Are you currently experiencing issues during your PhD that you need help with? 

Most institutions have a number of contact points for help. This compass is designed to help you find the right support. 

In the drop-down menu you can select the institution that you are doing your PhD at. Then the roadmap will show you available contact points. In most cases it makes sense to start by considering contact points in your immediate work environment first and then progress to higher levels (like institutional or national).

At the bottom of the page you can find some examples of problems you can run into and a list of descriptions of each contact point.

Your first contact points

Colleagues: Sometimes it can already help to talk with your colleagues about the issue you are experiencing. This will help you judge the severity of it and can provide you with allies in taking further action.

Daily supervisor*: Naturally, your daily supervisor is the first contact point for all issues. They can help you determine the next steps. Of course, you may not feel comfortable discussing everything with your supervisor, or maybe your daily supervisor is involved in the issue. In these cases have a look at the other available contact points.

Promotor or Co-Supervisor*: Especially, in cases of issues with your daily supervisor, consider reaching out to your promotor or another member on the supervision team and ask for a one-on-one meeting. Maybe they can (temporarily) step-up and help you resolve the issue.

If you have a conflict with your supervisor(s), you can also have a look at the PNN PhD supervisor conflict roadmap.

*Note that your annual review talk with your supervisory team is a good opportunity to address issues or suggestions for improvement.

Specific contact points

National contact points

Labor unions: Organizations representing the interests of academic staff, offering support on employment-related matters, rights, and fair treatment.

NWO Scientific Integrity Desk: A specialized desk addressing scientific integrity concerns in projects related to or funded by the Dutch Research Council (NWO).

Netherlands Board of Research Integrity (LOWI): An independent body handling complaints related to scientific integrity, providing a platform for fair investigation. If you feel like the local scientific integrity committee at your institution did not handle a case correctly, the LOWI can be the next contact point.

Making a police report: In cases involving a criminal offense, please consider contacting local law enforcement to report incidents and seek assistance.


Unsure what kind of problems you can reach out for? You can take a look at some examples here but remember that no matter how big or small you feel your problem is, you can always reach out for help.

Workload and Time Management
  • Experiencing a high workload and feeling overwhelmed
  • Struggling to find a balance between work and personal life
  • Being given too many tasks that are not part of your contract
  • Combining a part-time PhD with a part-time teaching or other position
Personal Well-being
  • Struggling with motivation
  • Struggling with mental health
  • Struggling with physical health
  • Suffering from pain or physical discomfort while working
  • Being in need for accommodations related to disabilities or neurodivergence
  • Feeling isolated due to being abroad, not seeing family
Supervision and Mentorship
  • Differences in opinion with supervisor about way of working
  • Difficulties with bringing up issues with a supervisor
  • Conflicts about authorship with supervisor or colleagues
  • Supervisor preferring another PhD candidate over you
  • Supervisor being unavailable for long periods, not responding to emails
  • Problems with supervisor being on maternity leave and not getting a good replacement
  • Supervisor abandoning you due to long-term illness
If you have a conflict with your supervisor(s), you can also have a look at the PNN PhD supervisor conflict roadmap.
Workplace Environment
  • Navigating cultural and language challenges as an international PhD candidate
  • Feeling discriminated against
  • Experiencing bullying or exclusion
  • Abuse of power
  • Inappropriate behavior (e.g., unwanted flirting, inappropriate jokes)
  • Sexual harassment
  • Verbal or physical aggression
Career and Future Concerns
  • Worrying about the next career steps after the PhD
  • Funding issues (e.g., not knowing whether you will have a contract for the full 4 years, contract ending earlier than expected)


Here are some descriptions of each contact point:

Many faculties have a representative body addressing PhD-related matters and advocating for PhD candidates’ needs and concerns. In case your faculty does not, you can reach out to the overarching PhD organization at your institution.
Centralized administrative support and resources for PhD candidates, including workshops, training, and general assistance.
The head of your faculty, serving as a point of contact for overarching academic matters and concerns at the faculty level. If needed, the faculty PhD council can, together with you or for you, raise an issue with the faculty dean.
Some faculties or departments have a designated mentor for PhDs, who can provide additional guidance and advice specifically tailored to your academic and personal development. In some cases this is a person independently hired for this position. In other cases it is a researcher or staff member who does mentoring in addition to other responsibilities and is not independent.
An independent organization or group representing PhD candidates, advocating for their rights, and providing a platform for community building. These PhD organizations are members of PNN and keep the board updated on local concerns.
A medical professional specializing in occupational health, offering support for health-related issues and accommodations.
Mental health professionals specializing in the unique challenges faced by PhD candidates, offering counseling and support. They can also help you in finding further psychological support outside the institution, if needed, and bridge the time you are on the waiting list for psychotherapy.
Human Resources professionals within the academic institution, providing guidance on administrative and employment matters. They can provide you with information on your institution's policy and with legislation and regulations that may apply to your situation.
Experts who ensure adherence to ethical and scientific standards, offering guidance on research integrity and ethical concerns. They can act in cases of (suspected) scientific fraud.
A confidential point of contact for discussing personal or professional concerns. Can offer support in taking further action to resolve the conflict. They can also help you with submitting an official complaint. The confidential advisor will not take any action without your explicit consent.
An impartial person, monitoring structural social safety issues at the institution and advising the board on improvements. At most institutions the Ombudsperson can initiate an independent investigation into an issue if needed. Moreover, an Ombudsperson can act as an independent third party (mediator) in resolving conflicts.
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