'Especially PhDs who teach are concerned about the political direction'

| Stan Waning

'Mind the Gap' is the theme of the annual P-NUT PhD & EngD Day on Friday. Board members Lea Berkemeier and Bram Kohlen have noticed that impending changes in higher education do not leave PhD candidates untouched.

Berkemeier, chair of UT PhD network P-NUT, says that the board considered issuing a statement in April, when Minister Dijkgraaf hinted at the contours of his new law to manage the influx of international students. 'But we refrained from doing so because the UT had already published a strong statement, which we agreed with. Moreover, there is not much more we can do, but it is clear that many PhD candidates are also concerned about the political course,' says Berkemeier.

Dutch language

According to her, UT PhD’s who combine their research with teaching are particularly worried. 'I hear doubts in that group. Will we be able to continue teaching in the future if programmes are to be taught partly or entirely in Dutch?' Co-director Bram Kohlen sees the same turmoil in the network. 'Many PhD candidates don't speak Dutch or don't speak enough Dutch. They wonder if they will be able to keep up. As P-NUT, we are in close contact with the PhD Network Netherlands (PNN) to make guidelines together about what we can do as a network.'

The duo agrees that starting a conversation with each other and discussing concerns helps in any case. And that's exactly what there is plenty of room for on Friday at the annual P-NUT PhD & EngD Day, with the theme Mind the Gap. Kohlen: 'A theme that we came up with in consultation with our Equity working group. Inclusion is an important theme at the UT and as a network we want to propagate it as widely as possible. Culturally, there are differences, but there is also a gap between academia and industry. Taking a step in that direction can be difficult.'

According to Kohlen, the theme will be reflected throughout the day in all the workshops that are offered, but also in the keynote by Sanne Feenstra, assistant professor in Organizational Psychology at VU Amsterdam. 'I know her from the Computer Science Day, where she talked about imposter syndrome. A lecture that made a big impression on me at the time,' says Kohlen.

Stage fight

The P-NUT Day does not only consist of lectures and workshops. Last year, the organization received feedback that the day was a bit too substantive and therefore static towards the end. 'That's why we're now holding two interactive sessions in the afternoon. One is about mindfulness, the other is a stage fight, in which boundaries around touch are discovered and indicated,' says Kohlen.

Berkemeier indicates that more than a hundred people have already signed up. That number may increase a bit. 'Networking is important for every PhD candidate, but this day helps to put young PhDs on the right path. Everyone is welcome, including students who are considering doing a PhD. The P-NUT Day lends itself well to professional networking, to spar with someone about something substantive, but it is also a great day for informal networking.'

Click here for the full programme of the P-NUT Day.

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