Five years after the Salzburg Principles were launched as the foundation for the reform of doctoral education in Europe, the EUA Council for Doctoral Education (EUA-CDE) has been gathering information about the experiences of Europe’s universities in establishing doctoral schools and structured programmes.
Throughout 2010, the EUA-CDE has, through its ‘Salzburg II Initiative’, been consulting its 185 members through focus groups, one-day meetings and workshops to see how the Salzburg principles have been implemented. At the Annual Meeting in Berlin in June, the preliminary results were discussed by universities and other stakeholders from 36 countries.
The results of these discussions confirmed the value of the original Salzburg Principles, but add some valuable new ‘clues for success’ as well as defining obstacles for universities to continue reforming their doctoral education.
The ‘clues for success’ concern a wide range of issues, ranging from research capacity to quality assurance, but converge on three major points where there is large consensus among Europe’s universities.
Firstly, the doctorate is (and should be) based on original research; structures are to be seen as tools for institutional responsibility for providing a high-quality, inclusive research environment. It is important for universities to build on a critical mass of research to sustain doctoral education. This also means that doctoral education is profoundly different from the first and second cycles.
Secondly, the individual aspect of doctoral education has been stressed. As researchers, doctoral candidates all have highly individual paths, because good research does not follow a straight and predictable course. The same applies to researcher careers; doctorate holders occupy very different positions, where their research mindset is highly valuable. Doctoral education must give ample space for and support to this individual development.
Thirdly, European universities have been the main driver of the reforms and can well be said to be at the forefront of doctoral education globally. It is important to take note of the progress made by universities and give them the autonomy necessary to continue developing doctoral education.
The collected recommendations from Salzburg II will be put to the European Rectors’ Conferences that constitute the EUA Council at their forthcoming meeting prior to the EUA Annual Conference in Palermo.