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A listening ear and advice that fits the situation

For several months now, in addition to her responsibilities as Institute Manager for the Academy of Creative and Performing Arts (ACPA), Rosalien van der Poel has been fulfilling a different role: that of confidential adviser to doctoral candidates. ‘It’s an honour to be able to do this work,’ Rosalien says.

Until recently, doctoral candidates had no designated confidential adviser. At a conference about confidential advisers early this year, it was agreed that it would be desirable to make clear distinctions between the various confidential advisers. Too often, there was a lack of clarity about how the different confidential advisers related to and coordinated with each other, so the faculty decided to appoint a designated adviser specifically for doctoral candidates, to complement the existing advisers for students and staff members.

Rosalien van der Poel


No sooner said than done. Since the spring, Rosalien has been the confidential adviser for doctoral candidates from all institutes within the faculty – except ACPA, as that is her own department. ACPA’s doctoral candidates can talk to confidential advisers in Law and the Social Sciences.

Everything Rosalien discusses with the people who go to see her is strictly confidential. First and foremost, she offers a listening ear. Her wider role involves clearly identifying a problem and advising and supporting doctoral candidates in resolving that problem.  ‘To me, it’s an honour to have been asked to fill this role. I’ve done a PhD too, so I know the kind of struggles that come with it. In the past I also studied youth welfare at HBO level, which is really useful in this role,’ Rosalien explains.

Collegial advice

‘When I was appointed, I got in touch with a fellow confidential adviser (Rikki Holtmaat) in the Law faculty. She was a real help; she gave me sample intake forms and some very practical tips.  Piet de Boer, the confidential adviser for all Leiden University employees, also helped me get started. I’m going to take a course in “Basic training as a confidential adviser for unacceptable behaviour” in November, and I’ve spoken to the HR department to find out what the employment-related effects of certain matters are for doctoral candidates employed by the university.’

Back on track

Rosalien has already been able to help several doctoral candidates. ‘The problems often have to do with the relationship between candidates and their supervisors. Or people might have come up against problems and be wondering if they should continue with their research. I give them tips about how to tackle the things they’re facing, and we look together at their options, their rights and their responsibilities. I don’t get involved past that point – I don’t go with the person to meetings. They have to do that themselves, sometimes with the help of the HR department. It’s really rewarding when I can support people, when I can help them. It’s a good feeling when you see that they’re back on track.’

What issues can you bring to the confidential adviser for doctoral candidates?

As a doctoral candidate, you may be experiencing difficulties in your relationship with your supervisor(s), manager, colleagues or other PhD candidates. If it’s not possible to resolve those difficulties, even with the help of your institute’s PhD counsellor.

Contact details of the confidential adviser for doctoral candidates

Rosalien van der Poel
E-mail: phd-confidentialadvisor@hum.leidenuniv.nl
Telephone: 071 527 4137

For more information about the faculty confidential adviser for doctoral candidates and PhD counsellors, visit the webpage of the relevant Graduate School.

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