Results of the survey


Every year around May the Central Phd-office and the Research Group TOR organize a PhD Survey. The aim is to measure how satisfied PhD candidates are with their trajectory. Through the response of 769 candidates, divided over all faculties, we gained insight into what aspects contribute to the job satisfaction of PhD candidates at the VUB. 11 indicators are found to be influential.

Important to know is that job characteristics listed on top are more important in the evaluation of the overall job satisfaction than items listed lower in the list:

  • Satisfaction with the support from the supervisor
  • No doubts about the research
  • The belief in submitting the PhD successfully
  • The feeling of being on the right track
  • No personal doubts
  • Self-efficacy
  • Satisfaction with the warmth of the working environment
  • Satisfaction with the freedom received from the supervisor
  • No perceived time pressure
  • Satisfaction with structural aspects of the working place (e.g. available space in the office, infrastructure...)
  • Labour conditions (e.g. wage, vacation days…)

Put differently: if you are not at all satisfied with certain labour conditions or feel like you are under a lot of time pressure, this will impact your overall job satisfaction less than when you have a lot of doubts about your research or are dissatisfied with the support from your supervisor.

At the bottom of this page you can log in and get your personal feedback. What follows now is a general overview of the results.

4 clusters

By completing the survey, PhD candidates evaluate their own work environment and assign themselves to one of 4 clusters that came forward when analyzing the data. Each cluster describes a certain type of trajectory satisfaction.

Cluster 1: the doubtful cluster: The PhD candidates in this cluster have a lot of doubts about their personal capabilities and circumstances. However, they are rather satisfied with their supervisor and working conditions. Apart from having healthy doubts, the candidates in this cluster have the feeling they are on the right track with their PhD and estimate their chances to complete the process successfully as average.

Cluster 2: the moderate cluster: These PhD candidates have a high level of self- efficacy and a relatively low amount of doubts. They think fairly neutral about their supervisor and the working conditions are perceived as alright. All in all, they think they are on the right track with their PhD and assume they will be able to submit it successfully.

Cluster 3: the unsupported and uncertain cluster: This group of respondents has a high level of doubts and their self-efficacy is low, yet it’s higher than the respondents in the doubtful cluster. They aren’t satisfied with the support of their supervisor and are negative about the working conditions, the salary and the vacation days they get. Because of all this, they don't think they are on the right track with their PhD and estimate their chances to complete their PhD successfully as rather average.

Cluster 4: the lyrical cluster: This cluster is made up out of PhD candidates that don’t have any doubts, have a high level of self-efficacy and hardly feel any time pressure. They are satisfied with their supervisor and their working conditions. Respondents in this cluster are convinced that they are right on track with their PhD and think they have a big chance of completing the process successfully.

There is a group of young researchers who could not be linked to one of these clusters. In order to be clustered, you had to physically working at VUB in the last year. Some of you indicated that they perform their research at another university or abroad. In these cases, it is not possible to evaluate the work environment statements.

What is the goal of this survey?

The Annual PhD-survey has two reasonings. The first is to get insight in how the PhD candidates evaluate their work situation from the outset until the end of their PhD trajectory. Secondly, with the PhD survey, the Central PhD office wants to uncover what aspects of the PhD trajectory are already positively evaluated and what aspects need more support and attention.

Your participation is essential

Doing a PhD is an important phase in someone’s career and, by extension, in someone’s life. The VUB wants to do everything to guide you through this process as well as possible. However, every trajectory is different and not everyone experiences it in the same way. Moreover, your experiences as a newcomer are probably not the same as what they are in later stages of your PhD. Certain aspects that have an impact on your work satisfaction possibly changed over the years (e.g. new colleagues, a leaving supervisor, failing experiments etc.). Transitions like this are very interesting for us to be aware of. With this survey, we try to analyze how you experience your trajectory in order to ameliorate your PhD process, as well as that of other (future) PhD candidates.

To be able to do this, it is important that the results of the survey are representative and comparable over time. Concretely this means that a high number of respondents is essential, as well at the recurring participation of PhD candidates throughout the years. This is why we would like to take this opportunity to thank you again for your valuable participation in the survey of last year and to warmly invite you to participate again in the survey of 2019, coming shortly.

Personal feedback

The Researcher Training & Development Office is dedicated to ensure PhD candidates at the VUB are satisfied and supported throughout their process and complete it successfully. Therefore, it is important that the PhD candidates can consult the results of the annual survey and receive feedback to what cluster they belong and how your position relates to that of your colleagues. To learn more about your personal results, please log in below.

View your results