PhD Survey

Personal results

The four clusters

By completing the survey, PhD candidates evaluate their own trajectory. Based on this data, four clusters were identified – grouping together PhD candidates with similar opinions on their work environment and satisfaction with the PhD trajectory.

Cluster 1: The moderate cluster

The moderate cluster: The largest proportion of PhD candidates belongs to the moderate cluster. This cluster is characterized by an average number of experienced obstacles, both personal as well as research related. They are moderately satisfied with the support they receive from their supervisor. When it comes to the freedom given by their supervisor, and the personal conditions of their job, they are moderately to little satisfied. The impersonal conditions of their work (office space, income, possibility to take time of…) are a point of dissatisfaction. Even though they encounter some obstacles in their trajectory and their satisfaction with the external elements of their job is not optimal, this cluster is characterized by a strong feeling of being on the right track with their research and estimate their chance of successful completion of their PhD rather high.

Cluster 2: The satisfied, insecure cluster

The satisfied, insecure cluster: PhD candidates in this cluster are satisfied with the external dimension of their job. They score highly on satisfaction with the support and freedom they get from their supervisor and are also relatively happy with the personal and impersonal conditions of their work environment. Nevertheless, these PhD candidates experience a relatively high number of personal obstacles, and a moderate number of research related obstacles. They feel less on the right track compared to those in the moderate cluster and estimate their chance of successful completion on the lower side.

Cluster 3: The unsatisfied, insecure cluster

The unsatisfied, insecure cluster: PhD candidates in this cluster experience the most obstacles of all, both personal as well as research related. Moreover, they are highly unsatisfied with the support from their supervisor. They also score rather low on satisfaction with the freedom given by their supervisor. PhD candidates in this cluster are not satisfied with the personal and impersonal conditions of their job. They do not feel on the right track with their research, and estimate their chance of successful completion low, compared to the other clusters.

Cluster 4: The satisfied, confident cluster

The satisfied, confident cluster: PhD candidates in this cluster experience few obstacles during their trajectory. They are satisfied with their supervisor and with their work environment. As a result, they feel on the right track with their research, and estimate their chance of successful completion high.


Please note that a small group of PhD candidates was not assigned to one of the clusters. These are PhD candidates that are currently not working on a PhD, or did not fill in all the questions that were necessary to be assigned to a cluster.

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