Barend van der Meulen, Ruth Benschop, Roland Bal – 2005
The Graduate School Science, Technology and Modern Culture was established in 1994 to organise an excellent PhD education and co-ordinate the research programmes of the main Dutch centres in science and technology studies, i.e. those at universities of Amsterdam, Groningen, Leiden, Maastricht, Twente and Wageningen. The graduate school succeeded the successful PhD network on science and technology studies that had been organising workshops and summerschools in STS since 1986. In January 1995 the school was formally acknowledged by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.
This paper has two main parts. The first part gives an overview of the aims and structure of the education, and presents the facts and figures about the PhD education, the courses and the results. The final terms of the graduate school (see textbox) show that the main aim of the graduate school is to educate PhD student to the level of a researcher capable of functioning as a senior researcher within research organisations or in other organisations. These ambitions have not been developed into clear evaluative indicators. By presenting the main facts and figures about the courses and the participation, as well as the progress of the PhD students in terms of PhD writing and their subsequent careers, we aim to give insight in the functioning of the graduate school over the period 1995 -1999. In this part, first, a general description of the Dutch PhD structure and the structure of the WTMC graduate school will be given. Subsequently the content of workshops, summerschools and winterschools are described and analysed. And lastly, the details about the career of PhD students from their admittance to the graduate school to their present status is presented.
The second part of this paper presents the analysis of a questionnaire that was sent to former and current Ph.D. students. This analysis is supplemented with information gathered from minutes of the Board meetings of the Graduate School and of the Education Committee, from the WTMC conference held in 1999, and from informal sources. The paper closes with an analysis of strengths and weaknesses of the program and suggestions for the future.
The Dutch PhD structure
The structure of the PhD education, which was formalised in the mid-eighties by the Dutch government, consists of is a four-year period appointment as a temporary staff member, responsible for doing research, teaching at pre-graduate courses and gaining a PhD education. During the four-year period, the PhD student is expected to spend an equivalent of one year on his or her own education, one year on teaching, and two years on research. Because it is assumed that PhD students will gradually evolve from being students to becoming researchers, they are offered a restricted salary in their first years, which increases to a full salary by the fourth year. After the first year, the university evaluates the PhD student’s progress and decides about a continuation of the appointment. From about 1985, within several disciplines, PhD networks have been founded to organise the PhD education in that discipline. The PhD network preceding the graduate school WTMC was among the first PhD networks.
In the early nineties the idea of PhD networks developed into graduate schools, which by organising excellent research groups in joint research programmes provided a perfect research and educational climate for PhD education. Apart from continuing and diffusing PhD networks to all disciplines, the graduate schools had to induce further concentration of excellent research into a limited number of Centres of Excellence. As a consequence, the graduate schools were to have a research programme as well. Initially the combined strategies of the Ministry of Education and Sciences, the research council, the universities, the recognition committee of the Royal Academy and of course the research groups resulted in an enormous growth of graduate schools. But in 1997 only three outstanding graduate schools were selected by NWO and rewarded with 100Mf each by the universities. The two main criteria for this selection were the quality of research and the size of the graduate school – not the quality of the PhD education.
Over time, universities and graduate schools have evolved their own practices within the general framework of the PhD system, sometimes by deviating from this system. Some universities have changed the status of the PhD student from a temporary staff member to a studentship, to overcome the burden of social security payments. Others have increased the salary to compete with industry and improve the attractiveness of the PhD positions. With respect to the time spent on teaching, learning and research, local practices may deviate as well from the norms implied by the general framework. Increasingly, young assistant researchers are combining (contract) research with the writing of a PhD. Others have part-time positions, and spread their four-year appointment over five years.
The Graduate School on Science, Technology, and Modern Culture has organised its education into a local, and a combined national and international component. The main part of the local component consists in the supervision of the PhD research by the senior staff of the department and the writing of the PhD thesis. In addition the local component is used for acquiring in-depth knowledge and specialised skills necessary for the PhD research project. The specific content of the local components is specified in individual education plans.
