Privacy and Goals of the PhD Survey

The main goals of the Annual PhD survey

There are 3 goals:

  1. Self-evaluation: It gives PhD candidates the opportunity to reflect on their PhD trajectory and to compare their own answers to that of the other VUB PhD candidates.
  2. Early-problem detection mechanism: It gives the opportunity to signal problems (concerning supervision, overall satisfaction with VUB, etc.) to the faculty and - if needed - to the ombudsperson.
  3. Feedback: It provides feedback to different services and entities within the university. The results will be used to adjust support offered by the Doctoral Schools & the Central PhD Office, its reports will be presented and circulated to all doctoral candidates and supervisors.

These goals are further detailed in a Figure below, a visual representation of all involved parties and the different layers of the survey. We observe the PhD candidate within the scientific guidance network, including the supervisor(s), advisory committee and buddy/colleagues.

Data storage and privacy

The PhD candidates answer the questions in the survey, which are collected and analysed by the Research Group TOR of the Sociology Department.  Your answers to the questions are confident and will be stored anonymously together with a token. This token is also present in a database containing your personal (contact) information and student number. All information is stored in a separate database on a secured VPS-server owned by the Research Group TOR. Your contact information will only be used to contact (eg. reminders, follow-up email) you throughout the study. This is done by automatic processes. Your student number will be used to link your results on a yearly basis to create a longitudinal database. This longitudinal data will be linked to student-specific administrative information concerning the status of your doctoral trajectory (if you finished your PhD or not). The linkage is done through the common token and can only be made by one appointed person of the Research Group TOR. The data is stored by TOR indefinitely.

Since the information to identify each individual is stored on a separate place, the analysed database itself is coded and anonymous.  Both the anonymous database and the report are sent to the Central PhD Office to be further distributed to the faculty PhD survey coordinators. Each faculty PhD survey coordinator signs a confidential agreement and receives two datasets: one with contact details from PhD candidates who gave their email address at the end of the survey and one anonymised dataset with faculty-specific data. They can use the data for faculty-specific questions and to report faculty-specific aggregated results to their faculty members. Confidential remarks from PhD candidates remain between the faculty coordinator and the PhD candidate, except if the latter agrees to inform third parties (in case this is needed for a particular problem). No personal information is shared with other parties without the explicit approval of the PhD candidates, except when other legislation requires the notification of competent authorities (for example: suicidal inclination or unacceptable behaviour).

PhD candidates can thus signal problems themselves, but next to that a cluster analysis is performed to get an overview of cases who are unsupported and/or uncertain about their PhD trajectory. These persons can be contacted via the separate database of TOR. The faculty PhD survey coordinator doesn't know the person's identity as long as this person does not reply to the message. We want to maximise the opportunities for the PhD candidates to get back on track - if needed.

Feedback loop of the Annual PhD Survey

Other questions

If you have other questions concerning the PhD survey, please check our FAQ pages.

The GDPR legislation is respected concerning the full set-up and execution of this survey. You can coerce your rights concerning access, rectification, deletion and objection via If you have any questions regarding privacy or your personal data, you can contact the VUB Data Protection Officer. A formal complaint is possible via the Privacy Commission

Wat is het MOTUS onderzoeksplatform?

Het MOTUS onderzoeksplatform omvat MOTUS onderzoeken gespreid over meerdere wetenschappelijke onderzoeksdomeinen, disciplines, beleidsdomeinen en ondernemingsstrategieën. Over het algemeen hebben MOTUS onderzoeken een sterke link met het menselijk gedrag en de context waarbinnen we handelen om zo een beter beeld te krijgen van huidig en toekomstig gedrag.