EUA-CDE presents a new report on the state of play of doctoral education in Europe. It is the result of an extensive and unique study offering findings gathered from more than 300 institutions across Europe. As EUA-CDE Chair Luke Georghiou points out, it provides an overview of the deep transformation that has taken place in doctoral education over the past ten years.
The decade since the foundation of the EUA-CDE has seen remarkable change in the scale and nature of doctoral education. The direction of travel was clearly signposted in 2005 by the formative Salzburg principles. These affirmed the core component of the doctorate as the advancement of knowledge, while recognising the need to prepare for widening employment opportunities beyond academia.
The impetus of these principles has contributed to the many transformations we have witnessed over the years. However, until now, the scale of change had not been measured. On the occasion of the 2019 EUA-CDE Thematic Workshop taking place at VU Amsterdam this week, we are proud to present the new survey report, “Doctoral education in Europe today: approaches and institutional structures.”
The EUA-CDE Steering Committee launched the survey that is reported in this publication in order to examine the balance between institutional responsibility and that of the individual supervisor, as well as the mechanisms that underpin the passage through the doctorate and towards future careers. It also aimed to assess the degree of change, by asking if a doctorate today is really different from that of a decade or more ago. The institutional status of the doctoral candidate as a student, colleague, or both was another line of questioning, among many others.
More than 300 institutions responded to the survey, providing confidence in the findings, as well as indicating that institutions want to know where we stand on these and many other issues. We hope that it will give institutions the opportunity to benchmark their own practices and policies against their peer institutions, as well as potentially help in the dissemination of good practices. More broadly, we hope that the information will provide an improved platform from which to argue the case for doctoral education among the many pressing issues facing universities and their funders.
In sum, Europe now has a shared database that will enhance our understanding of doctoral education and that will help EUA-CDE to shape its agenda for the coming years.doctoral education reform
“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.
It is a well-known fact that the professional success of doctoral candidates during and after their doctorate often depends on their communication skills, as well as their ability to speak different languages. However, in spite of mastering languages, the doctoral candidate entering the workplace and encountering professional verbal exchanges will experience specific ways of communicating that will be goal-oriented, focused on individual tasks, limited by rules and restrictions, influenced by hierarchy, structured in a specific way, and based on unique sets of vocabulary. In other words, no language certificate will ensure that a doctoral candidate will be well-equipped for the workplace. To our knowledge, however, in many European countries (including Italy), these fundamental components of doctoral education are not offered in the curricula. In principle, language courses extensively cover vocabulary and grammar, written and mediated communication, and the necessary foundations of employment communication and interpersonal/intercultural relationships, but they do not cover public speaking.
All across Europe, the intersection of doctoral education and language training in an intercultural context deserves attention, especially as there is an absence of guidelines and specific reports on the topic. The OECD Diagnostic Report 2017 on skills challenges for Italy insists both on the importance of making better use of skills in the workplace (communication skills above all) and on strengthening the skills system, including advanced knowledge of a foreign language (English) in authentic workplace communication situations. In the specific case of English as an international language, functionality in workplace English requires the capacity to apply language skills in a variety of activities, including familiarity with public speaking. Furthermore, the Directorate General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion cites the importance of adapting school and university curricula to workplace needs among its “Recommendations for the support for higher education institutions”. Doctoral candidates should be included, as they too need to be equipped with an understanding of the real communicative needs of their future workplaces.
Drawing on these considerations, the real challenge in Italy is defining the needs of internal and external doctoral communication in a foreign language. They are integral to the workplace, but they are shaped by factors such as a university’s internal and external environments, which in turn influence management approaches and modes of work organisation. Moreover, dissatisfaction on the part of the doctoral candidate is evident, as most learners need support in handling generic professional texts and presentations, some of which have an academic orientation, others being related to workplace contexts. The perceptions of language professors generally reinforce and complement this. Doctoral education should, therefore, provide doctoral candidates with appropriate conditions for meeting the interdisciplinary discourse-based demands and the needs of the workplace community for multidisciplinary communicative expertise. This mismatch between the real world of professions and that of the classroom needs to be handled realistically.
A main concern is that of underlining the need for public speaking training in specialised educational contexts, and for collaboration between language and linguistics researchers, practitioners and professional communities. Bridging the gap between the academic and professional worlds will result in better models for effective public speaking in professional contexts. Earlier studies in the field support this opinion and provide evidence of the strong importance of this domain in doctoral education. In addition, a brief analysis of workplace skills required by professional communities at present demonstrates that public speaking can no longer be ignored in academic linguistic education.
