Conference 2019

From PhD to Postdoc – the Role of Professionals

The second PRIDE conference, held on 28 and 29 March 2019 and hosted by VUB in Brussels, was dedicated to the many facets of the transition from PhD to postdoc and the role of professionals in supporting young researchers in this phase and beyond. The conference discussed the broadening responsibilities and tasks professionals in doctoral education are encountering.

With the amount of PhD graduates growing constantly, but at same time the amount of permanent positions stagnating, young researchers are struggling to navigate their academic career. Already in 2010 the Royal Society estimated that only 0,45% of all PhD graduates will succeed in obtaining a professorship. Early career researchers who start their first postdoc often lack further career prospects in academia, but also lack knowledge about possibilities outside academia.

Current research on the topic often states that a good “knowledge of career opportunities” seems to be essential for career decisions. Universities could and should see it as their responsibility to prepare early stage researchers for different careers. Many institutions already support PhD candidates in this regard, but few are actively supporting early Postdocs.

Van der Weijden et al. 2015 highlight the importance of universities to „provide more clarity and openness about their further career prospects inside and outside academia.“ (p. 25) McAlpine and Emmioğlu 2014 recommend doctoral programmes to ensure that doctoral candidates are provided with career advice and training for non-academic careers and are “introduced to accounts of the extended academic career trajectories now required to be competitive.” (p. 1783).

Many universities have already established career support offers for (late) PhDs at their institutions. These services are sometimes located in the Central PhD offices or are joint initiatives of the Career Offices together with the Graduate Schools. Additionally, postdocs are more and more in the focus of the university management, requiring an expansion of services offered by professionals in doctoral education or other higher education professionals.

With the PRIDE conference, we shed a light on strategies, experiences and supportive measures for the transition phase from PhD to postdoc.

Brussels conference

Cited literature:
McAlpine, L., & Emmioğlu, E. (2015). Navigating careers: perceptions of sciences doctoral students, post-PhD researchers and pre-tenure academics. Studies in Higher Education, 40(10), 1770-1785.

Taylor et al. (2010): The Scientific Century: securing our future prosperity. The Royal Society.

Van der Weijden, I., Teelken, C., de Boer, M., & Drost, M. (2016). Career satisfaction of postdoctoral researchers in relation to their expectations for the future. Higher Education, 72(1), 25-40.