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Universities taking steps to guarantee doctoral quality

Institutions across Europe are doing more to enhance the quality of their doctoral programmes, according to a report from the European Universities Association. However, some of the improvements are still at the early stages of development, and further effort is needed to harmonise assessment of the programmes, says the EUA.

The report presents the results of the EUA’s two-year Accountable Research Environments for Doctoral Education (ARDE) project, under which institutional surveys and workshops were conducted to assess quality assurance processes in institutions.

Amongst the internal quality processes established at doctoral level, universities have set up mechanisms for monitoring time-to-degree and completion rates, as well as developing guidelines for admission and supervision.

According to the ARDE project survey, almost 90 per cent of respondents had written procedures for the admission of candidates and 91 per cent systematically monitored progress of candidates.

Universities are also taking steps to increase training for supervisors and create opportunities to swap their experiences, says the report. Career development support for doctoral students is increasingly widespread, being offered by 79 per cent of institutions surveyed.

Such provisions are vital, the report says, adding that policymakers, university leaders and researchers should acknowledge the unique nature of doctoral education, while taking steps to improve its quality.

In addition, the report concludes, decision makers should establish more coherence between the many different evaluations that doctoral programmes are subjected to. The ARDE study finds that “there is no lack of evaluation of doctoral education, rather a risk of uncoordinated over-evaluation.”

The project was conducted in partnership with University College Cork (UCC), Universities Austria (UNIKO) and the Conference of Rectors of Academic Schools in Poland (CRASP). The results were presented today (26 February) during an event at the Permanent Representation of Ireland to the EU in Brussels.