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Help, support and advice for PhD candidates

At VU Amsterdam we want you to be able to find the right person or department to help you with concerns or problems you encounter. Are you looking for someone to talk to about your questions, or do you need help or advice with a conflict situation? Are you feeling down or running into practical problems? You have a range of options at VU Amsterdam. Read more to find out where to go.

Your sounding board at the faculty: the PhD candidate advisor

If you cannot figure things out with your own supervisor or your team members, you can always contact the PhD candidate advisor of your faculty. It is possible to exchange ideas with them about (the progress of) your PhD project, your working environment and all kinds of issues you may encounter.

The PhD candidate advisor is independent, knows the faculty well and knows what it means to embark on a PhD trajectory. They can also refer you to other people or support at VU Amsterdam or the faculty. From 1 January 2023, every faculty will have to appoint a PhD candidate advisor. Some faculties already have a PhD candidate advisor in place at the moment.

You will meet the PhD candidate advisor at different times, starting with a welcome interview.
Find your PhD candidate advisor

What is your question about?

  • Inappropriate behaviour

    Inappropriate or worrying behaviour can include (sexual) harassment, aggression, violence, bullying, mobbing, threats, stalking and discrimination. If you can not resolve the problem with the person concerned, and consultation with your supervisor or someone else from your team is not feasible either, you can use this overview for who to contact. 

    PhD candidate advisor 

    You can discuss the problem with the PhD candidate advisor. They can refer you to other people or support at VU Amsterdam or your faculty. 

    Confidential counsellors

    If you want someone to talk to or if you want advice on possible steps to take, you can contact a confidential counsellor.

    Social Safety Hotline

    The Social Safety Expert Team can help to resolve an unsafe situation. If you experience inappropriate behaviour or feel unsafe on campus, off campus or online, please report it via


    You can call in the ombudsman if procedures are not followed properly, after, for example, reporting an unsafe situation to your supervisor. 

    Staff Welfare Office

    The Staff Welfare Officers can help you analyse the conflict from a variety of perspectives, to see which solution is the best fit for your situation. They can also provide mediation if necessary.

  • Psychosocial or health problems

    Staff Welfare Office

    If you are experiencing psychosocial problems, you can make an appointment with the Staff Welfare Office. You can make an appointment yourself, or alternatively you can be referred by the PhD candidate advisor, the occupational health physician, HR or your supervisor. 

    PhD psychologist

    The PhD psychologist is available for all PhD candidates at VU Amsterdam who experience psychological problems during their PhD project. This may include feeling overstressed, feeling depressed or anxious, feeling insecure or not good enough or having problems with assertiveness. The PhD psychologist offers short-term treatment.


    Are you experiencing health problems that (could) affect your work? Do you worry about aspects in your work and your health?

    • If you are a PhD candidate employed by VU Amsterdam, you can contact the occupational health physician (in Dutch). You can approach the occupational health physician yourself to make an appointment during the prevention clinic. An appointment is confidential; the occupational health physician is not allowed to report to your manager.
    • If you are not employed by VU Amsterdam as a PhD candidate, you can register at the University General Practice. In this video we will explain how you can register. 
  • Pressure of work and work-related stress

    The term ‘pressure of work’ is used when a person’s work becomes structurally imbalanced in relation to what the person is able to do. Are you experiencing long-term pressure of work and is it leading to work-related stress?

    PhD candidate advisor 

    With the PhD candidate advisor you can exchange ideas about your PhD trajectory and the workload you are experiencing. The PhD candidate advisor is independent and can also refer you to other people or support at VU Amsterdam or your faculty.

    See also Pressure of work and work-related stress.

  • Labour dispute

    If you have a conflict with a colleague and you can’t seem to work out the issue between you, these are the people to talk to for help and advice. 


    If you’re looking for someone to talk to, your manager can support and advise you. The conflict may in fact be with your manager, in which case you can approach their manager.

    PhD candidate advisor 

    If these hierarchical options aren’t working for you, you can contact the PhD candidate advisor. They may be able to refer you to one of the other counters.

    HR Advisor

    The HR Advisor can advise PhD candidates employed by VU Amsterdam in general terms on how best to deal with the conflict situation.

