Prout workshop series: Engage your audience

Do you think it is important to talk about your research to a general audience? And would you like to learn how to do that effectively? Then we have a unique opportunity for you!

The Public Engagement Programme of Utrecht University is piloting a training series. In four afternoons, you will find your core message by learning how to pitch it to an 8-year-old, hone your blog-writing skills, learn about how and why public engagement is effective and which audience you can aim at, and how not to implode in front of a camera and a journalist. At the last evening, you will use your newly acquired skills to pitch the importance of your research to an audience of friends and family at Café Hofman. As this is a pilot, meant to develop a structural course for PhD’s, we will use your feedback to build this into an indispensable training for every PhD.

Tuesday 27 March, 15.00-18.00, Bestuursgebouw, Heidelberglaan 8, 033C
Tuesday 17 April, 15.00-18.00, Bestuursgebouw, Heidelberglaan 8, 033C
Tuesday 8 May, 15.00-18.00, Bestuursgebouw, Heidelberglaan 8, 033C
Tuesday 29 May, 15.00-18.00, Bestuursgebouw, Heidelberglaan 8, 033C
Wednesday 6 June, 20.30 Science Café at Hofman, Janskerkhof 17A

As there is only place for 10 participants, be sure to sign up quickly at

“Institutional action is needed”- a review of the PhD mental health symposium

The numbers are striking. Up to 25- 30% of UU PhD candidates experience significant stress-related mental health problems during their PhD. Many would not feel free to talk to their supervisors about these issues, and most voices resonate the need for change to come from above.

Such were the conclusions of the first symposium on PhD Mental Health held at UU last January 25th, organized by Prout, in cooperation with the UPP, University Council, and the Graduate School of Life Sciences.

The urgency felt by PhD’s to address the problem was highlighted by the popularity of the event, with more than 120 participants attending an event fully booked weeks ahead of time. This urgency become more poignant when it was surveyed that 38% of participants had sought professional advice for stress-related issues, and 26% would not talk about these issues with their supervisor.

The symposium had two aims: “What can you do” – to exchange personal tips and tricks for a healthy PhD, and “What can the UU do?” – to bring this underplayed issue to the attention of UU policymakers and supervisors.


In the first part of the symposium, three experts on PhD mental health shared their expertise. Dr. Inge van der Weijdenfrom Leiden University presented research concluding that 40% of Leiden University PhDs had mental health issues – a figure much higher than corresponding figures for non-academic same-age same-education counterparts. The psychologist appointed at Delft University to address PhD-issues, Paula Meesters, described the mental health support system for PhDs at TU Delft,  inspired the audience with a short medidation session, and emphasized the importance of  having a variety of coping skills. The third expert, Dr. Amber Davis, a PhD Coach at Happy PhD, gave personal advise on how to do more by working less, but also stressed that this is a collective issue, not an individual one.

The talks were followed by an interactive panel discussion. The panel was moderated by Janneke Plantenga, the new dean of the Law, Economics and Governance Faculty, with Hans de Bresser (vice-dean in Geosciences), Estrella Montoya (PhD mentor and Jr. Ass. Prof at Social and Behavioural Sciences), and Jeff Smit (PNN representative) participating. The guest speakers considered having transparent two-way communication between PhD and supervisors and setting clear boundaries and expectations when it comes to working hours and thesis requirements, as important steps a PhD can take. However, the PhD’s presented the flip-side of this argument, stating that they feel the atmosphere and openness of a department is largely determined by the supervisor, and that falling in line with pre-formed expectations is imperative to avoid the “complainer-label” and to have decent working relationships with those in the department.

Once audience member noted – to a rousing applause from the crowd –how shockingly little attention and awareness there is for general wellbeing, career training, and supervision quality in academia when compared  to industry and the public sector. The panel and audience seemed to agree that structural improvement of PhD mental health must be spear-headed and supported by policy from above. An example of how this could be achieved is mandatory supervision training for professors.

The organizers were very pleased with the involvement of and interaction between PhDs and policy makers. They hope this event marks the start of collaborative push to change culture and policy at Utrecht University.

Missed it? Check here the presentations, know whom to contact if you have problems, or consider attending the stress management course set up by Prout and UPP with the Graduate School of Natural Sciences, open to all UU PhDs.

We also assembled a PhD Wellbeing Guide based on the input of the symposium. 

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Newsletter January 2018

Dear PhD Candidate,

In 2017 we celebrated Prout’s 30th anniversary. We marked the occasion with a celebration at the Faculty Club, where we were joined by a number of Prout alumni – and even one of the founding members – who shared their experiences from their time at Prout. Last year also saw a number of fun, informative and successful events such as the annual PhD Tax Lecture, our information market on how to finish your PhD, and of course our trademark PhD drinks events.

For 2018, I would like to wish you all the best on behalf of the Prout board and all our representatives! At Prout, we hope to make this year as successful as the last one.

