The situation of many doctoral researchers is precarious for different reasons: bad or insufficient supervision, fixed-term contracts or financially inadequate stipends, social isolation or lacking integration into university structures and decision making, not enough support for international doctoral researchers, unrealistic expectations from supervisors and permanent pressure to perform, unpaid working hours on weekends and at nights – the list could be extended ad infinitum.
We cannot solve all these problems in the senate of the University of Heidelberg. We are convinced, however, that a strong voice for the doctoral researchers in the university’s highest decision-making body can render these problems visible. Thus, we want to hold to account the institutions and parties responsible for the doctorate.
We think that the following aspects are particularly urgent and central:
1. More fair and transparent supervisory relationships
- We need effective and transparent procedures that allow for switching supervisors. Moreover, employed doctoral researchers should have a clearer segregation between work for the institute and work for their PhD project.
- Doctoral employees have a right for binding working hour agreements and job descriptions.
- Departments, institutes, and faculties need clear procedures for external arbitration in case of serious conflicts.
2. For healthy working hours
- Doctoral researchers should be able to take leaves without negative outcomes for their project.
- Working overtime hours should not be taken for granted but recognised as an extraordinary effort.
3. Providing better facilities and utilities for PhD-students
- A central location for social and professional gatherings of PhD-students should be established at University.
- University should allocate adequate workplaces to all PhD-students.
- Equipment for presentations and other working equipment should be supplied by University to the broadest possible extent. Lending of laptops and beamers and, dependant on discipline, other essential tools should be implemented.
4. Reducing obstacles during PhD-studies
- PhD-statutes may not discriminate or otherwise burden international candidates.
- PhD-students suffering from any kind of disability or experiencing special challenges should be supported accordingly by University.
5. Encouraging networking and integration
- So far, no sufficient amount of low-threshold offers for networking between PhD-students exists. We call for regular exchange- and communication-programs by University.
- More support should be intended for interdisciplinary working groups integrating multiple faculties and their scientific cultures.
- University should found mentoring-programs procuring tips and basic help for PhD-starters by their advanced fellows.