Research strand 2: New European young researchers’ identities. Exchanges and Doctoral studies – an international study of processes and outcomes in the EU

      The emergence of the European Higher Education Area, the ‘Bologna process’ (www.ehea.info ) and the ‘Salzburg principles’ and their implementation, has led to research on the development of doctoral studies in Europe and beyond (www.eua.be/cde/publications.aspx). Such research has focused on structural matters, on capacity building, on collaboration among universities internationally. To complement this approach based mainly on surveys, this project researches the experiences of the people (students, supervisors, examiners, programme leaders) who work within these structures. The research questions are:

  • How is doctoral study experienced and perceived by participants?
  • What structures – formal such as regulations and informal such as expectations of supervisors – exist, shape and evaluate the doctoral study process in the cases in question?

      Given the large numbers of ‘international’ students in most universities – whether from Europe or other continents – particular attention will be paid to this important sub-group as their experience is influenced by factors such as working in another language, learning in another academic tradition and taking their qualifications earned in one country back to their country of origin.

      Secondly special attention will be paid to the experience of students who have a period of study in another university (usually in another country) or are involved in collaborative programmes.

       A current pilot study in Sofia, Luxembourg and Durham) will be extended to other members of the network. There will be a focus on social sciences doctorates as we suspect there could be more variation due to greater differences in research traditions than in the natural sciences. A later study would include natural sciences and human sciences.

     Semi-structured interviews will be carried out with students, supervisors and examiners. Of the students, those at or near the end of their studies will be one subgroup, Another will be those who are studying through a language which is not their first language. A third group will be those who have a period of study outside their home university. The interviews will be transcribed and analysed thematically.

        The ‘structures’ within which participants work will be analysed by document analysis (regulations, criteria, handbooks for students and supervisors, examiners’ reports), complemented by semi-structured interviews with administrative and academic staff responsible for doctoral programmes (e.g. programme leaders or faculty deans).

     Findings will give a voice to the participants in the process and new insights from an international comparative study and will interest university administrators and academics responsible for doctoral studies by complementing the survey-based analyses which exist.

  • A research report with executive summary presenting the main findings.
  • A book which presents the separate cases as well as a comparative analysis.