EUA-CDE survey report: “Doctoral education in Europe: current developments and trends”

EUA-CDE survey report: “Doctoral education in Europe: current developments and trends”

As a follow-up to the study “Doctoral education in Europe today: approaches and institutional structures” (2017-2018), the EUA Council for Doctoral Education conducted, from March to May 2021, a survey that collected 138 responses from 28 European countries to offer an overview of the current situation of doctoral education. Now, the results of that survey (“Doctoral education in Europe: current developments and trends”) are published, and we want to share some of its revealing highlights with you.

This survey looks into hot topics in research like the state of transversal skills training in Europe, how institutions evaluate the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic on doctoral education or what the current situation of postdoctoral researchers is (their number, the average length of time they remain in this status, what activities they carry out and the additional training they receive from universities).

What kind of compulsory transversal training do the responding institutions offer to doctoral candidates? What about the optional training? And, what kind of training do they plan to offer in the future?

Research ethics and integrity, research methodology and dissertation writing are the mandatory doctoral skills offered the most. Regarding optional training, which is noticeably higher than mandatory training, research ethics and integrity, and research methodology are on the top. Open Science and research data management stand out as well. The survey also points out that universities plan to offer research data management, open science, time management and responsive research and innovation (although it is noticeable that this question has a significantly lower response rate).

What is the current situation of postdoctoral researchers? What about their training?

This survey report reveals that the majority of institutions do not keep postdoctoral researchers in this position for an excessively long period of time (more than a half of the respondents, for a period between 1-4 years; and 10% for 4-12 years). However, more than a third of respondents could not answer this question, which manifests the need to examine this information more closely. Concerning the activities that postdoctoral researchers carry out, it is shown that this group spend most of their time on scientific and academic research, but they also focus on other activities such as research-related administration, teaching and teaching-related administrative tasks. Less amount of time is spent on their professional development, which also reflects very different approaches among universities. Universities are also increasing the study offers for postdoctoral researchers. While a great extent of this offer is specific training for postdocs, there is a greater amount of courses shared with the academic staff, doctoral candidates or other staff.

How have the universities faced the inevitable challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic?

One of the first consequences of the pandemic on universities was the closure of their facilities. According to the survey and in general terms, universities have adapted to these challenges quickly by digitalising all teaching and training processes and the supervision and assessment of doctoral candidates (including thesis defence). The institutions expect that this online assessment and the digitalisation of the administration will continue in the future. In addition, the pandemic has directly affected doctoral candidates in other aspects like mobility (stays abroad, international conferences, the decrease in the number of international doctoral candidates…), mental health or emergency funding.

To read the results of the survey in detail click here.