A thorough impact assessment of the creation of centres for doctoral studies (in principle, doctoral/graduate schools) is not required for several reasons.
The system of doctoral schools is a common solution for organising doctoral studies at universities. In 2018, eight strong European universities introduced their organisation of doctoral studies to the UT’s working group on doctoral studies at two workshops. Doctoral schools have had a positive impact on both the efficiency and quality of doctoral studies as well as on the international visibility and cooperation. Doctoral schools have enriched the doctoral study experience of doctoral students.
The Faculty of Medicine (MV) and the Faculty of Arts and Humanities (HV) have an experience of the central organisation of doctoral studies. In the HV, two ASTRA doctoral schools are coordinated on the faculty level. This has helped to integrate the activity of doctoral schools with the main activities of the curricula as well as with the faculty’s development activities. A wellarranged home page and guidelines, information days for 1styear doctoral students in the HV and MV and other centrally organised activities (including the drafting of the faculty-level progress review requirements in the HV) have helped to unify the sharing of information and the organisation of studies and reduced the workload of programme directors and supervisors. Doctoral students’ feedback shows that they are more satisfied with the organisation of doctoral studies after these changes.
Conducting an impact assessment in the faculty requires that the faculty compiles an overview about which people currently perform which tasks with which workload at the institute and faculty level and which support and counselling duties are carried out by the programme director and supervisor. If doctoral students’ feedback reveals that something needs to be done more or better, this means higher administrative costs, but the experience of the consolidation of the organisation of doctoral studies in the MV and HV proves that offering support centrally is cheaper and ensures a more unified quality than support at the level of each institute (as someone’s additional duty).
- The national reform of doctoral studies brings along a temporary increase in administrative work, incl. the need for a detailed informing and counselling of doctoral students, as different requirements will apply to different doctoral students. To manage the changes, we need a faculty-level support structure for doctoral studies, so that the counselling would not put an additional burden on programme directors and supervisors.
2. What is the size of a centre for doctoral studies? Who leads the centre and how will the cooperation between the centres be organised?
The vice dean for research will lead the reorganisation of doctoral studies in the faculty in relation with the amended legislation and the centre for doctoral studies will function as their team at the dean's office. Therefore it would be reasonable if the head of the centre for doctoral studies was designated by the vice dean for research. After the reforms, the number of employees of a centre for doctoral studies could be minimal: following the example of our ASTRA doctoral schools and several foreign universities, 2-3 employees with a total workload of about 2,0 could be enough, but this also depends on the decision about which tasks will be assigned to the centre.
To make substantial decisions, the academic team of the vice dean for research (the managing committee of the centre) should comprise representatives of institutes. The council assigned for managing the doctoral programme could function as the team for the centre as well. For instance, when compiling faculty-level procedure rules, the document would be prepared by the centre for doctoral studies in cooperation with the vice dean for research, after which the managing council will give feedback on the document. The academic team must meet regularly to ensure a smooth exchange of information and the involvement of institutes in the work of the centre and the development activities.
Issues concerning all centres for doctoral studies alike (harmonisation of requirements and procedures, decisions on funding and other similar agreements) would continue to be discussed between the vice rector for research and vice deans for research. As such, the emphasis is not so much on the new structure, but on fostering cooperation between the employees assigned by the dean and heads of institutes to the team responsible for doctoral studies.
3. Why not create one university-wide centre for doctoral studies to ensure better cooperation between faculties? Specialisations of different faculties may have more in common than specialisations within one faculty.
Cooperation beyond unit boundaries can be organised between all specialisations, and the faculty and institute councils can create all opportunities for that. When foreign universities shared their experiences, they recommended aligning the structure of a centre for doctoral studies with the academic structure to achieve clarity about leadership and responsibility. Thus we are proposing faculty-level centres to keep the collective responsibility at the faculty level, not outside the discretion of the faculty and not too far from the discretion of the institute.
The division of doctoral student places will be done on the same basis as today: at the Rector’s Office between the faculties, following an agreed model. The principles for the division of the places within the faculty must be agreed between the heads of institutes. To help in making these decisions, the Office of Academic Affairs has created a tool for planning student places in the doctoral studies’ statistics dashboard.
Institutes of the same faculty or different faculties may organise doctoral studies in the same specialisation, provided they have the corresponding research competence. In that case, institutes agree on the supervision and the content of shared teaching. The administration will be similar to that of current joint curricula, though their everyday work will be easier thanks to the support of the doctoral centre and the information exchange between centres for doctoral studies.
In the case of joint specialisations, a student is admitted to a student place of the corresponding specialisation in a specific institute. Starting from 2022, all doctoral students are employees and the doctoral student place must be clearly linked to their workplace. If the institutes wish, they can form joint committees for organising admission, reviews and defences.