Universities working continuously on improving doctoral research practices

Universities working continuously on improving doctoral research practices

Points of departure for 'healthy practices' presented by committee of rectors magnifici

November 2018 saw the rectors of the 14 research universities affiliated with the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) tasking a committee with coming up with a set of guidelines for healthy doctoral research practices. Universities are, of course, continuously monitoring the quality of doctoral research themselves. The quality of doctoral research in the Netherlands is therefore consistently high. At the same time, there are challenges facing the entire system, such as the growth in the number of PhD candidates (including international researchers) and the increasing importance of data management, open science and social impact. The document 'Healthy Practices in the Dutch PhD System', drawn up under the leadership of four rectors 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: scholars, managers and above all the PhD candidates themselves. This document contains important points of departure for each of the universities to implement individually.'

The document contains points of departure endorsed by all 14 universities. These pertain to such matters as keeping clear records of the number and different types of PhD candidate, embedding PhD candidates in Graduate Schools, training and supervising PhD candidates and assessing PhD theses. Moreover, the document sets out a number of recommendations with regard to putting the points of departure into practice. There will be ample scope for local diversity in this respect.

The committee will be continuing its work over the next few months, formulating recommendations to be issued prior to the summer of 2019 on the policy with regard to the supervision phase and on the monitoring of agreements made. Within the same time frame, the VSNU will be publishing on its website an initial inventory of the number of PhD candidates, divided up into different types of appointment. In structural terms, records of PhD candidates will be organised differently in the longer term, thus rendering differences in definition firmly a thing of the past. Committee member and Rector Magnificus of Wageningen University & Research Arthur Mol: 'I play the saxophone in my spare time, and I can see parallels between that and the doctoral research practices at universities: a high level requires discipline, keeping yourself on your toes and continuously investing in improvement. That's something we're doing through this document as well. Supervising PhD candidates constitutes an important task for the universities and we ourselves are responsible for keeping the bar high.'