MyPhD has replaced Hora Est

As of the 14th of January 2019, Hora Est has been replaced by MyPhD, which is the new PhD-candidates monitoring system of Utrecht University. All processes related to the dissertation, from the admission to the PhD track to submitting the dissertation, are registered in this system. Manuals for MyPhD can be found here.

Information Market

Prout is organizing an Information Market for PhD Candidates about all you need to know about the final stage of your PhD, such as defending your dissertation, printing your thesis and more. There will be a number of printing companies present that will offer their services to you, allowing you to compare their offers.

In good Prout tradition, we will conclude the event with drinks!

Come get a helpful info sheet with tip and tricks for your defense, and/or negotiate a good price for printing your thesis on Thursday 14 June from 17:30 to 20:00 in the foyer of the Educatorium! You can drop by at any time.

Where: The Foyer of the Educatorium (Uithof (Utrecht Science Park))
When: 17:30 – 20:00

Visit the Facebook event for more information

10 Recommendations for improving PhD wellbeing

On January 25th 2018 we raised attention to the issue of PhD mental health at the “Keeping sane in your PhD” symposium. After all the inspiring and constructive discussions it was time to bring the issue to greater attention of the whole University.

With all the input from the symposium we – Prout, UPP and a representative from the Life Sciences PhD council – wrote a letter to the board of Utrecht University with 10 recommendations to improve PhD wellbeing. Read the full letter here.

These recommendations will be discussed with the UU board, on April 23rd (15h00-17h00) in a university council meeting (Bestuursgebouw room 0.33G). You are most welcome to attend! Here’s the FB event. The more people show up, the better!

Recommendations to improve PhD mental health and well-being


1. Appoint a full-time PhD psychologist – make it easy for PhDs who are struggling to get specialized professional help.

2. Offer free courses on transferable skills – these courses can optimize the PhD process, as well as strengthen skills that are valued outside of academia.

3. Be transparent about requirements for PhDs – “make the implicit explicit” regarding duties and rights, including (in)formal rules that are UU-wide and specific requirements of departments.

4. Properly implement a PhD mentoring system – each PhD should have an appointed mentor. The mentor should be a neutral person, with whom the PhD can talk about the process of the PhD. Mentors should proactively check on PhDs (once/twice a year).

5. Offer training to PhD supervisors – encourage supervisors to take courses on PhD supervision.

6. Monitor the quality, satisfaction and problems of PhD supervision – at the moment PhD supervision is not adequately assessed. Finding ways to systematically monitor supervision quality would help to develop processes to solve problems.

7. Instate career coaching for PhDs focusing on academic and non-academic careers – the availability of career officers, career-minded trainings and events can decrease the anxiety linked to a future career.

8. Organize introduction sessions for new PhDs, creating Graduate School PhD cohorts – this can be partly UU-wide, and partly the responsibility of  faculties/departments. Having cohorts of PhDs starting at the same time contributes to social cohesion.

9. Create a welcoming and inclusive environment, explicitly including internationals – e.g. from UU and faculty communication (in English), to an active culture of inclusion within each department.

10. The whole UU is co-responsible for ensuring that a proper support system is available to all PhDs – the above stated measures would constitute such a support system, which can only be built with the engagement of all UU, from the higher to the most local level: UU management, faculties, graduate schools, departments, and research groups.

Newsletter February

Word from the chair

Dear PhD Candidate,

How are you feeling? According to several studies about one-third of us is feeling depressed. Could it be you? Don’t be embarrassed, you are not alone! Talk about it so people can help.

In response to the prevalent mental health problems among PhDs, Prout organized a Mental Health Symposium together with UPP and GSLS. Read the article to find out what came out of the symposium.

The need for mental health support is also recognized at other universities. For example, TU Delft has a fulltime PhD psychologist who was recently interviewed by the NRC. The UVA will start a project to improve the mental wellbeing of their PhDs, which includes an online screening and prevention tool for common psychological issues, a health week with activities for mental and physical health, and psychological consultation.

These are promising developments and set an example for other universities. Now, it is time for Utrecht University to invest in your mental wellbeing.

Yours sincerely,
Mariska Schimmel
Prout Chair

Mental Health
The UU must take action on PhD training, supervision and mental health.

This was one of the conclusions of the PhD mental health symposium that brought together 130 PhD candidates and UU policy-makers to discuss what can be done to improve PhD wellbeing. Check the summary of the event, the presentations, and other resources on our website.

A result of the symposium is the PhD wellbeing guide: collective wisdom on how to keep yourself happy in your PhD and life. The guide also mentions what the university should do to improve PhD wellbeing.

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.

Tax lecture
This March, Prout, in cooperation with tax advisors of the Federation of Dutch Trade Unions (FNV), will hold an interactive tax advising session for PhDs. Do you know what all your rights and responsibilities are as a taxpayer? Could you use the advice of a professional? Then register for the Tax Lecture! Sessions are held for both Dutch and foreign employees.

Join us on March 8th, 17:30-19:00 at the Janskerkhof 2/3. Click here for more details and to register.

The UU Ombudsman: Paul Herfs
At the University of Utrecht, we have an ombudsman: Paul Herfs. With him, PhD candidates can discuss sensitive and confidential issues such as performance review, dismissal issues, problems affecting PhD candidates, working conditions, returning to work after chronic illness and clashes with colleagues.

Learn more about him here.

Thesis printing workshop
Would you like to know everything on getting your booklet printed? Family business Ridderprint will give a workshop in which they will explain the ins and outs of getting your dissertation ready to be printed. They will instruct you on important aspects, such as how long the process takes, what options are available to you and how you should prepare the document prior to submitting it for printing. It’s on!

On Thursday 12 April from 16:00-17:00, in the Van Unnik building, room 210, with drinks afterwards in the Basket. Please register for the event here!

Want to spread your knowledge outside of your scientific bubble? Here is your opportunity to give a layman’s talk! De Booghkring is society for higher educated people with acquired brain impairment. This society organises monthly Science Cafés in Leidsche Rijn and they are looking for researchers who can give a lecture in Dutch. For more information, visit their webpage, or email Miranda Thoen.

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 especially aimed at PhDs. The pilot consists of four training sessions and a grand evening to showcase your newly acquired skills. More information can be found here.

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

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.

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