Optimize Career Chances Outside of Academia

Dutch universities still pay too little attention to the career management of PhD candidates and postdocs. Although the number of PhD candidates is increasing in the Netherlands, and a large majority of doctoral graduates ultimately find a career outside of academia, there are too many missed opportunities in the current system for PhD candidates and postdocs to develop themselves broadly into scientific professionals. Focused activities are necessary at a national level in order for PhD candidates and postdocs to adequately realise their potential outside of the university. This is what the Postdoc Career Development Initiative (PCDI) and the PhD Candidates Network of the Netherlands (PNN) plead for in a memorandum published today.


In this memorandum PCDI and PNN, along with several other parties, push for special attention on improving the transition of the current generation of PhD candidates and postdocs to a career outside of academia. The parties have identified a number of challenges and propose concrete steps which must be taken in order to solve these issues. Charlotte de Roon, president of PNN: “Not only does the awareness of the importance of career management among PhD candidates and postdocs need to be increased, but the universities also need to encourage this and be flexible enough for this to happen. Moreover, the non-academic world can get acquainted earlier in the process with these groups”. PNN has, for example, set up the Professional PhD Program, which aims to give PhD candidates the opportunity to gain paid work experience outside of the university during the PhD program.


PCDI and PNN believe that policy makers need to pay more attention to the transition of doctoral graduates to a career outside of academia. Lilian Menu, director of PCDI: “It’s a missed opportunity that this theme was not included in the Dutch Research Agenda and Strategic Agenda for Higher Education. The Top Sectors also do not pay attention to these groups, while they have a great potential to increase innovation in The Netherlands.” One of the possible solutions submitted by the parties to minister Bussemaker is drafting an agreement between the Ministries of Education, Culture, and Science and Economic Affairs, the VSNU, NFU, industry, and NWO. This agreement should set clear targets for the transition of PhD graduates and postdocs.


PNN is the national organization for PhD candidates working at one of the fourteen Dutch universities, eight university medical centers, and five research institutions.PCDI has been a driving force in the Netherlands since 2007 for the professional and career development of postdoctoral researchers and final-year PhD candidates.