The national and international components are organised by the secretary/ co-ordinator of the Graduate School in co-operation with the co-ordinators of the four sub-programmes of the school’s research programme. It consists of four workshops and two summerschools in the PhD student’s first two years and two winterschools in the last two years. The workshops are organised in a cycle of two years with the four research sub-programmes of the graduates school research program as the intellectual framework for the topics. The international summerschools are organised around the work of outstanding international scholars, who act as key lecturer and whose work is presented and discussed with the students. Every PhD student follows four workshops and two summerschools within the first two years. Within the winterschools the PhD students and senior staff of the research school discuss draft chapters or other products of the PhD students.
The national components of the graduate school
As said, the national component of the graduate school consists of two workshops, a summerschool and a winterschool each year. The workshops and summerschools are organized for PhD students in their first two years, while the winterschool cater for PhD students in the next years while they are concentrating on writing their thesis. The winterschools programs are centered around on the work of the PhD students, and consequently have no theme.
The themes of the workshops are similar to those of the graduate school’s research program:
- Evaluation of the modern research system
- Technological development and societal regulation
- Cultural and political roles of science, technology and rationality
Scientific knowledge and professional practices in the welfare state
Every workshop highlights a specific topic within one of the themes through lectures from staff of the graduate school itself and from external experts (both academics and professionals). Lecturers are selected to ensure introduction to the basic works and recent studies on the theme, as well as to reflect the interdisciplinary nature of the school’s research. In addition, every workshop includes exercises to improve and reflect upon research skills and methods. PhD students are expected to present their research project at one of the workshops or summerschools they attend.
At the international summerschools the work of international well known scholars is presented and discussed. Each summerschool has its key lecturer as well as other lecturers or senior researchers whose work is related to that of the key lecturer.
In the appendix the topics of the workshops and summerschools from 1995-1999 are listed. We have analysed the workshop and summerschools according to the nature of the activities done during these events. In the workshops and summerschools about 70% of the time is filled with lectures from staff of the graduate school or invited lecturers (Figure 1 and 2) . At the summerschools about half of the lecturers are given by the key lecturer, an outstanding international scholar from science and technology studies whose work is presented and discussed at the workshop. Over time the summerschools have developed a reputation that ensures the collaboration of eminent international scholars. Table 1 lists the key lecturers since 1986. About 30% of the time is spent on PhD presentations and exercises. Within PhD presentations, the projects of PhD students are presented and discussed. In most of the exercises the participants are asked to analyse raw data, analyse texts of lecturers and prepare discussions. Participants work in small groups and report in plenary sessions.
The career of the WTMC PhD students
PhD students are appointed according to local time frames throughout the year, and enter the PhD education at the day of their first appointment. The graduate school continued the course structure developed by the PhD network, which at that time enroled 33 PhD students. Of these 33 students, three students had finished their fourth year and, formally, ought to have finished their thesis. We include them in the figures, as we know that most of the PhD students exceed the four year period – either because they have a part-time position or because their research takes up more time. We have left out of the figures those students who, at that time, had exceeded the fifth year as well and had not finished the thesis yet. Eight students of the 33 had been appointed in 1991 and were in their last year of appointment and were expected to finish their thesis in the first year of the graduate school. Eight students were in their third year; nine students were in their second year and, five students in their first year.
Figure 3 gives the number of the PhD students in the graduate school (or PhD network) since 1990 as well as the fifth year students and, since 1995, the students exceeding the fifth year. The figures are based on calculations at the end of each year. Thus, at the end of 1998 there were ten first year students, five second year, five third year and five fourth year students. Only three students were in there fifth year and thirteen students were working on their thesis for more than five years.
Figure 3 shows that both in terms of intake-numbers and of finishing the PhD work, the graduate school has had a difficult time. The PhD network preceding the graduate school had an intake of about ten PhD students a year and a total number of PhD students (including the fifth year students) of about thirty. From 1994 until 1997 the intake was only about five students a year. At the end of 1997, the number of PhD students within the regular time frame of four year and thus within the PhD education programme, was only eighteen. The number of PhD students within or beyond their fifth year outnumbered this and was twenty-two. At the end of 1998 these numbers were more balanced because of twelve graduations and an intake of ten PhD students.
