Interview with our Doktorandombudsman (PhD Advisor)

Ingrid Iliou is the PhD advisor, directly employed by the Student Union (THS) to talk with KTH about any issues that might arise regarding doctoral students. She has been working in this position for 11 years and dealt with many situations around doctoral studies. We interviewed her on some important topics:

How does it work with THS and KTH?
I try to maintain a very good collaboration with KTH, Labour Unions and of course firstly with Forskarutbildningsansvariga (FA), but also others involved such as Supervisors, HR, Lawyers, the Head of Schools and the Dean (Rektor). 

What are the most common problems PhD students come to you with?
Severe problems with supervisors, lack of supervision/bad supervision, bad communication and so on. When you are forced to work hard in a workplace with an unhealthy environment you can become seriously ill. 

When should a student consider changing supervisor? What is the process?
When you feel that the collaboration is not working at all, then it’s time to think of a supervisor change.  The PhD student contacts me or the FA and fills in a form for “Change of supervisor.” The current supervisor does not have to approve or sign this document. A change of supervisor could take time. The student can try to find a new supervisor that they want to work with. Financial problems with funding are the school’s obligation to solve and handle, not the PhD student’s responsibility.
What do you think needs to change to improve the workspace in KTH for PhD students? 

To make things better for PhD students at KTH, supervisors need to be more empathetic. In my 11 years with THS, I’ve seen how this simple change can benefit everyone—KTH, research, PhD students, and supervisors. It’s worth a shot, and it doesn’t cost a thing.

What would you like all the PhD students from KTH to know?
If you have problems with your education at KTH, don’t wait. It is always easier to solve problems at an early stage. Everything is easier to solve at the beginning of your education, it’s hard to (for example) change supervisor in your third or fourth year, it’s much easier to change when you have more time left in your education. 

Are there any situations students shouldn’t go to you?

No, you are always welcome to my office! Please schedule a meeting, send an e-mail to 

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