The EUA Council for Doctoral Education (EUA-CDE) held its 9th Annual Meeting on 16 and 17 June 2016 at the Rovira i Virgili University in Tarragona, Spain. With more than 200 participants, it proved to be the largest in the history of CDE.
This year’s conference, entitled “Doctoral Education: a dilemma of quality and quantity?” focused on the relation between the increasing number of doctoral candidates and the quality of provision. In a mixture of plenary and parallel sessions, speakers and participants discussed how to improve the quality of doctoral education, each bringing different perspectives from institutions, governments and the private sector. Representatives of universities talked about how policies in doctoral education and research had been implemented in their institutions, what goals are guiding their strategies, including how they have managed to monitor and maintain quality while coping with the increasing demand. Representatives from national structures gave an overview of the most relevant policy developments in their respective countries, how these have been impacted by variations in funding streams and what future policy developments they expect. Representatives from the private sector discussed the quality of doctoral education and the relevance of a PhD outside academia.
Among the important points that emerged during the event was the uncertainty surrounding the future research environment. Institutions face the challenge of preparing doctoral candidates for an unknown, unimaginable future. Among the current priorities, the most pressing is the need to ensure adequate career guidance to doctoral candidates, and to improve their professional skills and attitude by offering the necessary training.
At the end of the two-day meeting, the dilemma seemed to be easier to manage: Quality, as well as quantity, are needed in doctoral education, and universities can afford to increase numbers, provided that the necessary institutional structures are in place, and that attention is given to the constant improvement of candidate training and career development.
The meeting also included a presentation of EUA’s new set of recommendations on doctoral education “Taking Salzburg Forward”, which looks at structural reforms and new challenges in the training of early-stage researchers.
To see the presentations from the 9th EUA-CDE Annual Meeting, please click here.