Public speaking builds on the basic communication skills that one develops while acquiring language and learning how to make conversation. Like expanded conversation, it should preserve the natural directness and spontaneity of good conversation. And like conversation, it should be tuned to the reactions of listeners. In a professional context, speakers and listeners of this conversation are usually highly-motivated people, looking for oral effectiveness and efficiency. While public speaking has been analysed from a rhetorical point of view, as well as from a political and legal perspective, or from the conversation analysis angle, the issue has received limited attention in the context of education.
A focused reflection on the impact of good public speaking skills in the workplace in a foreign language is needed, in both the contexts of language teaching and research. Due to the varied and complex nature of language teaching and training all across Europe, however, public speaking studies and programs should be adapted to the academic audience, and not standardised or copied from models that are suitable to non-academic contexts. In the European academic landscape, some isolated cases of public speaking modules in academic courses on specialised languages are emerging, as pioneering and challenging proposals that need to be taken seriously. These will support universities in being ready for authentic internationalisation and the necessary attention to workplace needs that are required on a global scale.Read more
In 2005, the ministers for higher education adopted the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG) that have since re-shaped how quality assurance is carried out in Europe. In the same Bologna Process Ministerial meeting, the ministers also endorsed the Salzburg Principles as the basis for developing doctoral education in Europe. A few years later, in 2010, EUA’s Salzburg II recommendations pointed to the necessity to “develop specific systems for quality assurance in doctoral education.” In 2015, a revised version of the ESG was adopted by the ministers: It outlines that they are applicable to all higher education in the European Higher Education Area without making any explicit reference to doctoral education. Against this backdrop, it can be asked whether there are contradictions in these policy lines and whether the ESG are applicable to the doctoral education.
EUA believes that the principles for internal quality assurance included in the ESG are indeed applicable to the quality assurance of doctoral education. There has never been a contradiction between the three documents. For example, the indicators that the Salzburg II recommendations propose to be used in the quality assurance of doctoral education do not in any way contradict with the ESG. The ESG shy away from this level of prescriptiveness, rather focusing on agreed practices for quality assurance processes. But one may argue that due to the professionalisation or structuralising of doctoral education across the continent in the past decade, the idea of quality assurance processes being an integral part of these structures is more accepted. This is so, even if these quality assurance processes are not always explicitly identified as such, as an EUA study on quality assurance in doctoral education noted in 2013.
Let’s take a few examples to illustrate how the standards of ESG Part 1 for higher education institutions can be applied to doctoral education:
The first principle for quality assurance in higher education identified in the ESG is that of the institution’s responsibility for (the quality of) their activities. The institutional responsibility for doctoral education is also one of the key messages of the Salzburg documents. More specifically, ESG standard 1.1 sets the expectation that quality assurance should be linked to the institution’s strategy and stakeholders need to be involved in it. This link to institutional strategic direction is similarly highlighted in the Salzburg process.
EUA surveys show that doctoral schools have introduced transparent and formalised admission processes, as well as focus on monitoring and ensuring the progress of doctoral candidates in their studies, for example through individual study and research plans that are submitted for approval to the relevant bodies of the school. These developments are clearly in line with various ESG standards, which discuss the need for processes for designing and approving study programmes (1.2) and highlight the importance of ensuring a smooth student “life-cycle” (1.4).
Standard 1.3, with the expectation that there should be structures ensuring that education is delivered in a student-centred manner, was added to the ESG 2015 and universities have found it to be somewhat challenging. However, in doctoral education the candidate has always been at the centre and the whole experience is geared towards individual needs and targets. Similarly, in doctoral education, there has traditionally been much focus on supervisors: ensuring their competence and the quality of support they offer to doctoral candidates. These aspects are at the core of two of the ESG standards: standard 1.5 on teaching staff and 1.6 on student support.
While standard 1.6 may require a bit more adjusting to the context of doctoral education, it is a crucial one. Ensuring appropriate learning resources for doctoral candidates should be interpreted as including the need for an appropriate research environment and the need for doctoral education to be intrinsically linked to it.
These examples demonstrate the applicability of the ESG to doctoral education provided that one focuses on the spirit of each standard and adjusts it to the specific context of doctoral education (as suggested by the Salzburg II quote used in the beginning of this article). In doing so, one needs to keep in mind three key features of the ESG that are applicable to any quality assurance process in higher education: quality assurance processes need to respond to the diversity of higher education, they need to be fit-for-purpose and they need to promote quality culture.Read more