EUA Council for Doctoral Education


How doctorates vary across Europe, from the perspective of doctoral candidates

Doctorates across Europe differ in rules about admission and employment, requirements for performance, rules for supervision or doctoral dissertation. What are the strong points and where are the challenges? The Eurodoc survey “Doctorates across Europe” provides some answers.

Eurodoc, the European Council of Doctoral Candidates and Junior Researchers, often receives questions like: What are the main differences in doctoral training in Europe? How is doctoral training organised in different countries in Europe? What are the conditions offered to doctoral candidates? We need to understand how doctoral training is perceived and organised across Europe in order to discuss these issues with stakeholders at both European and national levels and to make informed and targeted recommendations.

There is a general awareness that doctoral training programmes and conditions offered to doctoral candidates differ across Europe. However, little is known about the exact diversity of doctoral training programmes, especially on how these programmes are organised and what conditions are offered to doctoral candidates. Considerable heterogeneity exists amongst regulations and standards for acquiring a doctoral degree between countries, as well as across universities within the same country, which consequently limits access to easily comparable data. Therefore, the Eurodoc Working Group on Doctoral Training posed the following questions: Are there any identifiable patterns in how doctoral training is organised across Europe? If yes, what patterns emerge, for example, in geographical location, role allocation, employment or funding status, and access to benefits?

The survey

The Working Group launched the survey “Doctorates across Europe” in 2018. The main aim was to collect data among Eurodoc member organisations to obtain a general overview on how doctorates are organised and compare the conditions of doctoral candidates between nations, as well as with the “European” model of Innovative Training Networks under Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA).

Representatives of Eurodoc member organisations were asked to contribute to the survey and to provide information on topics like the status of doctoral candidates, sources of financial support and social benefits attached to that status (e.g. health insurance), mobility requirements, transferable skills training, supervision, criteria for submitting the thesis, and the defence procedure. Representatives completed our questionnaire from the perspective of their doctoral candidates’ national associations, and therefore, through the eyes of doctoral candidates themselves.

First overall results

“Doctorates across Europe” is an ongoing project. To date, we have collected descriptions of doctoral training from 13 European countries: Azerbaijan, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland and Ukraine, which can be compared with the requirements of the European doctoral model of MSCA-ITN-European Training Networks. Two additional countries are currently in preparation, Germany and Hungary, together with a description of the European Joint Doctorates, another type of MSCA-ITNs. We hope that with the support of the remaining Eurodoc member organisations, we will be able to finish this first phase of data collection by the end of 2019.

A quick look at the raw data presently available appears to confirm our initial hypothesis: a wide diversity exists in Europe across all the aspects that were addressed by our questionnaire (e.g. duration of doctoral training, which institutions are entitled to award doctoral degree, status and benefits of doctoral candidates, transferable skills, qualifications required for doctoral supervision).

After collecting data from as many Eurodoc members as possible, we will perform a thorough analysis of all responses in order to uncover specific trends, similarities and differences, good practices, challenges, and opportunities of different doctoral training models across Europe. We will assess the degree of implementation of recommendations from core policy documents relevant for doctoral training at European level, such as the Salzburg principles (2005, EUA), the Salzburg recommendations (2010, EUA), Principles of Innovative Doctoral Training (2011, EC) and Taking Salzburg Forward (2016, EUA). We will also compare the results of our research with the ones of the EUA-CDE 2019 survey on doctoral education in Europe, which provided an overview of institutional approaches and practices of doctoral education.

In the future, we aim to collect these data on a regular basis in order to facilitate an analysis of developments over time and an identification of possible trends. Data collected through our survey could help make specific recommendations for the improvement of doctoral training and uncover relationships between various aspects of doctoral training and phenomena, such as mental health in academia. Therefore, we hope that this general overview of doctoral training across Europe will be useful for all actors in doctoral training, from policy makers, leadership, and professionals to doctoral candidates.

With contributions from Melania Borit (NO), Filomena Parada (PT), and Olga Shtyka (PL) on behalf of the Eurodoc Doctoral Training Working Group.

“The Doctoral Debate” is an online platform featuring original articles with commentary and analysis on doctoral education in Europe. Articles focus on trending topics in doctoral education and state-of-the-art policies and practices. The Debate showcases voices and views from EUA-CDE members and partners.

All views expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of EUA Council for Doctoral Education. If you would like to respond to this article by writing your own piece, please see The Doctoral Debate style guidelines and contact the CDE team to pitch your idea.

Eva Hnátková

Eva Hnátková is President of Eurodoc, the European Council of Doctoral Candidates and Junior Researchers. She has previous experience within Eurodoc as a national delegate, coordinator of the Working Group on Doctoral Training, Eurodoc General Board member and Vice-President. Eva is interested in research and higher education policy at national and international levels. She holds a doctoral degree in Process Engineering from Tomas Bata University in Zlín, Czech Republic.



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