Press release: Not all international PhD candidates receive assistance with integration

The majority of international PhD candidates (58.1%) do not receive integration assistance, such as a language course. This is a result from the report of PNN on international PhD candidates. In the PNN PhD survey, the 644 participating international PhD candidates were asked about their experiences. More than two thirds who do not receive integration assistance, indicate that they would have liked to receive this assistance. International PhD candidates with a non-Western background indicate that they need this relatively more often.

Most international PhD candidates who do receive integration assistance, receive it through their institution, although 17% (also) seeks help from an external party for this. In two thirds of the cases, the integration assistance is paid for by the institution itself, but 13.5% of the PhD candidates indicate that they have to pay for the assistance themselves. For PhD candidates with a non-Western background, integration assistance is relatively often paid by the institution.

The majority of PhD candidates who receive help are satisfied with the help they receive (67.7%). ‘It is good to hear that international PhD candidates who receive help are also satisfied with the given help. However, it is a pity that many international PhD candidates cannot make use of this help. That help should therefore certainly be expanded,’ said PNN chairman Rosanne Anholt.

The report also provides insights into the challenges international PhD candidates face during their PhD trajectories in the Netherlands. The most frequently mentioned challenges are cultural differences and the language barrier. Many international PhD candidates indicate that it is difficult for their Dutch colleagues to speak Dutch among themselves, which makes them feel excluded from informal contacts. In some cases, even formal communication is only available in Dutch, and international employees are asked to “Google-translate” the information. Anholt: ‘Of course that is not the intention: if universities consciously hire international employees, it is also their task to properly inform these employees.’ The Dutch directness was also frequently mentioned as a challenge for international PhD candidates.

However, international PhD candidates were not only negative about obtaining a PhD in the Netherlands. Many PhD candidates also indicated that they had a pleasant working environment and positive experiences. The fact that PhD candidates in the Netherlands are employees was also appreciated by the international PhD candidates. The Dutch weather however remains something that some international PhD candidates find it difficult to get used to.

This report is the penultimate report from the publication series based on the PNN PhD survey. This is followed by another report on Open Science, the recognition and evaluation of PhD candidates, and career aspirations.