This article is based on the Executive Summary of the Conference Report “Future of the doctorate” by Ms. Nadine Burquel, Director of European Cooperation & Business School Services, EFMD. The conference was organised by the European Commission (DG Education and Culture) at the Academy of Sciences in Riga on 28-29 May 2015. The purpose of the conference was to take stock and share experiences on good practices for the modern doctorate and to advocate for its further development in a constantly changing world.
THE nature of doctoral training
has been very much debated
in recent years at a time when the knowledge triangle of education, research and innovation is seen as the foundation for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth
. The doctorate is considered as one of the driving forces to generate economic growth and support positive developments in society, and in the knowledge economy.Globally
there is a fairly good understanding
of the objectives of the doctorate to produce original research
. Yet the implementation of good practices
is very uneven
across individual institutions and national systems, due to different contexts, cultural and socio-economic backgrounds.
In 2003 doctoral education was added to the Bologna Process
as the third level of higher education. It was stressed that the doctoral candidate should be regarded as a young professional instead of a student. Doctoral training was said to be the level at which bridges could be built between the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) and the European Research Area (ERA).
In 2011 the EU endorsed the EU Principles for Innovative Doctoral Training
advocating that the new doctorate should combine excellence with interdisciplinary research, international exposure and intersectoral engagement. These principles are not adopted in the same way across individual universities and EU Member States.
From an individual journey carried out by an individual researcher, the doctoral exploration is increasingly taking place in a doctoral school that provides a structure in which research
is carried out and training activities
delivered by a team of academic and administrative professionals
, instead of the individual academic in the Humboldtian university model. Training includes knowledge and intellectual abilities, technical skills, personal skills, leadership and management, and understanding of impact.
Beyond individual institutions, the PhD is offered in consortia of multiple organisations
, from academia and industry
, across national borders
, in Europe and in the world. The industrial doctorates
allow access to networks, expertise, and equipment. The different “languages” of academia and the private sector are learnt. The joint doctorates
(in Erasmus Mundus, Marie Skłodowska-Curie and the KICs of the EIT) take the candidates into new transformational journeys to produce interdisciplinary research with a strong focus on business and innovation.
There is concern that short term agendas have become so dominant to the detriment of the more long term approaches needed for research that requires longer timeframes. The three-year PhD required in EU research programmes
and in many countries pose a number of difficulties to deliver the research in time, in particular when it is filled with the range of educational and skills components needed by the modern doctoral candidate to make him more employable.
Growing attention is given to high quality supervision
of the doctoral candidates. Supervisors are increasingly trained. Supervisory committees are put in place to avoid that the candidate is too highly dependent on a single person.
Despite many charters and good practices, doctoral candidates are still often treated as students instead of young professionals carrying out research. As a result many of the PhD candidates not benefitting from EU schemes do not receive a salary
but a scholarship and are not covered by social security, leaving them in a fragile financial situation which impacts on their performance. Yet it seems that the situation is improving
in Europe, under the impulse of the EU Charter and Code for Researchers as well as through national financial schemes requiring that the PhD should be treated as an employee, either by the university or the company in which he/she is carrying out the research. All EU funding schemes require that the doctoral candidate receives a salary and is covered by social security.
Although women are still underrepresented
in some doctoral programmes the situation is changing. The Researchers Report 2014
stated that "Between 2000 and 2011, the number of new women doctoral graduates (ISCED 6) per thousand population aged 25-34 has increased in all European countries. Between 2000 and 2011, Slovakia, Denmark, Latvia, Norway, UK and Italy reported the highest increase in the proportion of new women doctoral graduates. In Bulgaria, Hungary, Spain, France, Lithuania, Turkey and Cyprus, the number increased only slightly, yet these countries are starting from different baselines."
Still more attention needs to be given to gender balance
and the gender dimension
. It is stimulated strongly in the Horizon2020 programme, where the gender dimension has been introduced for all EU research funded projects.
The emergence of Open Science
and its future growth will transform globally the way research is performed. It will impact significantly on doctoral programme design. Different approaches are needed to prepare the candidates to opportunities in new research environments.
The report also analyses different models of doctoral training across the world.
You can access the full Report
following this link
You may be also interested in the recent Global Focus article "The Thoroughly Modern Doctorate"
by Prof. David Bogle
highlighting some of the key changes that have occurred in PhDs (and more that are to come) and their particular resonances to management and business education.
We would like to also invite you to the upcoming 2016 EFMD Doctoral Programmes Conference
which will be hosted by the Rotterdam School of Management in the Netherlands on 11-13 May 2016. More information will appear on our event website