for the University Council. One party will be making sure that your voice is heard: the UPP, the Utrecht PhD Party. If you’d like to have your rights defended on University level, vote for them! See their complete program on their website and check their Facebook to stay up-to-date.

More information on the upcoming elections can be found here. An election debate is held on Wednesday 3 May at Parnassos, so if you like to form an opinion on the different parties, go there!

Quick consultation scheme for problems in your PhD

Are you having problems with your PhD? Many things can cause stress and troubles! In light of recent scientific and local publications on mental stress, we have assembled a quick-consultation scheme to help you tackle whatever comes your way.

Check our overview page to know what to do, and whom to contact.

Information market on dissertation and defence

Prout is hosting an Information Market for PhD candidates, about everything you need to know in the final stages of your PhD, such as defending your dissertation and printing your thesis. We’re inviting interesting speakers as well as publishers to offer their services to you.

Come join us on Thursday 18 May from 5pm to 8pm at the University Library Uithof (Boothzaal).

PhD candidates wanted for representation!

PNN, the Promovendi Network Netherlands, is looking for a PhD candidate to join them as a board member. If you’re interested in doing PhD representation at a national level, would like to build experience as a board member, if you are a teamplayer, pro-active and decisive, and are available 6-8hrs/week, then e-mail to get in touch!

Please see the full ad on Academic Transfer here.

Do you know the FNV, a union that has a specific branch for scientists?

FNV is a federation of Dutch trade unions with a branch for scientists. PhDs are workers, and should benefit from all the rights granted by the collective agreement. FNV is committed to maintaining and improving your working conditions and its member benefit from legal assistance in the workplace, tax advice and reduced insurance cost. Membership is max. 16 euros per month and can be reimbursed by UU. The trade union official of UU is Marco Veloo (

Quick consultation scheme for problems in your PhD

Problems in your PhD?

What kind of PhD problems?


“I have problems with my supervisor/department”

In this case you should contact the confidential adviser or mentor in your department. If you do not know who it is, ask your secretary. The confidential adviser is someone working at your department with whom you can have confidential conversations about issues you might have. They can provide some practical tips and suggestions, and for more profound/structural problems, they can refer to a coach, psychologist, or other specialist.

If you prefer to talk to someone outside of your department, there are two options:

  1. The welfare occupational officer of the university, They are social workers who can help you with minor issues or refer you to other professionals. English language could be a barrier.
  2. The staff confidential adviser (ombudsman), . The staff confidential adviser can help employees who have complaints, grievances or questions regarding conditions or events at work. In some case, given your authorization, they can act as mediators between two parties.
“I would like to improve my research/academic skills”

Your supervisor and promoter are the main persons with whom to discuss problems in the conduct of your research. If you think you should improve your academic skills you could discuss with them and with the secretary of your department. There might be possibilities to follow courses, trainings or a summer school.

“The PhD is a bit overwhelming. Can we get any support to better tackle/cope with challenges?”

There are in principle opportunities for coaching at the university, (info in Dutch) but it has to be approved by your supervisor. So, first discuss it with the supervisor, and/or the confidential adviser of your department.

“I’m concerned with my mental health (feeling stressed, anxious, unfocused, or depressed). Can I talk to a psychologist?”

Yes, but (for now) there are no psychologists available for PhDs or staff at Utrecht University. Here are your options.

  1. Huisarts/GP. Make an appointment with your GP and ask if there is a psychologist available at your health centre (gezondsheid centrum/ praktijk). The consultations with the psychologist at the health centre are free when you have a Dutch health insurance; but not every health centre has a psychologist. Sometimes there are only social workers. If you have serious problems or a depression, your huisarts can refer you to a mental health clinic who will contact you for an intake. The costs are partly covered by the insurance (depending on coverage).
  2. Contact the confidential adviser in your department. They might have contacts of external psychologists that they recommend. In this case you have to cover the costs.

If none of these options are helpful, or you have other questions, feel invited to contact us at


Expand your career possibilities during BCF Career Event on 11 May 2017!

