The right to confer PhDs, but no gown for associate profs

As well as professors, from now on associate professors (UHD-1) at TU/e may also confer doctoral degrees on PhD candidates. Sixty associate professors were awarded the right to confer doctoral degrees at the start of this academic year after the move was approved by the Upper House of Parliament in the Netherlands shortly before the summer recess. “We couldn't wait to introduce this here.”

According to TU/e policy officer Ben Donders it was a frustration felt by many associate professors in their role as co-supervisor: intensively supervising a PhD candidate for years, often acquiring the necessary funding for a research project, only to spend the formal concluding session, “simply sitting there, watching”. The proposed extension of what is known as ius promovendi, the right to confer doctoral degrees, which was approved in early June by the Upper House, has been welcomed in Eindhoven from the outset, he says.

Moreover, continues Donders, the total number of PhD candidates can be better distributed now that more people can fulfill the role of supervisor. In recent years on average 200 to 250 researchers completed their doctoral studies at TU/e each year. By way of illustration: Professor Bert Meijer, TU/e’s number one supervisor when it comes to the number of PhD candidates supervised, currently has fourteen researchers in his charge. According to Donders, the change will also have the effect of making it more attractive for overseas scientists to come to Eindhoven, drawn by the prospect of being named supervisor on a research study.

TU/e is a frontrunner in the Netherlands, Donders believes, when it comes to implementing the new right to confer doctoral degrees. “People here couldn't wait to introduce this.” He reports too that the university even took “a small risk” by including this new entitlement in its new Doctoral Degree Regulations as of September 1st, while the legislative amendment was officially announced only a few days earlier. “So we have been really quick in taking a decision.”

Incidentally, the fact that associate professors may now act as supervisors does not mean that when fulfilling this role they may wear a gown. “This remains the prerogative of professors.”

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