Organisation - November 23, 2018

Most PhD students finish in five years

Text:
Linda van der Nat,Hoger Onderwijs Persbureau
1

Wageningen doctoral researchers take about five years to get their PhDs. This is bang-on average compared with other universities, show new figures from the universities association VSNU.

The PhD research duration of around five years has been stable in Wageningen for ten years or so. © Joris Schaap

The figures show that five years is the average time it takes PhD students to get their doctorates in the Netherlands. Only a small proportion (14 per cent) reach the finishing line within four years. But there is considerable variation among the universities. PhD students at Utrecht graduate six month faster than average, while those at VU Amsterdam and the Erasmus University in Rotterdam tend to need extra time.

PhD students at Wageningen take on average a little over five years on their doctoral research, the VSNU figures show. But that figure is deceptive, says WUR researcher Gab van Winkel: ‘The average is not a good yardstick because there is a ‘tail’ of a few people who take a long time, who have a big impact on the average.’

©HOP. Source: VSNU. The average time spent to get a PhD at Dutch universities, in months. Figures from the UvA for 2017 are missing.
©HOP. Source: VSNU. The average time spent to get a PhD at Dutch universities, in months. Figures from the UvA for 2017 are missing.

Promotieduur in maanden. UvA: geen gegevens over 2017 ©HOP. Bron: VSNU.

So Van Winkel works with the median. For salaried doctoral researchers, this is 4.8 years, for those on a grant, 4.9 years, and for sandwich PhD students, 5.2 years. ‘That’s because sandwich PhD students often do other work in their home countries, such as teaching, alongside their research.’ The time taken over a PhD has remained stable for about 10 years, says Van Winkel: ‘Of course we aim to shorten the time even more, to make publication in four years the norm.

Drop outs
Very few Wageningen PhD students drop out. In 2017, 67 dropped out, while roughly 80 per cent of the students who started in 2010 finished their theses within seven years. The University of Maastricht scores highest on this point: nine out of ten of its PhD students finish within seven years. At VU University on the other hand, about 40 per cent are still working on their thesis after seven years.

© HOP. Bron: VSNU. Number of promovendi within 7 years, 2010. Exclusive the UvA
© HOP. Bron: VSNU. Number of promovendi within 7 years, 2010. Exclusive the UvA

Other news from the VSNU is that the number of PhDs at Dutch universities has gone down for the first time in years. In 2017, precisely 4731 people received doctorates, 200 fewer than the previous year.

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  • Gonzo

    I would like to throw in the rumour (which is known in many groups) that “risky” (risky in the sense that everything needs to be established from scratch) PhD projects are always given to foreigners, and non risky projects to dutch people. I can observe i.e. a that long time experiments and establishments of partner cooperation in developing countries is mainly done by foreigners. While dutch people can have an easier Phd, with desk studies, partners for cooperation are already fixed meaning all support is already there, publication from Master thesis are added to Phd thesis… what about this? And then we wonder why this long tail happens… even its all just a rumour which goes around in Wageningen, there must be a pinch of truth in it!

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  • fret

    "Daarom rekent Van Winkel met de mediaan. Die is voor werknemer-promovendi 4,8 jaar, voor beurspromovendi 4,9 jaar en voor sandwich-promovendi 5,2 jaar. 'Dat komt omdat sandwich-promovendi in de periode dat zij onderzoek in hun thuisland doen vaak ander werk ernaast doen, zoals lesgeven."

    Heeft Meneer van Winkel hier ook data over? Welk percentage doet er -TIJDENS het onderzoek in het thuisland werk er naast, en hoeveel uur is dit dan?
    Ervaring (gesprekken met) leert juist dat sandwich-promovendi tijdens hun onderzoek in het buitenland slecht begeleid worden, waardoor er vertraging optreed en ze aan het einde van hun contract zonder blikken of blozen terug naar hun thuisland gestuurd worden.
    Okay, meestal krijgen ze nog een succeswens van hun begeleiders met het afronden van de laatste fase. Dit gebeurt veel al naast hun vorige baan, omdat er contractueel is vast gelegd dat ze na hun sandwich contract de activiteiten voor deze werkgever weer dienen op te pakken.


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