#EAIR2019 Programme

#EAIR2019 Programme

To quit or not to quit? Investigating the considerations and actual reasons for dropout of the PhD-trajectory, a multi method study



Responsibility for Continuing Professional Development


Christine Teelken et al, VU University Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Single presentation - 30 Minutes



Despite the increasing popularity of doctoral education, many PhD candidates drop-out during their doctoral studies. In the Netherlands, the percentages of dropouts differ between 30% and 50% (Delta, 2015). However, while this concerns a substantial group, we know very little about why and how PhD candidates in the Netherlands drop out. Identifying and understanding why some PhD candidates consider that they do not want to, or are unable to, continue their PhD research project is essential to improve support, training and well-being of PhD candidates. This mixed method study focuses on the motives PhD candidates give for considering to or actually dropping out of their doctoral degree. 213 PhD candidates from Dutch universities responded to a questionnaire and 14 actual dropouts were interviewed retrospectively. Results showed that approximately half of the respondents stated they had intended to drop out. Main reasons for their intentions were that they experienced little progress, difficulties with their supervisor(s) and mental health problems. The PhD candidates, who actually dropped out, did not do so suddenly, but after a considerable time of doubt and careful considerations. Stress and perceived lack of involvement of their supervisors were both crucial factors. The dropouts particularly required a more holistic manner of supervising, with not only interest for the content of their project but also for their general wellbeing.