What if

Every department has a ‘survival guide’, or similar document, where PhD students can find answers to a lot of typical day to day questions. Many PhD students may, however, experience problems or challenges affecting their well-being during their PhD studies. Below, you can find examples of what to do in different situations that previous PhD students have characterised as problematic. The information contains links to relevant websites and references to the rules and guidelines for the graduate school. The site is currently under development, so more questions and answers will be added along the way, but if you have a question you think would benefit other PhD students, please contact PhD Partner, Randi Groslier Bjælde, rgb@au.dk.

What if I feel stressed?

If you are struggling with personal or academic challenges and feel that they are affecting your work on your PhD project, it is a really good idea to talk about it – especially with your supervisors and/or colleagues. It is helpful to be open and honest about your situation and reflect upon what kind of help and support you need.

Furthermore, on the AU staff portal there is a page on how to prevent and deal with stress. We recommend that you take a closer look at this website and then decide what to do. The possibilities for work related psychological counselling are also mentioned.

What if I don’t think that I am good enough/deserve to be a PhD student?

This is a common feeling for PhD students and it actually has a name: imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome or phenomenon is when you don’t think that you are as good as your supervisor/colleagues think you are. We advise you to be open with your supervisor, colleagues and programme chair. The chance that they have experienced something similar at some point in their career is actually quite big and it can help to talk about it.

What if I need psychological counseling?

Psychological counselling is available to all members of AU staff who experience work-related psychological problems. You can either contact AU’s psychological counselling service anonymously or get referral after having a dialogue with your manager. You can find more information here.

PhD students employed by external companies/institutions should contact their place of employment.

If you are enrolled in part A of a flexible PhD programme, find information under counselling services for students.

What if I am feeling lonely?

If you are struggling with a feeling of loneliness, personal or academic, it is a really good idea to talk about it – especially with your supervisors and/or colleagues. It is helpful to be as open and honest about your situation as possible – and to reflect upon what kind of help and support you need to not feel lonely. AU and the individual departments/groups also offer a large variety of social events, so keep an eye on websites and newsletters relevant for you.

What if I need an exemption from the rule of 3 months change of research environment/stay abroad?

The PhD order states that all PhD students must have a change of research environment during their PhD education. At Aarhus BSS Graduate School it is the rule that this must be abroad and for at least 3 months (section 7.2 in the rules and guidelines for the graduate school). If you for some reason is unable to meet this requirement, you can apply for an exemption. Applications for an alternative to 3 months abroad must include why you ask for an exemption and what you plan to do instead, to meet the requirement for a change of research stay as stipulated in the PhD order. Common reasons to apply for exemption are:

  • Split stay, i.e. more than one place it would be beneficial for your project to visit, but none of the stays are for 3 consecutive months
  • Stay in Denmark, there is a specific environment in Denmark that would fit your project better than someplace abroad
  • Shorter stay, due to special circumstance it is not possible to plan for 3 consecutive months abroad.

The application must be supported in writing by your supervisor and submitted to the Graduate School by the programme chair, together with their support of the application.

What if I need an extension of my PhD project due to illness?

The graduate school is not legally obliged to extend the PhD programme on the grounds of illness. However, we do have the authority to grant an extension corresponding to the period of absence during enrolment – subject to documentation showing that this absence has delayed the degree programme. The graduate school deals with all cases individually. Your enrolment/employment can only be extended for the part of your leave that is placed within your period of enrolment/employment. If your enrolment/employment ends during leave, your enrolment and salary payments will stop unless you can resume work full-time no later than the day after the enrolment/employment ended.

The application must be supported in writing by your supervisor and submitted to the graduate school by the programme chair, together with their support of the application. As a rule of thumbs, you must be back to full time work before sending in an application.

See section 6.4 in the rules and guidelines for the graduate school.

What if I need an extension of my PhD project due to childbirth/parental leave?

In the case of childbirth and parental leave you will be granted an extension if you hand in all the required forms. There are certain rules about the length of the extension, if your enrolment/employment is set to end before you return from leave. Please contact your HR supporter for questions about parental leave.

Employees can find more information and the forms here.

4+4 part A PhD students can find more information and the forms here

See also section 6.4 in the rules and guidelines for the graduate school.

What if I need an extension of my PhD project due to other leaves of absence?

The application must be supported in writing by your supervisor and submitted to the graduate school by the programme chair, together with their support of the application. The graduate school does not extend the enrolment or employment for any leave of absence held without prior written consent from the graduate school.

See also section 6.4 in the rules and guidelines for the graduate school.

What if I need an extension of my PhD project, but it's not due to illness or other leaves of absence?

The graduate school is not legally obliged to extend the PhD degree. However, we do have the authority to grant an extension if you for reasons out of your control (special conditions) have been significantly prevented from e.g. collecting data or recruit participants etc. If this is the case you can apply for an extension. The application must contain information on why your project is delayed and how you have tried to make up for the delay by e.g. moving courses, teaching etc. around.

The application must be supported in writing by your supervisor and submitted to the graduate school by the programme chair, together with their support of the application.

What if I experience problems in the working relationship with my supervisor?

If you continuously experience problems or issues in your working relationship with your PhD supervisor, you have the option of discussing it with your PhD programme chair or contacting the graduate school, who will work with you to find a solution. If it is not possible to resolve the problem in this way, switching to a different supervisor could be an option.

What if I experience offensive, discriminatory, or inappropriate behavior?

If someone behaves in an offensive, discriminating, or inappropriate way towards you, even though you have let the other person know that you find their behavior inappropriate, you can contact your PhD supervisor, programme director or manager for help and support; they will help you handle the situation.

AU has guidelines to help staff members deal with situations involving inappropriate or offensive behavior. If you are a PhD student employed by the university, find out more about these guidelines here. 

If you are enrolled in part A of a flexible PhD programme, you can also find information here. 

What if I have concerns involving research integrity, freedom of research and the responsible conduct of research?

If you are in a situation involving threats to freedom of research or responsible conduct of research, you can contact one of the university’s research conduct advisers. You can discuss the nature and severity of the problem with an adviser, who will help you decide on what course of action to take to address it.

Find more information here.