Best wishes,
Elmar Schmidt
Prout Secretary

Mental Health
The psychological well-being of PhD’s has received much attention since a 2017 publication reported that PhD’s have a higher rate of mental health problems than their other, highly educated, counterparts. At our own university, recent surveys undertaken by the GEO-GS and GSLS have shown similar results. Are you interested in this issue, or would like to hear tips and tricks to keeping sane during your PhD? Register for our UU-wide symposium on January 25th here.

Entrepreneurship and your PhD

Have you ever entertained the idea of becoming an entrepreneur? Prout and the UU-wide start-up incubator, UtrechtInc, are organizing an event for PhD’s who want to know more about building a start-up. A interactive workshop given by a coach from UtrechtInc will provide practical examples and fresh ideas for interested participants. Come join us on March, 22 at 4:00pm – ± 6:00 pm at UtrechtInc, Padualaan 8. Registration is required.

Engaging the public in your research
Finishing a PhD takes years of hard work. Sadly, your hard-won results usually fail to reach the non-academic audience. Utrecht University has started a public engagement programme to help PhD’s share their knowledge with the public. In the future, the UU and Prout will be collaborating on events meant to help researchers widen the awareness of their work. We will keep you updated on any developments!

Update from Utrecht PhD Party (UPP)
Recently, the UPP has brought important issues to the University Board’s attention. We requested that PhD’s be given the option of providing a layman’s talk just prior to a PhD defence. We also discussed parental leave issues. Another important issue was this year’s “graduate agenda.” The graduate agenda address how the PhD-trajectory can be improved, and what rights PhDs are entitled to. – We want to know your opinion on all these topics! – If you would like to comment on any of these issues, or want to inform us of other issues, please send us a message on FB or via email on

Scientists’ labour unions
If you feel the need to join a labour union, for example to ensure a fair treatment in the workplace, then there are two options for you as a scientist: the FNV and the VAWO.

The FNV is a federation of Dutch trade unions, with a specific branch for scientists, and is committed to maintaining and improving PhD working conditions. Membership can be reimbursed via the UU, and this gives you benefit from workplace-related legal assistance, tax advice, and reduced insurance costs. Contact: mail and website.

The VAWO represents the permanent and temporary staff of universities, research institutions and academic medical centers, and is committed to the quality of academic education and research. They offer professional legal assistance for members. Membership costs 65 euros per year. Contact: mail and website.

Upcoming Events
Thu 18 Jan: New Years drinks with JongOBP
Thu 25 Jan: PhD Mental Health Symposium
In February: Prout’s Tax lecture
Thu 22 Mar: Entrepreneurship and your PhD, with UtrechtInc

Newsletter October 2017

Dear PhD candidates of Utrecht University,

Did you know that in the presence of cats people are more relaxed? This was shown in research done by persistent PhD candidates like you and me.

While I am hammering away on my PhD in geosciences, I also try to aid my fellow PhDs by chairing Prout. Prout represents all PhDs of Utrecht University, including international, external and bursary PhDs. To this end, we want to get to know you, the reasons why you love doing a PhD and the reasons that you perhaps sometimes don’t.

Maybe we can help you out? You can always contact us at, visit our website or have a chat with us during one of the activities organized by Prout. Keep an eye on our Facebook to stay up to date. In case you are appealed to represent your fellow PhDs, join the team of Prout representatives.

Lastly, consider the following saying, it may keep you sane while completing your PhD: “A PhD who makes no mistakes, never makes anything”.

Warm wishes,
Mariska Schimmel
Prout Chair

Pieter Duisenberg elected as president VSNU
The Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) has appointed a new President. Pieter Duisenberg, a former member of Parliament for the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, (VVD) will take over as of October 1st 2017. As President of the VSNU, Pieter will head the organization responsible for representing Dutch Universities to other governmental and civic organizations, including parliament.

His appointment has raised some eyebrows, because of the views he held while in office in the Second Chamber. ReThink UvA has launched a petition against his appointment.

Lustrum Prout
Prout is a year older! This year, we will be celebrating 30 years of representing all PhDs at Utrecht from many, if not all, Graduate Schools.

During these years, we have not only organized networking and informational events, but we have also influenced the legal status and working conditions, psychological support for PhDs, and the rights and obligations of the employers.

Success of the UPP
The Utrecht PhD Party (UPP) has been elected for University Council, thanks to you! The University Council is an important part in the decision making process at Utrecht University, as they have the final say in policy making, and advice the University board.

Although they have just started, they have wasted no time to put PhD matters on the agenda. They say that, in fact, it will be one of the key points that the whole council will focus on this academic year. To learn more about their plans, take a look at their website, or follow them on Facebook and twitter to get the latest updates.

Prout is looking for representatives
Are you interested in what Prout does and want to represent your fellow PhDs? We have various vacancies for the new academic year.

We welcome anyone who wants to get involved, but are currently in need of representatives from veterinary medicine, and law and economics, as well as a representative wishing to be our secretary.

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