3 questions for Lena Bussmann and Julia Wünsche from the PhD Council
How does the PhD Council (ProRat) stand up for the interests of doctoral students?
Lena Bussmann (spokesperson for the ProRat): Every two years, the doctoral candidates at the TU Bergakademie Freiberg elect the doctoral council. Since the elections have been postponed this year due to Corona, we started a shortened legislative period of 1,5 years in June. We consist of 10 members, 3 of whom are not elected members, but in an advisory capacity. Anyone interested can work on exciting tasks at any time voluntarily.
Representation of doctoral candidates is not yet legally mandatory at Saxon universities. The TU Bergakademie Freiberg has a representative like many other universities, but the doctoral council is still there not anchored in the law. In an advisory capacity, we represent the interests of doctoral candidates within the university in the Rector's Commissions for Research and Equal Opportunities. At the state level, we are active in the state representation of the academic mid-level staff. Since 2015 we have also been a member of the Association of Central German Doctoral Candidates' Representations from Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, and Thuringia. There we advocate a strong voice and better networking among doctoral students.
Full position, half position, with a scholarship or with third-party funding, with or without teaching commitment… Not all doctoral students work under the same conditions. What do they have in common?
Julia Wünsche: The Saxon University Act does not clearly define the group of doctoral candidates. There are clear differences in the framework conditions for the scientific qualification phase to obtain the doctoral degree. Some doctoral candidates are enrolled as students, some are doing their doctorate in cooperation with companies, one is doing a full-time doctorate, the other part-time. The composition is very inhomogeneous. However, all doctoral candidates are researching their first independent scientific project and have one common goal in mind - the doctorate.
Lena Bussmann: Doctoral students are generally dependent on their supervisor, which makes them a particularly vulnerable group. All of them are in a special phase in life and experience similar stresses and successes during their doctorate.
Julia Wünsche: The ProRat is the point of contact in these ups and downs. We can help with questions about the employment situation, conflicts, or problems and, if necessary, refer them to the appropriate offices.
Which topics is the ProRat particularly interested in?
Lena Bussmann: Currently, this is the amendment to the Saxon University Freedom Act: we would like to achieve a legally secure representation of doctoral candidates in the federal state.
We would also like to see better networking between the university committees and the ProRat and are currently developing new measures to strengthen the feeling of togetherness and the exchange among as many doctoral students as possible in Freiberg.
Julia Wünsche: Of course, the pandemic does not leave us indifferent either! Laboratory hours and conferences were cancelled for many doctoral students in the past year. Important tasks had to be postponed due to closed schools and a lack of childcare. Teaching concepts had to be converted to digital formats. There was a lack of social and professional exchange! We are currently getting an overview of how exactly the doctoral students were and still are affected by the Corona crisis. From this, we would like to develop suitable offers for support and learn for future crises.
Lena Bussmann has been the spokesperson for the ProRat since June 2021 She is doing her doctorate at the Institute for Glass and Glass Technology and is experimentally investigating structural properties of glasses and amorphous materials under extreme conditions, such as high pressures and temperatures. In 2019 she completed a master’s degree in physics at the University of Cologne. In her free time, she is a passionate musician and otherwise prefers to be outdoors.
Julia Wünsche has been involved in the ProRat since 2020 initially as a voluntary member and since June as an elected member. She is doing her doctorate at the Institute for Electronics and Sensor Materials. There she is researching how ions can be detected in water without contact. She is a TU Bergakademie Freiberg alumna (Master in Applied Science 2019). After work, she likes to dance and try different handicrafts.