In 1986, when the PhD network started, it was expected that the PhD network would have an intake of about twelve students from four universities (Amsterdam, Twente, Maastricht and Groningen) and, consequently, would have a total number of students of 48. These targets have never been met. Figure 4 shows the intake of PhD students per university in the PhD network and the graduate school since 1986. Until 1993 the intake was 6-10 student a year, with a fair share from each of the four partners. Since 1995, Groningen has not participated in the graduate school at the same level as it did in the PhD network. In addition, the other three universities had a much lower number of PhD positions as well. Only due to participation of PhD students from other universities, the graduate school could maintain a minimum number of students.
Comparing the PhD network period with the graduate school period, the intake per year of the graduate school is about a half of that of the PhD network, but the total number of students within the school (including those in there fifth year) is not. If selection of PhD students is done well, and only a few PhD students quit over a five year period, with an intake of ten each year, one might expect a total number of about forty-five students. Due to the relative high number of students before 1995 who left the network without graduation, the total number was only 30-34 students. With an intake of five students a total number of 22 students is expected. Indeed, the total number decreases, but the decrease is somewhat compensated because hardly any of the students drops out.
Figure 5 shows the status at the end of 1998 of the PhD students who entered the PhD network since 1986. Especially in 1989 and 1990 a high number of PhD students left the network without graduation, some of them within two years, others gave up after two or more years. Of the seventeen PhD students, only four had finished their thesis at the end of 1998 and two were still working on it. Clearly things have become better since, and only four of the students admitted to the graduate school left it. Two of them found other jobs, one gave up within two years and one PhD contract was discontinued by the university after first year evaluation. The high number of students that work on the thesis now for more than five years is still quite high.
Figure 1 and 3 raise questions about the time necessary finishing the thesis. The formal PhD scheme assumes four years to be sufficient for doing the research and writing the thesis. PhD students in WTMC take more time. Of the twenty-three theses finished by the PhD students that had entered the PhD network since 1988 one was finished within four years. Four students finished the thesis after four years, ten after five years and five after six years. Three theses were finished after seven years or more. To compare, national figures about the time that it takes to finish a PhD show that within the social and behavioural sciences and the humanities about 40% of the theses are finished within five years (WTMC ~20%), 75% within six years (WTMC ~65%), and 90% within seven years (WTMC ~90%).
One of the criteria for recognition of a graduate school is the labour market for doctorates, i.e. whether there are sufficient research jobs or other jobs for which a PhD is necessary within research organisations and the wider society. We traced the post doctorate careers of those that had been in the PhD network or graduate school. We distinguish three groups: Those that had finished a thesis and got their doctorate, those that finished the four year period but have not a PhD yet, and those who quit after having some years of WTMC education. Of the 33 PhD students that have finished their PhD since the start of the PhD network in 1986, 28 now have a position at a university, either as staff member or as a postdoc. Of these former WTMC PhD students eight gained a position within WTMC, sixteen at another Dutch university group or Dutch research institute and four went abroad to (temporary) research positions. Although many former WTMC PhD students have gained research positions, many of these positions are temporary. Two former PhD students, who finished their thesis, have moved to non-research positions and now work at an institute for scientific information, and at a social science publisher, respectively. Of three of the former students the present occupation is unknown.
Figure 6 compares the careers of the PhD students of the first five years with those of the second period of four years. The comparison shows that the first generation of PhD students has profited from the growth of WTMC to get a position. For the second generation WTMC had little positions to offer and these found compensation abroad.
With respect to those who did not finish the four year period, or do not have their PhD yet, the figures are not so clear. We know of some, who are still at positions within the field, e.g. have their own consultancy firm, work at agencies for technology assessment or have temporary positions at one of the groups for education or co-ordination, but of most of them the present careers are unknown. In general, it can be concluded that the four years period as a PhD student within WTMC gives a good perspective on a future career, if it is finished with a PhD thesis.
PhD Student Evaluation of WTMC Graduate program
As part of the selfevaluation of the Graduate School, a questionnaire was sent to former and current Ph.D. students. This questionnaire covered 3 separate topics which will be discussed in this order. Where relevant, links will be made to the other types of evaluations.
