Wageningen Graduate School wants PhD education programme
Professor of Theoretical Production Ecology, Rudy Rabbinge, has changes in mind for international PhD students who have their sights set on Wageningen. The life of a Wageningen PhD student at present tends to be ruled by the research project. Rabbinge wants to increase the educational component. Under the umbrella of the Wageningen Graduate School, the seven WAU research institutes are going to combine their recruitment and PhD education efforts. According to Rabbinge, the number of PhD students is likely to increase from 1,000 to 1,200 in the next few years, and the international representation is expected to increase from the present 30 per cent to 50 or 60 per cent. This trend will make the search for funding a priority for the graduate school. Other activities such as supervision need to be standardised. A Wageningen PhD should come to stand not only for good research experience but also a thorough educational programme consisting of attendance at international congresses and courses outside the candidate's immediate research field. Rabbinge: A Wageningen PhD should be a guarantee of quality, not just something simply given away.
I want to get away from the dependency relationship that often arises between a supervisor and PhD student. Clear guidelines for the educational component need to be drawn up. Dutch AIOs are supposed to spend 20 to 25 per cent of their time following courses. I want to ensure that this is adhered to, even by students who have external financing, including the international students. Upon acceptance into a programme, PhD students should receive a clear educational plan as well as clear information on their rights and complaints procedures in the event of supervisory problems. This is Rabbinge's strategy to restore the quality of Wageningen's PhD qualification to previous levels. Twenty years ago a Wageningen degree was held in high esteem. The agricultural engineer qualification was considered to be of a higher level than an American MSc. The decrease in completion time for Dutch students now puts the same qualification at the BSc level. The way back to quality is to introduce the BSc-MSc-PhD system and to increase the educational component for PhD students.
Rabbinge's proposal for the Graduate School is now with the Executive Board. They have already indicated their approval, which should be made public within the next few weeks. The seven graduate schools are also in favour of the plan. K.V