Modern doctoral training is ‘closer’ to employers’ needs

Employers unaware of how doctorates have broadened to prepare postgraduates for work

February 6, 2014

Employers are not aware how much the doctorate has changed over the past five to 10 years, according to the main author of a report into good practice in doctoral training at Europe’s research-intensive universities.

David Bogle, head of University College London’s Graduate School and chair of the League of European Research Universities (Leru) Doctoral Studies Community, said that some non-academics who work with the academy have an understanding of the changing nature of a PhD. But, in general, the world of work does not understand the extent to which doctorates have broadened out.

The report, Good Practice Elements in Doctoral Training, published by Leru on 4 February, describes how doctoral training has “changed significantly in recent years”. It says that many PhD students now find employment outside academia, and universities have developed structured doctorates to cultivate broad skill sets in preparation for this.

“The key point about the doctorate is that it is not just about producing a thesis, it is about producing a person,” Professor Bogle told Times Higher Education.

The report outlines the progress that universities have made in preparing students for work in a range of areas. Examples of initiatives featured include courses on leadership and resilience, psychometric testing, careers awareness fairs and internship programmes.

Professor Bogle said that the UK is “ahead of the game” on such innovations but he added that the rest of the Continent was making progress too. There has also been “significant development” in formalising processes for doctoral training over the past five years, he added.

“The one [area] that is a little bit behind is our interaction with non-academic partners…as a whole we could afford to do more with government, industry and charities,” Professor Bogle said.

There is a lot of good practice in this area but the academy needs to get the “message out more strongly” and employers need to engage more with universities “on a policy level”, he declared.

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