EUA Council for Doctoral Education

EUA-CDE online sessions: Doctoral education and the coronavirus crisis

13 May 2020

The EUA Council for Doctoral Education (EUA-CDE) is organising a series of online sessions about the implications of the current coronavirus crisis on doctoral education and how doctoral schools and similar structures are adapting their ways of working in these unprecedented circumstances.

These member-only sessions will focus on the following four topics:

Online assessment and doctoral dissertation defence
Wednesday, 3 June 2020 at 11:00 – 12:15 CEST

After the closure of university venues, doctoral schools had to react quickly and find alternative ways of organising doctoral dissertation defences and other forms of assessment, in particular by moving online. However, this is not easy: regulations and legal frameworks can require that doctoral candidates and examiners are present in the same room. Defence procedures may follow a pre-defined path that can be difficult to follow in cyberspace and require innovative approaches and new ideas.

Questions that may arise during the session are:

 - How can the “on-site experience” of a doctoral defence be transferred to cyberspace?

 - How do the different legal frameworks in Europe currently treat online defences?

 - What kind of protective measures should be adopted by universities in order to address privacy and security issues when making use of video calls?


- Pirjo Nikander, EUA-CDE Steering Committee member; Research Director of the Doctoral School, Tampere University, Finland

- Mossadek Talby, EUA-CDE Steering Committee member; Director of the Doctoral College, Aix-Marseille University, France

- Hans -Joachim Bungartz, EUA-CDE Steering Committee member; Graduate Dean, Technical University Munich, Germany

Online skills training
Friday, 5 June 2020 at 11:00 – 12:15 CEST

To support measures to contain the spread of coronavirus, universities have had to organise alternatives to the face-to-face skills trainings in a very short timeframe. When campuses shut down, doctoral schools transformed many of these trainings into online workshops. As a consequence, doctoral candidates in many universities across Europe now have access to online courses and virtual workshops aimed at developing their research and transversal skills.

The switch to online is certainly a valid alternative for some activities, but when field or laboratory research is involved, the issue becomes much more difficult as other aspects need to be considered. Nowadays, laboratories cannot be accessed and lab research is severely disrupted as most experiments require the physical presence of researchers.

The aim of this session is to address these challenges and tackle the following questions:

 - How are universities coping with the transition to online trainings? What aspects need further consideration and how can universities improve their online workshops?

 - How do doctoral candidates respond to these online activities and is there already some experience to share?

 - What alternative activities to the laboratory research can be performed by doctoral candidates when they need to stay home?


- Aleksandra Kanjuo Mrcela, EUA-CDE Steering Committee member; Head of the Doctoral School, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia

- Paolo Biscari, EUA-CDE Steering Committee member; Dean of the Doctoral School, Polytechnic University of Milan, Italy

- Alexander Hasgall, Head of EUA-CDE

Supporting doctoral candidates’ mental health and wellbeing
Thursday, 11 June 2020 at 13:00 – 14:15 CEST

Due to the current physical distancing rules, working from home is the only choice for many individuals, including doctoral candidates and postdoctoral researchers. Notwithstanding that remote working certainly presents a series of advantages, it also comes with unexpected risks. In this particular period more than ever, issues like anxiety, isolation and difficulty to concentrate come to the fore in many occasions. To comply with the current restrictions, many doctoral candidates need to live far from home and feel disconnected from their colleagues as social interaction is certainly more limited. In a situation in which doctoral candidates and academics are suddenly asked to work from home for such a long period, the risk of feeling overwhelmed and isolated is higher.

This discussion will focus on the impact that the current lockdown has on the mental health and wellbeing of postdoctoral researchers and doctoral candidates. Participants are invited to share good practices and present existing activities developed by doctoral schools to maintain the wellbeing and mental health. 


- Barbara Dooley, EUA-CDE Steering Committee member; Dean of Graduate Studies & Deputy Registrar, University College Dublin, Ireland

- Alexander Hasgall, Head of EUA-CDE

- Aleksandra Kanjuo Mrcela, EUA-CDE Steering Committee member; Head of the Doctoral School, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia

The effect on collaborations and funding of doctoral education
Friday, 12 June 2020 at 14:00 – 15:15 CEST

As many doctoral candidates have had to interrupt their research, funding has also become a major issue. The interruption of laboratory work and the inaccessibility of libraries heavily impacts the continuation of the research plan, which in turn leads to the need to extend grants for doctoral candidates.

In many cases, however, the grants provided to support the research activity and costs of doctoral candidates are limited in time and funding extensions needed to obtain the scheduled results are not granted everywhere. Moreover, additional funding through self-employment or through collaboration with the private sector may not be available, having dramatic consequences on the economic subsistence of doctoral candidates.

This session will include following questions:

 - What is the current funding situation of doctoral candidates in Europe?

 - What frameworks have different streams (MSCA, national funders, etc.) put in place to address the coronavirus pandemic?

 - What is the effect of the current situation on collaborative doctoral education with partners in- and outside of academia?


- Luke Georghiou, EUA-CDE Steering Committee chair; Deputy President and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Manchester, UK

- Vinciane Gaillard, Acting Director for Research and Innovation, European University Association (EUA)

- Mossadek Talby, EUA-CDE Steering Committee member; Director of the Doctoral College, Aix-Marseille University, France

An invitation to these online sessions has already been sent to EUA-CDE members. If you have not received it and are interested in taking part in one or several discussions, please contact the EUA-CDE Secretariat at by 1 June. The number of attendees per session is limited.