Many of them not eligible to Covid fund

PhD candidates still not on schedule after Covid-19 pandemic

EEG. Foto: Pixabay
Photo: Pixabay

The effects of the coronavirus pandemic are still being felt. 28 percent of PhD canddiates are likely to need more time to conclude their research. Another 30 percent do not know if they will need more time yet. Nearly 40 percent expect to complete their doctoral research on time.

A total of 94 PhD candidates out of the 239 working at the Faculty of Social Sciences participated in the survey. At the beginning of this year, the PhD Council asked them to reflect on their experiences during the 2021-2022 academic year in a questionnaire.

The PhD Council consists of representatives from each department of Social Sciences who represent the interests of PhDs. Part of the survey aimed to map the impact of Covid-19 on PhD trajectories.

Needing some more time
PhD candidates taking longer to graduate report needing between two and eight additional months to conclude their research. This shows that they are catching up because, in 2020-202, they needed an additional two to 12 months. Back then, PhD candidates were running six to seven months late on average, according to the 2020-2021 PhD Council survey.

There could be several reasons why PhD students are running late. Data collection might be taking longer or perhaps they're struggling with personal problems. However, the coronavirus pandemic still plays a role, according to PhD students.

When asked about the impact of Covid on their research, 36 percent of respondents replied that it has delayed their research. PhD students also indicated that conferences often took place online or did not take place at all. One in four had to change their data collection and more than one in ten had to change their research topic. They also reported feeling socially isolated during the pandemic. But some people managed to go through the pandemic unscathed: 34 percent of respondents did not experience any of the effects mentioned above.

Financial support
In the council's view, offering more extensions would alleviate stress among PhD candidates at UU. However, they should be provided with clear information and more certainty about these extensions. The council also stresses that, in 2020, UU established a Covid fund to financially support PhD candidates and postdocs whose research had to be delayed, but many PhD candidates are not eligible to apply for it. 

During the coronavirus outbreak, some research projects came to a standstill because laboratories closed, fieldwork had to be put to a halt and human research was hampered due to social distancing. PhD students whose contracts expired before the summer of 2021 were given an additional three months. Later, PhDs who held temporary contracts in 2020 could claim this benefit as well.

However, the PhD candidates who started their research a year after the outbreak of the virus, thus in the 2021-2022 academic year, were excluded from the scheme. But they also say they have been affected by the pandemic, the council writes. The last lockdown ended at the beginning of 2022.