The following text is a debate article. The opinions voiced is belonging to the respective authors, not Lösnummer. Lösnummer is independent from any organisation or viewpoint and is working as a forum for debate regarding Örebro Student Union and Örebro University.
For a number of years, the Doctoral Student Section (DokSek) has actively represented Örebro University’s PhD student rights, providing support both in their rights as students and as employees. Among other things, DokSek offers every year a variety of lunch seminars (together with the student department) aimed to supplement the information that PhD students receive while being employed at Örebro University. While our base of PhD students is slowly – but steadily – growing, DokSek increasingly gained both visibility and new members.
However, it appears that – despite our efforts – we did not succeed in impressing the University. As an example, during the current academic year, DokSek has compiled a list of issues identified by the PhD students which was later forwarded to the Vice-Chancellor, just to hear back from the Student Union that the university does not have any structures that could be used to address the identified issues.
Every now and then, the University website states that the administration aims to increase its internationalization efforts… yet again, how can you even think about ”internationalization efforts” without transparency; i.e. having still, as of 2020, a website that does not provide all the information in English as well as Swedish? DokSek has long advocated for the right of PhD students, some of whom moved to Sweden along with their families for their positions, to receive proper information.
In addition, DokSek is throughout its establishment, a part of the Student Union which has been invisible to the rest of the university. One obvious example of that is the lack of a section room that DokSek should have, like every other section at Örebro University. However, it appears that DokSek does not matter as much as other student sections. Maybe this is because we are actually a hybrid between student and employee, and due to work commitments, PhD students cannot engage in student life in the same ways as undergraduate and master students. Nevertheless, that does not make DokSek any less of a student section than the rest at Örebro University. As is now, PhD students have no way of actually meeting with each other, or with the DokSek board. The DokSek board does not really understand why we are lacking the infrastructure that other student sections receive by the university. In a previous communication with the student union, we have been told that no one has shown any ”great desire to actively help DokSek” and then we would like to ask: why?
Are PhD students just labor who produce articles and help in teaching and supervising and as long as we are getting paid for it we should not complain about anything else? Should we not be treated equally as other student sections?
Undertaking a PhD is usually a lone-task, meaning that opportunities for socialization are highly valued by us and are used as means of maintaining our psychological well-being. Recent research (Martinez et al., 2013; Janta et al., 2014) has shown that PhD students are very often affected by depression and anxiety issues often related to the lack of social interaction and isolation. A room where PhD students would be able to convene with each other but also with the DokSek board would work as a mean of promoting socialization, increasing the psychological well-being, but also finally providing DokSek the much- needed visibility which would – hopefully – once and for all end DokSek being the forgotten student section of Örebro University.
The Doctoral Student Section – DokSek
Janta, H., Lugosi, P., & Brown, L. (2014). Coping with loneliness: A netnographic study of doctoral students. Journal of further and Higher Education, 38(4), 553-571.
Martinez, E., Ordu, C., Della Sala, M. R., & McFarlane, A. (2013). Striving to obtain a school-work-life balance: The full-time doctoral student. International Journal of Doctoral Studies, 8(39-59).
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