Auditorium closed: no PhDs

A Chinese PhD student cannot defend her thesis before her visa expires. All because the Academy Building is closed during the summer.
By Emily Howard

The PhD student from astronomy professor Mariano Mendez is right on schedule with the research she started on the 1st of September 2014. But now she has run into trouble.

All PhD thesis defenses take place in the prestigious auditorium, in the Academy Building. Dutch and European PhD students usually defend just before, or a few weeks after, the end of their contracts. They have to take into account a delay, as they have to get confirmation that they have passed before signing up to the waiting list.

However, in summer the building is closed for seven weeks and members for the examining committee are hard to find. ‘To finish within the time of her visa, she would have to hand in her thesis around 5 or 6 months before her contract ends’, explains Mendez.

Visa problems

For PhD-students from the EU the summer closure isn’t a problem. But students from China can’t prolong their visas without a lot of tricky bureaucracy – and even then, it’s not definite.

Mendez is now helping her write letters to Chinese authorities and immigration officials. But she also needs to prove that she is able to support herself financially in the Netherlands after her PhD contract ends. ‘Dutch students don’t have this problem, they can stay in Groningen with a friend or back at their parents’ houses,’ says Mendez.


Peter Timmerman, secretary to the Faculty Board has heard complaints before. ‘But I was not aware that for non-EU students it could cause serious difficulties’, he says. ‘The easiest solution I can think of is to plan PhD trajectories in such a way that the defence does not have to take place in this period’, says Timmerman.

He suggests avoiding starting PhD contracts of non-EU students in August or September. ‘The faculty board will ask the director of the graduate school to advise PhD supervisors and new students along these lines.’

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