- the (inter)national component
- the local component
During the “STS after 2000” conference, it was noted that a substantial lack of information existed regarding several pressing issues related to the education program, for example, reasons why students do not finish their project. Therefore, questions were broad and open with the explicit aim of gathering as much information and opinions as possible. The questionnaire was sent to all current PhD students, to former PhD students belonging to the five-year period under evaluation, and to current and former PhD students who although not formally part of WTMC, participated fully in the WTMC education program. In total, 59 forms were sent out, of which 33 questionnaires were returned. Of these 33, 25 were filled in by current PhD students, 8 by former PhD students. Unfortunately though maybe not surprisingly, no drop-outs replied. The affiliations of the respondents were: UvA (6 respondents), UT (6), UM (11), RUG (4) WU (1), VU (3), UL (0), external (2).
The (inter)national Component
At the “STS after 2000” conference, both members of WTMC and foreign researchers were exceptionally pleased with this part of the graduate school. In general, most respondents of the questionnaire were also positive about the (inter)national component. They note in particular that it made it possible for them to position themselves in the STS field. Further, the insights gained by attending the program were considered crucial for their own research. All in all, PhD students are content with the organisation, structure and the “weight” of the (inter)national component. They praise quality of the invited speakers and seem to appreciate the summerschools in particular. Respondents are critical about the amount of attention paid to research skills such as presentation of work, methodology, and other tacit skills. A substantial group would prefer more teaching on methods of research, while some ask for teaching of presentation skills and writing. Some question, however, whether the (inter)national component is the right site for such education. Given the diversity of skills required and research being done by PhD students, they suggest that such skills ought to be taught within the local component. Moreover, several PhD students are critical about the “incrowd” atmosphere.
At the “STS after 2000” conference, the social and networking function of the (inter)national component was emphasized by PhD students and those who had lectured at workshops and/or summerschools alike. From the questionnaire, especially the social function of formal and informal contacts with staff and other PhD students was praised, while the contribution of the (inter)national part of the education program to the building and sustaining of a national and/or international network of research contacts within the field is unclear. Although a small group is clear in their praise, many others are neutral. Especially those who define themselves as on the periphery of WTMC maintain that network building is and should mostly be done elsewhere.
Winterschools were introduced into the curriculum in 1996. The need was felt for a forum in which PhD students within WTMC could present and discuss their work in the later stages of their research, to complement the existing (inter)national component. The set-up that was chosen therefore concentrated on the presentation and discussion of chapters or articles of senior PhD students by national and international distinguished researchers. The first winterschool was evaluated by several participants (both staff and students). In this evaluation, the opportunity for on-going debate among STS scholars was greatly appreciated, as well as the way in which texts were discussed. PhD students indicated that winterschools should be organized to reflect the advanced level of independent work being done by PhD students. In other words, they demanded to be treated like adults, rather than children. Although attendance is a continuing problem, winterschools have been organized every year since 1996. Regarding the more general problem of dropping attendance, at the “STS after 2000” conference it was suggested that foreign students might be more actively solicited.
15 Respondents of our questionnaire had not yet attended a winterschool. Some of the others has several comments: Whether having to present ones work in English is worth the effort, that one ought to be able to present more unfinished work, that the combination of regular and varying staff is a good one.
Most PhD students are content with the way the (inter)national component functions. However, a diversity of requests were formulated: Several PhD students noted that there was too little attention paid to the “C” of WTMC: culture. Some asked for more attention for the “canon”, while some found workshops and summerschools too long, and/or too intensive (especially the evenings). The remark recorded most often was to send readers earlier. Most had not realized that the four workshops were supposed to reflect the four programs that make up the structure of WTMC research, while the summerschools are supposed to tap into current debates with key persons from the field. Some noted that the workshop-themes seem to be defined ever more narrowly (around technology rather than science) and ask for a broader orientation. This request for a broader orientation, and, for example, the remark about more attention for culture, came up during the “STS after 2000” conference also. Here it was formulated as a problem: how to accommodate the demand for introduction to something like a core of WTMC, by providing a central readinglist, by presentation of basic research skills, etc., with the noted broadening and diversification of STS?
