Science - May 20, 2020

WUR draws up guidelines for PhD supervisors

Albert Sikkema

WUR has issued guidelines for the supervision of PhD candidates. These are to ensure candidates conclude their research on time.

©Guy Ackermans

The Wageningen Graduate Schools have joined forces to draw up guidelines to improve the PhD trajectory. One of the reasons is that some PhD candidates complained about workload, insecurities concerning housing, and unclear supervision. The ‘guidelines for promotors, chair holders and chair groups related to the PhD programme’ are to ensure adequate and uniform supervision for all Wageningen PhD candidates.

Four Years
The guidelines consist of a list of responsibilities the promotor must meet. Thus, the promotor must ensure that a fulltime PhD trajectory is financially and logistically viable in four years. Furthermore, the supervisor must assist the candidate in finding accommodation, give regular feedback on the candidate’s work and ensure the guidelines for co-authors are met. ‘The promotor is not automatically co-author’,  the guideline states. In addition to the promotor, a co-supervisor must be appointed, to prevent the candidate from depending entirely on a single person.

We consider the fact that the responsibilities are now in writing, a step forward
Jasper Lamers, PhD Council

Chairholders must ensure that the quality of the supervision is discussed regularly in the annual assessment interview. Furthermore, the chairholder must prevent the PhD candidate is tasked with so many teaching responsibilities that he or she lacks time for training and research, as well as ensuring the number of candidates per promotor remains within bounds. The guideline does not indicate a maximum amount, as the capacity for supervision depends on the type of research, the quality of the promotor, the supervisory team and the degree of autonomy of the PhD candidate.

Chair groups must also appoint a buddy to the PhD student. This could be another candidate at the chair group, with which the new student can discuss his or her questions and issues.

The rules are meant as to provide the PhD candidate with some footing, dean of research Wouter Hendriks states. If a candidate believes that the supervisor does not meet the guidelines, he or she can report this to the Graduate School, which will then discuss the complaint with the promotor or chairholder. Hendriks: ‘Thus, we hope to be able to identify problems at an early stage, and prevent falling back or dropping out, as well as reducing the time spent on obtaining a PhD.’

PhD Council
The Wageningen PhD Council is satisfied with the guidelines. ‘We were able to provide input, and we consider the fact that the responsibilities are now in writing, a step forward’, says Jasper Lamers of the PhD Council. ‘Now, we would like to know whether the guidelines are being followed. We need contact points at the Graduate Schools, where complaints can be directed.’