Many universities have an Ombudsperson for doctoral students (sometimes called a doktorandombudsman, sometimes shortened to DOMB), who support and guide the doctoral students who feel that the University or the university’s officials have acted in violation of doctoral students’ rights. The DOMB can give individual support and counseling, and try to find solutions to problems that may arise.
DOMBs are often employed by the local student union and, as such, are independent from the HEI. However, some DOMBS may be hired by the HEI. They are in general trained in the law, although that is not always the case.
The exact tasks and resources may vary quite a bit between DOMBs, but it is always the case that the DOMB’s mission is to help doctoral students navigate their studies, in particular in relation to the university.
In the normal course of things, you can always ask your DOMB about your conditions and rights.
The important thing about DOMBs, however, is that they handle individual cases. The DOMB is who you should turn to when you need concrete help with an actual situation in your own studies. The DOMB can tell what your rights are in these situations and give you advice for navigating them in the best way. Situations where you should turn to the DOMB include those where you feel your rights have been, or are being, violated by the university or the university’s officials. The DOMB can help you position your problem in the relevant legal framework, and from there help you reason about the most appropriate course of action. If there is someone else who might be a more appropriate support for you on the specific issues the DOMB can redirect you there, e.g. to the labor union or the occupational health services.
DOMBs may have an obligation of confidentiality formulated in confidentiality agreements with their employer, stating that discussions you have with the DOMB are confidential, and no information you give can be passed on without your approval. There is no national regulation regarding confidentiality agreements with DOMBs – if you want to find out what applies at your university, you can usually find the terms on the DOMB’s webpage, or ask the DOMBs themselves.
If there is no DOMB at your university, you can ask the student union or the trade union for help. Administrative staff may also be able to point you in the direction of the support you need.