Press release: Nearly half of PhDs have increased risk of mental problems, 40% have considered quitting

47% of PhDs in the Netherlands have an increased risk of mental health problems. This is shown by the PhD Survey of the PhD Network Netherlands (PNN), in which 1,601 PhD candidates in the Netherlands participated. Especially international PhDs have an increased risk of mental health problems: no less than 55.6% of them have an increased risk of mental health problems.

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PNN PhD Survey: Asking the relevant questions PNN needs your input to improve the situation of PhDs in the Netherlands!

We are aware that the coronacrisis may have a big impact on your PhD trajectories. PNN is currently working very hard to find solutions for these corona-related problems. However, also without the corona-related problems, PhDs may experience other problems as well. It is one of PNN’s core aims to improve the situation of PhDs, and therefore we want to identify and quantify these problems.

Therefore, we want to ask you to let us know what is going well and what is not going well in your PhD trajectory in the PNN PhD Survey! This survey also covers topics that are usually not addressed in PhD surveys, but are crucial to improve the situation of PhDs. PNN will handle the data confidentially, so you can feel free to share all concerns you might have. 

The more PhDs fill in the survey, the better PNN will be able to address your problems and to convince policy makers to make changes! We therefore call on everyone who is currently working on their PhD project, regardless of contract type or institution, to fill in this survey!

On top of that, by participating in the survey, you can opt in for a lottery to win one of two Career Coaching Sessions with a professional career coach!

You can fill in the survey here!

Survey PhD candidates in the University Medical center

Since the problems arising from COVID-19 for research in the UMCs can be distinct from those in other academic settings, a seperate survey is available.

We would love to hear what kind of problems you are confronted with. so we can use this information to advocate your needs and interests to policy makers.

Fill out the survey here.

Broad collaboration on corona-related problems of PhD candidates

Due to the corona crisis, many PhD candidates encounter problems for various reasons.  PNN is currently collaborating with PostdocNL, VSNU, NFU, NWO and ZonMw to find good solutions and to compensate PhD candidates for any delays they incur. In this statement (in Dutch – English version follows later) we set out the joint objectives of this collaboration. PNN is confident that this collaboration will lead to generous, tailor-made compensation for PhD candidates. In the coming weeks, the statement will be further elaborated upon, taking into account the major differences between research areas but also differences between types of PhD trajectories.

Previously, PNN has published its own statement regarding PhD trajectories in times of Corona. Our chair Lucille Mattijssen explained the recommendations of PNN to the Higher Education Press. Many of these recommendations have been incorporated into the joint statement. For example, universities are urged to ensure that health does not have to be subordinated to research, but that existing research can be continued at an appropriate time. Universities are also encouraged to offer PhD students the choice between a digital defense and postponement of the defense as much as possible.

Do you have a personal, corona-related problem that you would like to share with us, please email  and we will include it in our further conversations!


Finalizing your dissertation and the PhD defence require the necessary preparations. Start these early and read through some of our suggestions.


A PhD defence is costly. The total costs depend on a number of issues, including how many books you will have printed and the number of pages of your dissertation. The costs to have your dissertation printed also depends on the printing business. Inform yourself early on about the costs at various printing companies, that your own university is the least expensive one is not a given. The costs for a reception, party or dinner depends of course on the number of people you will invite.

Below some indicative amounts:

  • Dissertation: € 2.000 tot € 6.000
  • Clothing (buy or rent): € 100 tot € 500
  • Reception: € 350 tot € 700
  • Diner/buffet: € 25 tot € 50 per person
  • Party: € 1.000 tot € 5.000

There are also some financial advantages to a PhD defence. The university reimburses the costs for the number of books they receive through the Beadle’s Office. Often there is an additional compensation as a number of dissertations will be sent to other universities, the so-called ‘mandatory lists’. There are also foundations who (partly) finance the printing of dissertations about specific topics, but you may also try to apply for funding from the private sector, for example in exchange for mentioning a company’s name in your dissertation or by sending them copies of the book. Always inform however at your university whether this is allowed. At some universities this is explicitly forbidden.

The costs of a PhD defence are tax deductible as training/educational costs. This is because receiving a PhD degree to the improvement of one’s financial position. The following costs are tax deductible: the costs of publication, the costs of the required clothing, and the costs for the paranymphs (ceremonial assistants). The costs of the reception are since 2013 no longer tax deductible. For more information, please see the website of the Belastingdienst. You can also call them on the free number 0800 0543.


You need to prepare a number of things before your actual defence. Read about these below.

6 months prior to the defence

  • Read your university’s doctoral regulations and other information related to the PhD defence.
  • Fill out the first form regarding the promotion (‘declaration of intent’).
  • Together with your supervisor, establish a committee for reading en evaluating the dissertation and for playing the opponent’s role during the defence. Often, there are a number of rules about the composition of the committee, such as with regards to the number of committee members that have the ius promovendi, the number of full professors and the gender balance.
  • Gather information from different printers.
  • Think about how you want to organize the PhD defence day, and request information and quotations for a dinner and/or party.

3-4 months prior to the defence

  • The thesis must be submitted to the reading committee.
  • Make an appointment with the Beadle’s Office and set a date, in consultation with your supervisors, co-supervisor and any foreign opponents (sometimes the date may only be established after approval of the reading committee).
  • After the reading committee has approved your dissertation, a form must be filled out (by your supervisor).
  • Make an appointment with the printer and discuss the possibilities, such as with regards to lay-out, for your dissertation.
  • Request an ISBN-number for your dissertation.
  • Obtain potential funding for printing your dissertation.
  • Finalize the thesis, including the cover and title page (often the approval of the Beadle’s Office is required for this), the summaries and acknowledgments.
  • Lay-out of your dissertation.
  • Think about who your paranymphs (ceremonial assistants) will be.
  • Have a look at potential locations for the party and make the final reservations.
  • Arrange the reception (information can be gathered from your university).

2-1 months prior to the defence

  • The dissertation must go to the printer!
  • Create an address file for dispatching your dissertation (supervisors, cosupervisors, opponents, funding agencies, colleagues, contacts outside university, people working in the same field, friends, family, etc.) The Beadle’s Office often takes a few theses for the professors of your faculty.
  • Distribute the books.
  • Buy or rent suitable clothing.
  • Arrange a photographer, video recording, sound recording, etc.

The last weeks

  • Reconfirm the arrangements made for the reception, dinner, party and photographer and discuss the details.
  • Prepare for your defence by for example:
    • Reading the regulations again. For example: how should you address your opponents?
    • Organize a mock defence with colleagues.
    • Re-read recent and classic articles.
    • Re-read the reviewers’ comments on your articles/dissertation and re-read your answers to these comments.
    • For each chapter of your dissertation: list the strong and weak points.
    • For each chapter of your dissertation: think of possible questions.
  • Finally, don’t forget to, above all, enjoy your PhD defence!