Portal for

    Research is a learning experience

    The PhD survey was initiated to monitor and better support PhD candidates during their trajectory. Several initiatives are already in place to support doctoral candidates general wellbeing (the PhD buddy project, ombudsperson, Centre for mental health support,…). However, for some doctoral candidates, the threshold to these services remains too high. Therefore, the Doctoral Schools and the Central PhD Office decided to install an annual survey

    What is the PhD survey?

    Once a year, doctoral students will be invited to fill out a PhD survey with questions about their supervisors and scientific guidance networks, the students' perceived progress of the research, their career plans and training needs.

    Via the survey, doctoral students can request to meet up with the faculty representative or the ombudsperson for an informal talk concerning issues of their doctoral progress.

    Completing the PhD survey is highly recommended but not obligatory. You can look at the survey as the subjective counterpart to the annual PhD progress report. While the progress report mainly focusses on your research results so far, the PhD survey highlights your perspective and gives you an opportunity to detail problems and doubts anonymously.

    Why participate in this survey?

    The main goals of the annual PhD survey are threefold:

    Self-evaluation. You’re invited to reflect on your PhD trajectory and to compare your own answers to those of your peers.

    Early-problem detection mechanism. It gives you the opportunity to signal problems (concerning supervision, overall satisfaction with VUB, etc.)

    Feedback mechanism to different services and entities within the university. The results will be used to adjust support offered by the Doctoral Schools & the Central PhD Office, its reports will be presented and circulated to all doctoral candidates and supervisors.

    How do I participate in the survey?

    The survey will be introduced to all faculties in 2018 (after a well-received pilot survey in three faculties in 2017). You will receive an e-mail with a personal token and a link to enter the survey.

    The more students participate, the easier it will be to see what went well and what went wrong. Don't forget to mention any problems you encountered during your research. An issue that many students have encountered could indicate bad practices, while unique problems offer new perspectives!

    PhD survey: frequently asked questions

    Confidentiality, use of data and contact details. To make the most out of your PhD survey, here is some information that could help.

    Is the survey compulsory?

    No, but it is in your and your colleagues’ best interest to take your time to fill it out.

    Based on your answers, PhD policy plans can change. It also contains information about the PhD process you are not yet aware of, and can help clarify some future issues.


    What is a “scientific guidance network”?

    The scientific guidance network comprises all the people involved in the scientific progress of the PhD research. It includes the promotors/supervisors, daily advisors, the guidance committee, PhD colleagues, post-doc researchers, buddies…


    What is a “doctoral advisory commission”?

    Each PhD researcher has a doctoral advisory commission. This commission minimally consists of your supervisor and another expert in your specific research field.

    The doctoral advisory commission monitors the progress of the PhD and provides advice for its future development.

    Confidentiality and asking for help

    Who can see my response to the survey?

    Only you and the coordinator of this project (while the survey is taken) will be able to look at your survey directly.

    At the PhD researcher's request, the faculty representative and the ombudsperson can be granted access by the coordinator. All other stakeholders only have access to aggregated databases where the identities of the PhD candidates are hidden.


    Can my supervisor/guidance committee see my responses?

    No. The survey is anonymous by default.

    Even if you decide to lift your anonymity by request, e.g. by specifying your contact information, your supervisors and your guidance committee still don’t have access to any of the responses. On request, only the faculty representative and the ombudspersons will have access to the responses and should treat them in a confidential way.

    Your supervisors and guidance committee will only have access to general reports where the results are aggregated on department or faculty level. The identity of the PhD researchers and the supervisors cannot be revealed.


    Will the data be used in academic file of the supervisor?

    No, the supervisors are not identified in the survey.


    When is it appropriate to reveal my identity?

    If you decide to reveal your identity, the survey can be seen by the faculty representative and the ombudsperson. Your identity will not be known by your colleagues or faculty.

    Revealing your identity is important if you are looking for help. You can specify contact information so that the faculty representative will be able to contact you for a confidential discussion.


    What is the task of the faculty representative?

    Faculty representatives receive a report which summarises general survey results per faculty, and highlights particular questions and problems of the respondents.

    To discuss and mitigate the problems, the faculty representative contacts the respondents who agreed to give away their contact details.

    The faculty representative will try to solve the flagged issues, preferably by coaching the PhD researcher. If the faculty representative is unable to solve the problem, the issue can be passed on to the ombudsperson.


    My supervisor is a faculty representative. Is there a conflict of interest?

    We make sure that the faculty representative cannot process the responses of the PhD candidates they are supervising. A vice faculty representative will be appointed for this purpose.


    Do I get feedback from this survey?

    Overview reports will be generated once the survey will be closed. Using the token-based system, you will have the ability to relate your responses to the overall responses of the other PhD candidates.


    The survey triggered some personal questions. To whom can I turn to?

    If you want to talk about some issues without waiting for the analysis of the survey, you can always contact your faculty representative or one of the ombudspersons.

    Data collection and technical matters

    I have some general questions on the data collection and processing of the survey. Whom can I turn to?

    Please contact the Central PhD Office.


    Whom should I contact for technical issues with the survey?

    Report technical issues with the survey to motus@vub.ac.be


    Who guards the token database?

    The survey is token based, implying that the database which links the user to the token is kept separately from survey database.

    For this survey, it has been chosen to give the responsibility of the token to a single, mysterious VUB MOTUS employee. The employee is neither a PhD researcher, nor a promotor, nor a member of the central administration of the VUB.

    Results pilot survey


    Read the results of pilot PhD survey of 2017. Each compendium sheds light on a specific theme/part of the survey.

    The Central PhD Office and the Doctoral Schools collaborate with the research group TOR (Tempus Omnia Revelat) to collect the data. They performed the first analyses for the PhD survey and were involved in drafting the first results. The involved researchers are Julie Verbeylen, Joeri Minnen & Ignace Glorieux.

    First compendium: background of the study; results concerning the level of passion in research, perception on successfully defending etc.

    Second compendium: research plan & guidance network

    Third compendium: time use of PhD candidates: multitasking and flexibility (March 2018)

    Fourth compendium: Diversity in doing a PhD (April 2018)