Universiteit Leiden

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Defending the interests of PhDs and postdocs at Leiden University

PhDoc represents the interests of PhDs and postdocs at Leiden University. We want everybody’s voice to be heard in co-participation bodies and for there to be attention during university decision-making for the specific challenges that young researchers face. We have 5 main themes for 2020-22: (1) equality, diversity and inclusions; (2) mental health and well-being, (3) sustainability, (4) personal growth, and (5) representation.

Strive towards an equal, diverse, and inclusive university

Being a diverse university, we as PhDoc believe in providing a safe and dynamic environment for all. Important steps towards creating such an environment are education of staff and representation of all (minority-)groups. Hence we aim to set-up, expand the mandate of, and increase the resources available for Equality, Diversity, and Inclusivity (EDI) committees. These committees are the way through which all members of our University community should be able to enact positive change. Furthermore we  are acutely aware of the challenges faced by international staff members and aim to improve the support they receive with issues such as housing, language barriers, and employment regulations.

Raising awareness about and providing support for the mental well-being of PhDs and postdocs

PhDs and postdocs are especially vulnerable for issues concerning mental health and well-being. For this reason we would like to increase the amount and transparency of mental health resources available for early career scientists. For example, Leiden University is one of the only large Universities in the Netherlands that does not yet employ a psychologist dedicated to helping PhDs and postdocs. We mean to actively support the pilot that will take place this year. Furthermore, we would also like to address the causes of stress by looking into ways through which we can support a healthy work-life balance amongst university staff.

Listen to the new generation as we design a sustainable future

PhDoc represents the next generation of researchers; a generation that takes an active stance in dealing with the consequences of climate change. We believe Leiden University has to give its employees and students more freedom to launch sustainable initiatives. For PhDs, this entails allowing sustainable volunteering to count towards transferable skills. We should consider increasing the number of options for all employees to trade excess holiday hours for sustainable causes. Finally, the university should raise its ambitions for forming sustainable partnerships in research and practical matters such as catering.

Recognize and reward the person behind the researcher

The academic world is slowly realizing that researchers are much more than just publication machines. We strongly support the national Recognition and Rewards initiative and are glad to see the backing it is receiving at all levels of Leiden University. Leiden University should be a frontrunner in translating the Recognition and Rewards principles to guidelines for PhDs and postdocs. We need to support our future researchers in building up a broad set of skills to prepare them for working life both inside and outside of academia. PhDs and postdocs play a major role in educating our students and should receive better pedagogical support. Lastly, we believe in the power of interdisciplinary interaction and see many benefits in making each graduate course available to all PhDs and postdocs.

Everyone that contributes to the Leiden community deserves a say

Leiden University depends heavily on external PhDs and postdocs on short contracts. PhDoc defends the interest of all PhDs and postdocs at our university, and believes that everyone who contributes to the Leiden community deserves solid representation at all levels. The university should seriously investigate the possibility of giving external PhDs voting rights in the university council elections. At the faculty and department level we have seen improvements, but PhDs and postdocs are still underrepresented. The university should give PhDs and postdocs the freedom to take on roles as representatives by compensating them for their time investment. Associations such as the Leids Promovendi Overleg (LEO) and the Leiden University Postdoc Assembly (LUPA) are vital to a socially thriving university. Their board members deserve to be compensated like university council members are.

Looking back on 2020-2022

In 2020-2022, PhDoc consisted in the University Council of Elisabeth Kerr and Niko Kontovas. PhDoc has been very active in the last two years:

  • We adapted the new PhD Regulations and PhD Guidelines, which, among other things, now place more importance on the second supervisor.
  • We ensured that attention is paid to PhD students and postdocs in the new Strategic Plan, for example through career development opportunities.
  • We have drawn attention to the special situations of external and contract PhD candidates, which will be addressed by a new Taskforce External and Contract PhD candidates.
  • Together with the personnel party FNV Overheid, we have regularly asked the Executive Board to pay attention to the high workload experienced by lecturer/researchers and have co-written a critical letter to the Executive Board about the (mis)use of temporary contracts.
  • We developed an application system for corona-related contract renewals to make the process of distributing funds to PhDs and postdocs badly affected during the pandemic more transparent and fair.
  • We played an active role in drafting a new travel policy during the pandemic so that young researchers could travel again for their research.
  • We have represented Leiden PhD students at the national level by making PhDoc an official member of the PhD Network of the Netherlands (PNN) and co-organised a Know Your Rights! workshop for Leiden PhDs.
  • We have kept active contact with our constituents, e.g. by meeting with LEO, LUPA, and YAL to discuss important topics.
  • Together with student parties ONS and DSP The Hague, we have written a Gender and Inclusion memorandum, which, among other things, made gender-neutral adjustments to PhD defences.
  • Together with the central administration, we worked on PhD students and postdoc policy.
  • Not only have we consistently represented the interests of PhD students and postdocs in all policy decisions, but we have also championed the interests of students and (other) employees as active members of the Council. 
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