In the questionnaire, we asked PhD students whether they had enough say in the teaching program. While most said they did not, opinions were divided about whether this was good or bad. Some pleaded for being able to chose what kind of key persons would be invited at the summerschool, or, more generally, for the possibility to chose or skip specific workshops and/or summerschools. In 1995 a committee was set up to monitor the WTMC education program. After a few meetings, this committee peetered out and without formally being dismissed, it seized to function. At the WTMC conference and in other contexts, the need for a new committee has been recognized. Given the changes in the field, the recurrent problem of the number of students entering the curriculum and the schools concern about the relatively long time students take to finish their PhDs, a committee that monitors, evaluates and plans the education program seems desirable.
The Local Component
The local component is difficult to assess, because it differs from student to student, supervisor to supervisor, period to period, and department to department. But because so little is known within WTMC about how the component functions, questions about it were taken up in the questionnaire. In general, it seems that the role of WTMC in the local component is unclear, but it is doubted whether it should be more pronounced. A more structured and systematic approach to what the local component is supposed to be is requested as is more information of possibilities and duties at the start of the PhD position.
In the local component, teaching is provided that is relevant to the PhD research of the PhD student. An important part of this local teaching consists in supervision of the thesis. Next to this, the local component consists of the following elements:
- eliminating deficiencies in the former training of PhD students
- because of the interdisciplinary character of the field, explicit attention should be paid to: deepening of background knowledge and skills necessary for doing a PhD research project, both by training of specific research skills as by additional study of the literature
- providing a stimulating intellectual climate, for example by participation in research colloquia and interaction with (foreign) guest lecturers and researchers. (Cited from the first WTMC request for recognition by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1994. translation: RB)
Many of both current and former PhD students take the local component to consist primarily of the individual supervision they receive. They seem surprised and confused about whether the component might consist of anything besides, for instance, following courses. Many miss a systematic approach to any deficiencies in education they might have, or a group in which they might participate. Often at the beginning no plan for research and/or local teaching is made or when it is, it is never referred to again. Plans often have a bureaucratic function or are too unspecific to be useful, or PhD students are unsure whether such a plan exists. This is regretted. Particularly in Maastricht (UM/FdCW) there are no plans or none that function.
With regards to supervision, there is no commonality to the answers. PhD students are either very satisfied or extremely dissatisfied. Complaints are often related to the large amount of freedom given, and to lack of structure and interest of supervisors. Although PhD students like their freedom, they feel that their supervisors ought to provide more guidance in order to allow them to be productive.
Most PhD students feel that no attention is paid to additional training or skills they might need, nor that deepening of background knowledge or the study of literature is provided. No guidance or systematic reflection is given to these issues in the local component. Students generally ask for courses or “read up” on their own initiative, which they consider appropriate. However, some structure and attention for these issues would be appreciated.
Most PhD students are positive about the intellectual climate provided at their departments, however at the RUG and the UvA a decline is indicated in a formerly intellectually stimulating climate. Regarding available facilities, PhD students agree that there are enough or even plenty material, financial, and social facilities. Only at the RUG, material and financial facilities were distributed sparingly. Overall, PhD students feel that they are able to embed their research internationally, although it depends on faculty, departmental budgets and on one’s own initiative.
Asked about the amount of teaching they were obliged to give, PhD students were divided. The national norm is that 25% of the time ought to be spent on teaching. However, PhD students’ satisfaction or dissatisfaction does not seem in any simple way related to the amount of teaching being done or to the institute where PhD students work. (While 27 PhD students taught at their department, 17 were satisfied with how much they taught, 6 expressed they taught too little and 8 expressed they taught too much.) Only at the extremes – much too much or hardly any – is there pronounced dissatisfaction. Most PhD students are torn between the perceived importance and pleasure of teaching and its time consuming nature. Several remarked that the teaching one gives ought to be related to the research one does for it to be productive.
