US and European debates on doctoral education – The doctorate and Bologna

An EU-funded project, UNIKE (Universities in the Knowledge Economy), has just published a report containing its first set of notes. The report looks at European policy on doctoral education over the last 15 years or so and at US policy in the period since World War 2. In addition to the policy discussion, there is also a short essay on the contribution of EURODOC to the European debates.

The report comes out of a workshop being held as part of the project, and is the first of six which will cover:

a) History of policy debates about doctoral education (the topic of this report)
b) Governance narratives and the reshaping of doctoral education
c) Specificity of social science doctorates
d) Partners’ own practices of doctoral education
e) Working for/researching in other organisations
f) Academic freedom

The report is simply written (a good trait which doctoral students would do well to develop) and lays out the ground in an easy-on-the-eye manner. For anyone seeking to understand or work in higher education, a knowledge of where the sector/system has come from will be increasingly important as the pace of change continues to increase. This report offers a good primer on the topic and also offer a series of questions for further consideration (and thereby a possible research agenda for those interested in doctoral education as a research area).

If I have one criticism it is this. The report assumes that there is only a single European doctoral system and fails to acknowledge that each European country has its own traditions, practices and ethos of doctoral education forming strong sub-systems within the overarching system that is sustained by the Bologna process and the work undertaken under the Salzburg banner. For example, the UK system is very different from the French, German, Italian and other systems (which are different from each other) and readers new to the policy debates (at whom this report is aimed) need to be reminded of this. The current system is much more nuanced than this paper sometimes suggests. Nevertheless, this report offers a useful addition to any research student, early career researcher or academic’s reading list.

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