In August UiA opened the process of applying for contract extensions for the PhDs and Postdocs that suffered delays in their work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The application process was open for one week, in which any member of this employee group could apply, via an online form, for a contract extension. Information was provided by the UiA administration that each case was to be treated individually at faculty/department level, and a decision taken there. The full regulations for being eligible for a survey were available online.
In September, the results of the process started to be communicated to the applicants. At the same time, diverse reactions started to reach the board of UiAdoc in regard to these responses. Therefore, we decided to launch a university-wide survey once we learned that most faculties had communicated the results, to investigate the feelings of PhDs and Postdocs toward the extension process and the results they received.
The survey was conducted between the 3rd – 15th November, with the purpose of mapping the situation of extensions given by UiA to PhDs and Postdocs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey had a total of 150 respondents from all faculties that have PhD programs, of which 128 PhD’s and 22 Postdocs. Of the respondents, 47 did not apply for an extension (therefore they were not taken through the survey) and 103 applied for extension. Out of the 103, 71 respondents applied for extension and had answered the full survey.
Below you can find a summary analysis of the responses to the survey, together with some recommendations for improvement, made by the UiAdoc board:
- 57.75% of the respondents did not ask for a specific number of days of extension, and 30.99% of the respondents reported that the field was missing in the application form, both in multiple choice questions and in open field questions. This indicate that the form was not well constructed in supporting the PhD’s and Postdocs in applying for a more precise extension time.
- Overall respondents found the application process lacking justification of the results and channels for appeal. This indicate a negative approach of the process, limiting the transparency of the decision making and the possibilities to follow up on cases where the PhD’s and Postdocs felt that the results were unfair or unclear.
- Visible differences between days of extension allocated to international and Norwegian respondents (number of days requested versus allocated), with the group of Norwegian respondents having much smaller differences between the two. This presents the question in the direction of a level of systemic disadvantage which should be addressed by the university leadership
- Ongoing effects of the pandemic make it necessary to consider a new round of extension applications for the temporary employees’ group. This suggests the need to implement an ongoing monthly reporting system where PhD’s and Postdocs still affected can report the time lost. UiA can then evaluate the time lost based on these reports at the end of each semester/year and decide the allocation of an extension accordingly.
- Lack of tools to support quantifying the lost time and productivity - currently there are no tools designed for that purpose and several respondents have mentioned that they find it hard to quantify the lost time. Designing an online tool or form that guides employees in assessing the lost time would benefit all.
- As both the application form and the application results lacked clarification on the type of days allocated as extension (weekdays or workdays), we suggest that UiA makes that specification clear in the general regulation and both parts of the application process in the future.
- Limited interaction with external actors which is affecting the workflow and project plan of PhD’s and Postdocs e.g., collaborations, fieldwork, international partnerships, participation in international conferences etc. This needs to be accounted for and treated accordingly, as it is an ongoing problem due to travelling restrictions and availability of those involved.
The full report can be consulted in the file below.