Healthy practices in the doctoral system

In November 2018, the rectores magnifici of the 14 research universities affiliated with the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) tasked a committee with coming up with a set of guidelines to ensure healthy practices in the doctoral system. Universities are, of course, constantly monitoring the quality of doctoral research themselves, with consistently high quality in the Netherlands as a result. Yet there are also challenges facing the entire system, such as the growth in the number of PhD candidates (including international PhD candidates) and the increasing importance of data management, open science and social impact. The document 'Een gezonde praktijk in het Nederlandse promotiestelsel' (Healthy practices in the Dutch doctoral system), drawn up under the leadership of four rectores magnifici, provides guidance for the future. Committee member and rector magnificus of Radboud University Nijmegen Han van Krieken: 'Maintaining the high quality of our doctoral research is an important task affecting us all: academics, administrators and above all the PhD candidates themselves. This document contains important premises for each of the universities to implement individually.'

The document contains premises that have been endorsed by all 14 universities, regarding such matters as keeping clear records of the number and different types of PhD candidates, embedding PhD candidates in graduate schools, training and supervising PhD candidates and assessing doctoral theses. Moreover, the document sets out a number of recommendations with regard to putting these premises into practice. There will be ample scope for local diversity in this respect. 

In structural terms, records of PhD candidates will be organised differently beginning in 2021, definitively confining differences in definition to the past. Every year on its website, VSNU will publish an inventory of the number of PhD candidates, according to the different types of appointment. 

Quote from Arthur Mol, committee member and rector magnificus of Wageningen University & Research: 'I enjoy playing the saxophone and see parallels with doctoral research at universities: a high level requires discipline, maintaining a sharp focus and constantly investing in improvement. That's what we're doing with this document as well. Supervising PhD candidates is an important task for universities, and we ourselves are responsible for always setting the bar high.'