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More than 800 signatures for petition PhD student psychologist

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A petition for accessible psychological help for PhD students has now been signed more than 800 times. The Utrecht PhD student consultation Prout and PhD student party UPP want to hand over the signatures to the Executive Board at the end of October.

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In the petition, the PhD students ask for free access for PhD students to individual psychological care as well as for group sessions and training sessions where their specific problems are targeted. The UU could, according to the petition starters, take example from the TU Delft which have employed a specialized PhD psychologist or from the UvA where PhD students can now make use of all facilities available to other students.

The PhD students see the petition as a final step in a campaign to get the psychological well-being of PhD assistantships and PhD fellowship students to be acknowledged. The petition can still be signed this week.

Earlier this year, a symposium already led to a letter with ten recommendations addressed to the Executive Board. The Executive Board then agreed to take these suggestions to heart. Only the demand for a psychologist with expertise in the field of PhD problems was ignored. PhD students with mental problems can use the same facilities that are available to all UU staff, was their reasoning.

An unfathomable stance, according to the PhD student representatives. They point out the many studies that indicate an increased risk of burnout and depression among young researchers who demand a lot of themselves and are often unsure about their own position. According to them, the fact that the president of the Executive Board Pijpers did not mention the PhD students separately in his speech about work pressure at the opening of the academic year, illustrates the lack of attention to the PhD students. As does the fact that at some faculties they encountered opposition to the distribution of the request to sign the petition.

Therefore, Ana Poças Ribeiro from Prout is very satisfied with the number of signatures that have been collected so far: "We are glad with the support of so many people for a topic that is still very much taboe, and we were especially touched and encouraged by the many comments people left on the petition, sharing their personal experience, and adding other good arguments for the university to care more about its employees.”

Some employees have agreed to make their comments public. “A PhD is a mental challenge, even more than an intellectual challenge”, explains a PhD student in the petition. “There is a clear vacant role for a specialized professional here.”

In addition to PhD students, many professors, teaching research associates and supporting staff have also signed the petition. “Ultimately, the University could also have a significant financial gain if it is prevented that PhD students fall ill or get a burnout," writes a professor.

The petition will be handed over to the rector on 24 October

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