EUA’s Doctoral Programmes Project arose from a need to contribute to the debate on research training in the European Higher Education and Research Areas by demonstrating examples of good practice and preparing recommendations for action based upon the pooling of experience of its members. Since the Berlin Ministerial meeting in September 2003, doctoral programmes have been included as the ‘third cycle’ in the Bologna process and constitute the crucial link between these two processes. In the context of the ambitious Lisbon and Barcelona goals to increase investment in research to 3% and the need to increase significantly the number of researchers, it was important to have a closer look at existing doctoral programmes and to consider if and how their structure, functioning and quality could be enhanced in order to meet the different challenges identified.
Given the essential importance of doctoral training for the fulfillment of the university mission it is similarly important that universities themselves take the initiative and assume ownership of this task. In carrying out their central role in the training of researchers universities increasingly have to face the challenges of a changing labour market for young researchers and need to prepare them for a wider variety of careers than in the past (i.e. not only in the academic environment, but also in industry, non-profit organisations, private companies, private and public independent research centres).
The final report Doctoral Programmes for the European Knowledge Society published in October 2005 provides a broad view of the current landscape of doctoral programmes across Europe with the aim of stimulating debate in the academic community and influencing the policy agenda. It reflects the great diversity of programmes in Europe, a diversity which shows the dynamism of the continent's universities. The main findings address three issues: the structure and organisation of doctoral programmes; supervision, monitoring and assessment; and mobility, European collaboration and joint doctoral degrees. The analysis focuses on connecting these issues with innovations and good practices in university experience across Europe.
The project was co-funded with the European Commission in the framework of the Socrates programme.
The Project has also had an impact on wider academic and policy-making communities across Europe through two major conferences addressing doctoral training: in Maastricht in October 2004 and Salzburg in February 2005. The "ten basic principles" developed in Salzburg, drawn partly upon the experience of the Doctoral Programmes Project, are emphasised in the Bergen Communiqué which was adopted by European Education Ministers in May 2005 as key principles for further development in the "third cycle" of the Bologna Process.
Building on this first study, two EUA projects on Doctoral programmes are currently under way:
• The first project aims to further develop the “Salzburg principles” and present this work in a report for the 2007 London Bologna Ministers' meeting.
• The second project focuses on doctoral careers and will explore the relationship between doctoral training programmes and the career development and employability of doctoral candidates.
In addition, most of the forty-nine participants involved in the first project have chosen to continue their collaboration and have prepared several follow-up projects. They have recognised the added value of the European dimension which participation in the project brought to their own doctoral programmes and in particular the positive aspects of the network activities.