Results of the survey


The Researcher Training & Development Office and the Research Group TOR organize an annual PhD Survey. The aim is to measure the satisfaction of PhD candidates with their PhD trajectory and perceived support. We elaborate here upon the results of 2020.
Through the response of 728 candidates, divided over all faculties, we gained insight into what aspects contribute to the job satisfaction of PhD candidates at the VUB.

9 indicators are found to be influential:

  • The belief in submitting the PhD successfully
  • The feeling of being on the right track
  • Satisfaction with the warmth of the working environment
  • Satisfaction with the support from the supervisor
  • Satisfaction with structural aspects of the working place (e.g. available space in the office, infrastructure…)
  • Satisfaction with the freedom received from the supervisor
  • Doubts about the research
  • Labour conditions (e.g. wage, vacation days…)
  • Personal doubts

The job characteristics listed on top have a bigger influence on the evaluation of the overall job satisfaction than items listed lower in the list.

At the bottom of this page you can log in and get your personal feedback.

What is the goal of this survey?

This survey has three main goals:

  1. Self-evaluation: It gives PhD candidates the opportunity to reflect on their PhD trajectory and to compare their own answers to that of other VUB PhD candidates.
  2. Early-problem detection mechanism. It gives the opportunity to signal problems (concerning supervision, overall satisfaction with VUB, etc.) to the faculty and – if needed – to the ombudsperson
  3. Feedback mechanism to different services and entities within the university: The results will be used to adjust support offered by the Doctoral Schools & the Researcher Training & Development Office, and will be used as input for doctoral support on faculty level. The main results will be presented and circulated to all doctoral candidates and supervisors and on several policy boards.

Your participation is essential

Doing a PhD is an important phase in someone’s career and, by extension, in someone’s life. The VUB wants to do everything to guide you through this process as well as possible. However, every trajectory is different and not everyone experiences it in the same way. Moreover, your experiences as a newcomer are probably not the same as what they are in later stages of your PhD. Certain aspects that have an impact on your work satisfaction will probably change over the years (e.g. new colleagues, a leaving supervisor, failing experiments etc.). Transitions like these are very interesting for us to be aware of. With this survey, we try to analyze how you experience your trajectory in order to ameliorate your PhD process, as well as those of other (future) PhD candidates.

To be able to do this, it is important that the results of the survey are representative and comparable over time. This means that a high number of respondents is essential, as well as the recurring participation of PhD candidates throughout the years. This is why we would like to take this opportunity to thank you again for your valuable participation in the survey of last year and to warmly invite you to participate again in the survey of 2021, coming next spring.

3 clusters

By completing the survey, PhD candidates evaluate their own work environment and on the basis of our analyses, are assigned to one of the 3 clusters identified based on the data. Each cluster describes a certain type of trajectory satisfaction.

Cluster 1: the moderate cluster: These PhD candidates have a moderate opinion about their supervisor and their working conditions. They experience a few structural issues. They score moderately on the number of obstacles they experience during their PhD trajectory. All in all, they think they are on the right track with their PhD and assume they will be able to submit it successfully.

Cluster 2: the unsatisfied and uncertain cluster: This group of respondents experience a high level of concerns unsatisfied with the working conditions, the salary and the vacation days they get. Due to these issues, they don’t feel like they are on the right track with their PhD and estimate the chance of completing their PhD successfully as rather average.

Cluster 3: the satisfied and confident cluster: This cluster consists of PhD candidates who don’t have any doubts. They are satisfied with their supervisor and their working conditions. Respondents in this cluster are convinced that they are right on track with their PhD and think they have a big chance of completing the process successfully.

There is a group of young researchers who could not be linked to one of these clusters. In order to be clustered, you had to physically be working at VUB in the last year. Some respondents indicated that they perform their research at another university or abroad. In these cases, it is not possible to evaluate the work environment statements.

Personal feedback

The Researcher Training & Development Office is dedicated to ensuring that PhD candidates at the VUB are satisfied and supported throughout their process and complete it successfully. Therefore, it is important that the PhD candidates can consult the results of the annual survey and receive feedback to what cluster they belong and how your position relates to that of your colleagues. To learn more about your personal results, please log in below.

View your results