New research on the well-being of Radboud University PhD students

23 Apr 2021

A new survey by Global Staff Services is intended to provide in-depth insight into the well-being of Radboud University PhD students. ‘I really hope to be able to implement improvements, but maybe I’m too optimistic.’

Andra Maciuca, a new staff member at Global Staff Services, was hired to thoroughly investigate the situation of PhD students at Radboud University and Radboudumc. During her internship at the same department, she investigated the well-being of international PhD students. ‘Our most important finding was that the majority of PhD students suffer from high levels of stress,’ says Maciuca via Zoom.

Monitoring system

This result probably won’t come as a surprise to most academic staff members. Working overtime, projects that almost systematically fail to meet deadlines and uncertain academic career prospects seem to be part of the deal for PhD students at every university. In an attempt to reduce work pressure, Radboud University plans to introduce a new PhD regulation and monitoring system in the upcoming academic year.

‘But as far as I know there’s no real data yet about the specific situation at Radboud University,’ says Maciuca. ‘We know that PhD students tend to experience a lot of stress, but I’d like to know the precise reasons why. For example, do PhD students who don’t get appropriate guidance from their supervisor experience more stress than others?’

Themes

The questionnaire, which consists of 45 questions, covers themes like thesis supervision, mental health (for example stress and loneliness), the gROW program (digital learning environment for PhD students), and discrimination. It also includes specific questions for international PhD students.

Maciuca also hopes to use the survey to compare the situation of PhD students with a contract with that of external PhD students. These are people whose PhD is funded externally: they are not employed by Radboud University but still carry out their research here.

Change

Ultimately, Maciuca hopes the results will help to actually improve the working life of PhD students. ‘I will use the survey to write a report with suggestions that will in turn lead to concrete steps. I really hope to be able to implement improvements. The Executive Board is enthusiastic.’ She laughs: ‘I might be too optimistic, but it helps when people in the higher echelons of the University see the necessity of creating better working conditions for PhD students.’

PhD students can complete the questionnaire until 3 May via this link.

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