PhDs can ask for different supervisor in case of ‘impossible working conditions’

In the future, PhD candidates can ask their dean to assign a different supervisor if their working relationship has become untenable. So say the new PhD regulations the university council will be discussing this week.

Under the current regulations, PhD candidates only have recourse when their supervisor rejects their thesis. But the new regulations say that the relationship between a PhD and their supervisor has usually deteriorated well before that.

It’s one of the changes that are meant to modernise the 2018 regulations. Other changes include the removal of ‘he/she’ and the addition of the rule that supervisors may not be directly related or have any other kind of relationship that would impact their independence. However, deans are allowed to make an exception.


Associate professors, who gained the ius promovendi, the right to get a PhD in 2018, will also be allowed to wear a gown during their ceremony. Until now, only full professors had that right.

Rector magnificus Cisca Wijmenga said this rule was ‘sad’ during a university council committee meeting. ‘It’s a highlight for the person acting as a supervisor, as well as the PhD candidate. That person should be allowed to wear a gown.’


There is one interesting detail in the new regulations: even though all references to ‘he/she’ have been removed, another rule has been added that says that female members on the promotion committee are no longer allowed to take off their cap during the ceremony.

Janet Fuller with the personnel faction says this is an outdated gender stereotype that we shouldn’t adhere to. ‘If people have a good reason to wear their cap, such as a toupee, that should be allowed’, she said. 

But rector Wijmenga says there is no room to change the new rules. ‘These regulations were written by the board of PhDs, not the board of directors’, she said. ‘We’ve genuinely tried to take it as far as we could, but these regulations were written in consultation with all faculties and took a long time. Sometimes you have to make compromises.’


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