Science - May 12, 2005

Dutch research schools are doing well

The research schools in the Netherlands score highly in the international arena. According to researchers in other countries the Dutch PhD trajectory is one of the best in the world. The one negative point is that doctoral candidates do not always finish in four years.

In order to be recognised by the KNAW (Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences) the research schools have to be assessed every six years by an independent foreign review committee. The review was summarised by Dr Heinze Oost from the University of Utrecht and Dr Hans Sonneveld from the University of Amsterdam for the Ministry of Education, Culture and Welfare. Their report gives a positive picture of the Dutch institutes. In most cases the committees are full of praise for the schools, whether it is about their international position or the quality of research. The evaluators are above all positive when it comes to the strength of interdisciplinary research.

Of those who start PhD research in the schools, 75 percent go on to complete this and get their PhD. This is a higher rate than the rest of the world. But the length of time it takes doctoral candidates remains a problem. Only five percent of the AIOs (trainee research assistants) finish within four years. The average amount of time is five years for completion. ‘But this is a problem the world over,’ says Oost.

Given the success of the research schools, Oost finds it remarkable that the more education oriented graduate school is on the rise in the Netherlands. ‘Our system works well. Graduate schools will start to compete with each others, while the foreign scientists have just emphasised that it is the nationwide cooperation between the research schools that they value.’ / HOP, SvO