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PhD survey: Europeans work harder than Danes

PhD students from other EU countries at the University of Copenhagen spend more time than their Danish colleagues researching and writing

Non-Danish – European – scientists spend considerably more working hours researching and writing on their PhDs than their Danish and non European colleagues.

This is according to numbers from the University Post’s PhD survey which categorises respondents into Danish, non-Danish EU and non-Danish non-EU.

78 percent of European non-Danish PhDs at the University of Copenhagen spend 16 hours or more a week doing research. This goes for only 60 percent of the Danish PhDs, and for 60 per cent of those international PhDs that are from outside the EU.

Lab work takes time

To top this, 26 percent of the PhDs from European countries also use 16 hours or more on writing. Only 18 percent of the Danish PhDs and around 16 percent of the non-EU PhDs spend 16 hours or more writing.

The difference in work times may have something to do with non-Danish nationalities figuring stronger in the sciences relative to humanities subjects at the University of Copenhagen. Indeed PhDs associated with the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences and the Faculty of Science also work more that the PhDs at the other faculties, the survey shows. Anecdotal evidence from the comments field in the survey, show that doing experiments in the laboratory may be time-consuming.

“I work in the laboratory most of the time, between 40-50 hours per week. I wish I had more time for reading and writing during a normal week, but as you feel the pressure of publishing quick, you prioritize the experiments. Although, I realize that I might have been more effective if I had more time to learn all the background knowledge and planned the experiments better before hand,” a PhD student writes

The teaching takes over

During some periods, teaching can take up a chunk of the PhDs work-time. This makes it difficult to find time to work on dissertations, the comments reveal:

“The teaching is very time consuming and in the semesters I have been teaching the research has been pushed into the background,” says one.

“In the periods where I have been teaching, this has often taken up 35 hours a week, leaving very little time for other tasks,” says another.

One commenter writes that “there is zero room for progress on research or writing when teaching. Invariably this means that the quality of the thesis suffers, especially when compared with other institutions at which students have 3-4 years dedicated to research and writing (and some administrative work). In effect at UCPH you have only 18 months to research and write (because you teach two full semesters and a third semester is taking up going to conferences in order to get ECTS points.”

(See a summary of the results from the PhD survey in the attached pdf file)

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