We asked students about the organisational or policy duties they have in their departments. Most PhD students value the duties they have, for the necessary diversion it offers and because it gives them a way to become part of the department they are in. Some are satisfied by not having duties, while others regret not being integrated more in this way.
It appears that the progress of research is mostly – if at all – monitored at the end of the first year. This is evaluated positively (and asked for if not provided). We also asked PhD students opinions about how the assessment after the first year functioned. Those who are not enthusiastic about how the assessment worked in their case, do value the institution as such – they want it to function (mostly in Maastricht). At the UT and RUG there is satisfaction about the real function of this assessment, while at the UvA there is uniform dissatisfaction. Twice it was suggested that such a formal assessment might be organized every year. Besides this formal moment, little systematic attention is paid to monitoring of progress. Some PhD students value the informality and the responsibility for the PhD students themselves implied in this (non)approach. Others value clarity and formality. In general, UM (FdCW), RUG and UvA PhD students want more and more formal attention for progress, which is what most PhD students at the UT seem to have and like.
Only 8 of the respondents have finished their PhD, but some who have extended their four year PhD position also answered the question about where they went to work after getting their PhD. One person works as a researcher at a governmental organisation, while eight people work as researchers at several national or international universities.
We asked PhD students about the actual and preferred role of WTMC in the local component. All of the PhD students note that according to their knowledge, WTMC did not have any role in deciding what the local component consisted of, although many indicated that they were simply not sure what was the case – indicative in itself. There is no contact with the WTMC board and/or with directors of relevant research institutes.
The selection of PhD students is a local affair and should remain so, is the overall opinion. We asked about the role of WTMC in committees. There was ambiguity whether the question referred to the committee that will assess the thesis, or the committee that will hire the PhD. However, in both cases most PhD students do not know how these committees are assembled.
The questionnaire ended with two larger questions. The first was to do with most PhD students taking longer than the planned four years to finish the PhD. This issue was also discussed at the “STS after 2000” conference. From the questionnaire it could be gleaned that most PhD students tackle this problem by suffering. Those who foresee this problem in their future often just don’t know how they are going to respond. They either try to combine it with another job, which is not felt to be ideal or even productive. Many also work in their own time: nights and weekends. Hanging in there seems to be the main strategy. There are no indications or offers of external support (except “wachtgeld”) although a few PhD students hope for, or have been able to work out a workable structure (e.g. partime work for a set period until the thesis is finished) with their new jobs or supervisors.
The most obvious analysis of the problem is to relate it to the PhD students abilities to encorporate what they are taught in such a way as to help them structure their research better, as well as by relating it to the lack of skills PhD students acquire. And although this may be the case, the respondents to the quistionaire, as well as participants at the “STS after 2000” conference suggested other ways of approaching the issue. Most respondents agree that this issue is a structural problem that is almost always turned into a personal problem of PhD students, with all the expected negative emotional, financial and practical consequences. The causes, in so far causes are mentioned, have to do with the prevalent “culture of autonomy” which makes PhD projects into personal responsibilities, rather than collective ones of PhD student, supervisors and the broader organisation. Also, mention is made of the high expectations of PhD theses, both by supervisors and by PhD students themselves. Many solutions are suggested, although a repeated warning is formulated that a too rigid system is not desirable. In order of times mentioned, the suggested measures are:
- more attention for do-ability of projects (10 times)
- more attention for progress, e.g. by regular supervision (8)
- change the position into a five-year one, e.g. by adding teaching-contracts (7)
- formulate a clear PhD-policy, specifying (financial) duties of supervisors (5)
- add intermediary deadlines (4)
- formulate a clear postdoc-policy, to give PhD students a place to go (2)
- lower the obligatory teaching load and make the teaching relevant to the research (2)
- start writing early (1)
- prevent a too narrow focus by involving PhDs in other things (1)
- organise more contact among PhD students (1)
- change the term PhD thesis into “doctoraalscriptie” (1)
- add more teaching off research-skills (1)
Stricter selection (1)
The second general issue was about WTMC in general. Because PhD students are not only recipients of WTMC teaching, but are also participants of WTMC, we asked PhD students about the role of WTMC in general. Some of our respondents were hardly aware of the existence of WTMC outside the (inter)national component. Several PhD students wanted WTMC to be involved more in collaborative work, for example by organising thematic workshops in which PhD students were explicitly asked to contribute and/or organise (the workshops that have been organised on mobility and materiality were highly valued). A group of PhD students criticise the trend within WTMC to take WTMC as a discipline. The “incrowd” atmosphere that results, they argue, is not good for the development of the school, nor for the position of PhD students. And again, a small number of PhD students note the lack of attention for (modern) culture within WTMC.