    Staff Welfare Office

    The Staff Welfare Officers can help you analyse the conflict from a variety of perspectives, to see which solution is the best fit for your situation and what resources you need to help you work towards that solution. Staff Welfare Officers are bound by professional confidentiality. You can contact them directly. 


    Discussions with the ombudsman are also strictly confidential. The ombudsman will help and advise you with analysing, resolving and assessing problems or complaints that arise from things like the incorrect application of regulations. These problems include not keeping promises about training or promotion opportunities, working conditions and other human resource management issues. The ombudsman will always try to resolve a complaint in consultation with you as a PhD candidate.

    You can also ask the ombudsman to start a formal investigation. The ombudsman will then investigate the complaint and assess it on its merits.

    Trade union

    If you have questions about your legal status, if you’re concerned about your employment, if you’d like external help with a labour dispute or an employment-related illness, or if you’re looking for personal external advice on your work and career, we advise you to contact your trade union. 

    Dispute settlement committee

    If you are employed by VU Amsterdam, you can take a dispute with your supervisor to an independent dispute settlement committee if it concerns: 

    • an assessment 
    • changing the position without the employee's consent
    • refusing a promotion to the functional scale
  • Personal problems

    Personal problems can arise as a result of your psychological welfare, relationships, problems in your family, caring for a loved one or your work/life balance. You may also need advice on practical matters such as assistance schemes, accommodation, financial worries and legal issues. All these things can have a big impact on your work.

    PhD candidate advisor 

    Contact the PhD candidate advisor. They may be able to refer you to one of the other counters.

    The Staff Welfare Office

    The Staff Welfare Office focuses on helping with psychosocial problems, including personal problems. The Staff Welfare Officer will help you explore the situation and identify any potential solutions, and if necessary they can also refer you to other people or organisations, either within or outside VU Amsterdam.
    If you are experiencing financial problems, the Staff Welfare Officer can also help you analyse your financial situation and discuss potential solutions with you. Staff Welfare Officers are bound by professional confidentiality.


    You can talk to your supervisor about whether your work could be organised differently to help you find a solution. For example, you may be able to change your duties or working hours, either temporarily or permanently.

    HR Advisor

    The HR Advisor can advise PhD candidates who are employed by VU Amsterdam about their terms and conditions of employment and schemes that could help them (for example regarding informal care, special leave and other employment conditions).
    If you have financial problems, the HR Advisor can help you explore your eligibility for all the different financial schemes offered by VU Amsterdam. They can also advise you on where you can get the support you need.

    VU Amsterdam staff fund

    If you as a PhD candidate employed by VU Amsterdam are experiencing financial problems, the VU Amsterdam staff fund (in Dutch) may be able to help by offering an interest-free loan or, in some cases, a gift. The fund can also offer advice on debt restructuring. There is a form to fill in to ask them for help. 

  • Academic Integrity

  • Reporting misconduct

    Do you suspect misconduct, inappropriate conduct or negligence in areas under the responsibility of VU Amsterdam? And could this situation have a serious impact on society or on VU Amsterdam? You can report this in a safe way via the Whistleblowers' Regulation of VU Amsterdam. You can initially contact your supervisor, but you can also turn to the following people.

    PhD candidate advisor 

    Discuss your suspicions with the PhD candidate advisor. They may be able to refer you to one of the other counters. 

    Confidential Counsellor under the Whistleblower Regulations

    These Confidential Counsellors can give you more information about using the Whistleblower Regulations to safely report misconduct. The Regulations explain what is defined as misconduct. The Confidential Counsellor can advise and support you, and they can also submit a report on your behalf so you remain anonymous.

    Everything you need to know about the Whistleblower Regulations and the Confidential Counsellors

    Ombudsman or Staff Welfare Office

    Are you personally affected by the situation? Are you not sure whether the situation involves misconduct that would justify a formal complaint? Or are you concerned about the potential consequences of making a report? If so, you can discuss the situation – in confidence – with the ombudsman or the Staff Welfare Office.

  • Reporting a physical incident or a dangerous situation

    Go to the Emergencies page.

  • Career guidance

  • Visa, housing and orientation issues

  • The information in a diagram

    The Help Matrix for employees of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam provides schematic information on help, support and advice. However: the information in the above has been supplemented and focused on PhD students.

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