Are you almost finished with your PhD and interested in job opportunities? Do you want to know more about the current labour market? Visit BCF Career Event 2017, the largest career fair for (PhD)-students, postdocs and (young) professionals in the sectors Life Sciences, Chemistry, Food and Pharma, on 11 May in Jaarbeurs Utrecht, the Netherlands. Meet relevant employers, get your CV checked and talk to a career coach about your career. Also join the programme and get inspired through presentations, workshops and participate in interactive group sessions.

For free online registration until 3 May and more information visit!

Nationale DenkTank zoekt meedenkers

Ben jij wo-student, pas afgestudeerd of promovendus? Ben je creatief, onafhankelijk en ondernemend? Ben je in staat om te werken in een multidisciplinair team en wil je graag bijdragen aan het verbeteren van de maatschappij? Wil je je daarnaast ontwikkelen en je netwerk uitbreiden? Meld je dan uiterlijk 19 april aan voor de Nationale DenkTank 2017!

De Nationale DenkTank is een vier maanden durend project waaraan ongeveer twintig jonge academici fulltime deelnemen. Van half augustus tot half december werkt het team, onder begeleiding van McKinsey & Company, aan visionaire, creatieve én praktische oplossingen voor een urgent maatschappelijk vraagstuk.

Met ‘Iedereen perspectief op werk’ staat de Nationale DenkTank 2017 in het teken van sociale innovatie. Bij het Nederland van morgen hoort een inclusieve arbeidsmarkt waar iedereen aan mee kan doen. Hoe kunnen we de kansen die de arbeidsmarkt van de toekomst biedt zo stimuleren en benutten dat iedereen in Nederland perspectief heeft op werk en een bijdrage kan leveren aan onze samenleving?

Meer weten? Kijk op  of kom naar de informatieavond op donderdag 6 april om 18.30 uur bij THNK (Keizersgracht 264 in Amsterdam). Aanmelden voor de informatieavond kan via

Workshop on Science Outreach and Communication for researchers!

Within the context of the Erasmus+ network a workshop on Science Outreach and Communication is organized. The framework is Astrobiology, but the workshop focuses on general outreach and communication skills and is therefore suitable for any researcher.

The workshop is geared towards PhD candidates and postdocs, and aims to teach them a set of skills to develop their own communication strategy.

The workshop is not to train science communicators, but to train scientist on how to communicate their ow research.

More information can be found on…/

The registration deadline has been extended to March 30 and several scholarships are available for UU participants.

Researchers wanted!

Euraxess, a European network focussed on supporting and assisting mobility of researchers, is going to improve intersectoral mobility: employers from the academic world stepping into other sectors. This is not always an easy step to take as institutes do generally not offer tailermade support. Furthermore companies are not always aware of this large group of very talented employees.

Euraxess will develop instruments to build a bridge between potential employers and employees. For example, meet and greet sessions, better information for both the researchers and employers, a platform or courses.

Needs of researchers, including PhD-candidates
To develop the right tools Euraxess would like to receive input on the needs and expectations of researchers.

Researchers can help by filling in the survey before 31 March. It takes about 8 minutes. If you have any questions about Euraxess or this survey, you can contact Ilse Schenk, national coordinator,

Click here for the survey.

Invitation for PhD representatives: workshop Vagueness Zone

Workshop for PhD representatives

After the previous workshop’s success on how to have effective meetings, we’d like to invite you to another workshop for PhD representatives on ‘The Vagueness Zone‘, on Wednesday April 12th, 16:00-18:00 at the Van Unnik 9.16. Afterwards, there will be drinks at The Basket.

The ‘vagueness zone’ is a phenomenon in meetings, where one party does not want to commit to something, but rather wants to stay vague in promises. It occurs in businesses, politics, but also in science. The question is: how can you deal with it? Are there ways to counter vague promises? That’s where this workshop may help.

All PhD representatives at Utrecht University, the UMCU, RIVM and PNN, are welcome to join. There is room for max 20 PhD representatives, so sign up quicklyif you want to join by mailing Bart at

We look forward to meeting you at this event!

Best wishes,