Based on the analysis of the content of the programs, the course of the PhD careers and the questionnaire results, we are able to draw conclusions at three levels. The first level is the content of the program, conceptualised by the final terms of the graduate program. Although we did not elaborate the final terms in evaluative indicators, the different pieces of information allow for some evaluation of these final terms. The second level is that of the organisation of the program and its respective components. The third and maybe most important level, is how the program effects the career of the PhD students, before and after their graduation.
Given the positive evaluation of the workshops, summerschools and winterschools as well as that students acquire in depth knowledge of the field and its development, insight in the relationships with founding disciplines and can link these research questions and results of science and technology studies to societal and cultural issues, we can conclude that most of the final terms are met. Indicative in this respect is also that almost all PhD students after graduation find research positions, also at non WTMC research groups in the Netherlands and abroad.
The quality of the PhD theses, the career of the PhD students, and their presence at conferences indicate that the PhD students have the capacity to use the knowledge acquired in the Graduate Schhool’s education program in their own research.
A critical issues is the development of research skills, methods and tools. PhD students, WTMC members and other participants at the “STS after 2000” conference agreed that more attention could be paid to this issue.
In order to acquiring the oral and literal skills for being a researchers, participants are actively involved in the workshops and schools, through assignments, presentation and discussions. In addition, the local research groups provide a stimulating intellectual climate and provide PhD students with the facilities to be active at international conferences. PhD students feel that both the schools and the local facilities enhance the ability to develop and maintain international contacts.
As to the organisation of the graduate program, there appears to be a large distinction between the (inter)national and the local component. The (inter)national component is generally considered to be success. The local component is hardly developed. Especially, the lack of individual plans for research and teaching and the lack of any formal attention for the progress of the PhD research are found problematic. Maybe more then increasing the attention for research skills within the (inter)national component, the key to reducing the total PhD period (from start to thesis) has to be found in a better organisation of the local component.
By now, the (inter)national component has a successful framework for more then ten years. Therefor there is little reason for major changes. Two specific issue remain. Within the present structure there is a distinction between workshops that are nationally oriented and summerschools that are internationally oriented. In the past, at workshops there have been lecturers from abroad. Still the focus is national and the working language Dutch. At present this appears to be a problem for a few PhD students from abroad. If internationalisation of the research groups continue and more PhD students come from abroad it might be necessary to increase the international level of the workshops as well.
Secondly, the data on the development of PhD student numbers raises the question about the minimum number of PhD students necessary to have a viable national component. Certainly, with an influx of five students a year, organisation of the (inter)national component can only be done fruitfully if sufficient external participants can be attracted. On the other side, active workshops and schools cannot but within groups of limited size. Therefor, with respect to participation of new research groups in the research school, WTMC also need to think about the maximum number of students that within the present structure can be managed.
The raison d’être of the graduate school is to educate the PhD students up to a level of senior researcher (‘zelfstandig onderzoeker’). The PhD network on science and technology studies that succeeded WTMC faced two major problems. A high number of students left the network without finishing their thesis, and if they finished it, it took most of them too many years. With the start of the graduate school, WTMC seems to have tackled the first problem. The number of students that leave the graduate school is limited. The time students need to finish their thesis remains a problem. Above we have given some clues how WTMC might deal with this problem.
As to the level of those that have graduated, the evaluation is positive. Doctorates from the school have (temporary) research positions at universities in the Netherlands and abroad and within research institutes. Those that have not, are on positions that require academic capacities and familiarity with scientific research. Responses on the questionnaire we sent around, confirm the graduate program had an important role in their development to a senior researcher.