LiUPhD puts PhD students on the agenda
Since two committed PhD students started LiUPhD three years ago, questions relevant to PhD students have been brought into focus in a completely new way. What has happened during these three years?
One third of employees at LiU are PhD students. There are 1,300 people here registered in the national database LADOK as taking research education. These students need a common forum, not only to arrange social activities across faculty boundaries but also to promote issues and interests relevant to PhD students. Fredrik Lindeberg of the Department of Management and Engineering together with another PhD student started the PhD student association LiUPhD on 17 March, three years ago.
What has happened after this?
We have pushed issues questions relevant to PhD students onto the agenda of the student unions in a completely new way. We now have an official brief from StuFF and LinTek to represent PhD students in all faculties except for the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences. This faculty has its own PhD student association, DOMFIL. We have appointed PhD students to the university board, faculty boards, departmental boards, postgraduate studies boards, on the Postgraduate Forum and the university’s academic appointments board. We have also ensured that PhD student issues are discussed in meetings of the Student Advisory Council, where the student unions meet the university management and set the agenda. And we contribute to the introductory days for new employees. We make our presence felt much more now.
Initially, much of the work was centred around making contact with PhD students and arranging social activities. What questions are you working on now?
We are reaching increasing numbers now – people learn about us by word of mouth, but we still go around knocking on doors. And social activities are still important, in particular for international students. This is why the association always uses English as its working language. We arrange a summer social and a Nobel social every year together with DOMFIL – and we are collaborating more and more closely with this association. We hold popular pub evenings at the Kårhuset Kollektiv once a month.
One question that we are concentrating on is prolongation, which means the costs of the time that PhD students spend working as members of boards or committees. We want to avoid this being borne by research budgets. This is not working particularly well.
The evaluation of courses is another hot potato. The Higher Education Act stipulates that all courses are to be evaluated. Some courses are evaluated, but we feel this should be done in a more structured manner. At the moment, it looks as if we will be able to introduce standardised evaluation of compulsory courses.
Another point that we’re not happy about is that the working language for many boards and committees is Swedish. This means that international PhD students cannot sit as representatives on these.
You’ve achieved a lot in three years. What drives you?
To be honest, I’m quite impressed myself. And I’ve learnt a great deal. I’m a firm believer in working together and speaking with one voice, and at the same time I want to be able to make a difference and work through other structures than purely formal ones. It’s important to make your voice heard, and fulfilling when you achieve something. PhD students are the teachers of the future: LiU should consider this to be important as well.
What would you say to those who are hesitant about getting involved in LiUPhD?
We represent everybody. If you want to make a difference – do it together with us. We have real influence within the university. PhD students are both employees and students: we are concerned not only with which weeks you’re allowed to take your holiday but also how we can improve conditions for PhD students.
We have the annual general meeting soon. Come along and stand for election. We want the committee to be diverse and represent everybody. But come to the AGM even if you don’t want to serve on the committee!
- Thursday 27 April at 17.30, Room T1, C Building, Campus Valla
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Last updated: 2017-04-25