The EUA-CDE Annual Meeting in 2018 included perspectives from outside Europe. Speakers from Asia, Africa and North America presented our European community with the global dimension of doctoral education. Thomas Jørgensen looks back how EUA-CDE first started and subsequently developed its international engagement.
A few months after beginning as Head of EUA-CDE, in December 2008, I found myself in Washington DC, at the Annual Meeting of the US Council for Graduate Schools. Hundreds of Graduate Deans were chatting, patting each other on the back, clearly happy to be with colleagues from all over the country to discuss graduate education (and about the recent election of Barack Obama). It was an occasion for EUA to see what its new Council for Doctoral Education might look like. Moreover, at this point in time, Europe was looking to the US for a model to professionalise doctoral education, in particular the institution of the graduate school - so the dialogue with the Americans was important.
At the very same time, other colleagues from EUA were in China to discuss collaboration in doctoral education between EU and China, the rising power of global science. Many of the future “regulars” of EUA-CDE met there with Chinese counterparts.
The two meetings illustrate the geopolitical context that EUA-CDE has always been a part of. It was born at a time when emerging markets gained prominence (the first official BRIC – Brazil, Russia, India and China – summit was held in 2009), and when Europe looked to a new dynamic US under the Obama presidency. Around the world, research – and as a consequence doctoral education – gained importance.
EUA-CDE soon began to play an active role in this global context. In 2010, the CODOC project was launched, examining “Cooperation on Doctoral Education between Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe”. With workshops in South Africa, Thailand, Brazil and Sweden, the project to a large extent rode on the wave of high commodity prices that allowed countries like Brazil to invest heavily in research and innovation. This was a time, when one could see a new, multi-polar world of research taking shape with new countries playing an increasing part on the global research scene.
However, the aim of EUA-CDE was always broader than establishing ties to the new global players, although countries like South Africa, Brazil and China remain very important. The issue of building capacity in developing countries was and is high on the agenda. The Global Strategic Forum for Doctoral Education became a key tool for having a truly global debate and promoting a more inclusive research community. The first of these fora was held in Aarhus in 2011 with participants from six continents and with a very diverse set of countries, from Australia and Singapore to Mongolia and Ghana. The format of a small, but highly-diverse group of participants was continued in 2013 in Dublin and in 2015 in Reykjavik. The spirit of the meetings was well-summarised in the statement from the Dublin Forum, calling for inclusiveness and collaboration based on common principles for doctoral education. This work is carried on in the MIMIr project about building innovation and research management capacity in Europe’s Southern Neighbourhood and the Yebo! project on further developing the internationalisation of doctoral education in South African universities.
In recent years, the global perspective appeared increasingly as an integrated element of EUA-CDE’s work. Tellingly, the 2014 Annual Meeting had the title “Doctoral Education: Thinking globally, acting locally”. Between 2012 and 2015, the FRINDOC project on internationalisation of doctoral education brought together partners from three continents to talk about common issues regarding institutional structures. There seems to be a growing awareness that many of the topics that are relevant for European doctoral education are also relevant elsewhere. As an example, the 2016 thematic workshop about supervision was opened by a keynote from Australia, while the 2018 edition started with an opening address drawing out differences and commonalities between Europe and North America. Recently, the Annual Meeting in 2018 included perspectives from outside Europe. Speakers from Asia, Africa and North America presented the European community with the global dimension of doctoral education.
One of the results of all these activities has been a growing recognition of EUA-CDE as the global voice of European doctoral education. Members of the Steering Committee have represented Europe in yearly global meetings hosted by the US Council of Graduate Schools, and regularly met with similar associations and gatherings, for example a visit to the Association of Chinese Graduate Schools in 2012 and to the bi-annual Quality in Post-Graduate Research conference in Australia.
Altogether, EUA-CDE has been present on all continents (except Antarctica). It has been fascinating to see how the geopolitical context has facilitated the global dialogue over the past decade, and it will be all the more fascinating to see how the global research community will meet future challenges.
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