Evolving PhD education: Trends in Europe and United States

in 2010, I was invited to speak at the European University Association – Council on Doctoral Education (EUA-CDE) conference in Berlin on a panel on doctoral education in U.S. and Europe. The 2010 report which included the update to the original Salzburg principles (2005) had just been released and these guided my comments comparing U.S. and European doctoral education.  The ten Salzburg principles included the following:

  • The core component of doctoral training is the advancement of knowledge through original research. At the same time it is recognized that doctoral training must increasingly meet the needs of an employment market that is wider than academia.
  • Embedding in institutional strategies and policies:universities as institutions need to assume responsibility for ensuring that the doctoral programmes and research training they offer are designed to meet new challenges and include appropriate professional career development opportunities.
  • The importance of diversity: the rich diversity of doctoral programmes in Europe – including joint doctorates – is a strength which has to be underpinned by quality and sound practice.
  • Doctoral candidates as early stage researchers: should be recognized as professionals – with commensurate rights – who make a key contribution to the creation of new knowledge.
  • The crucial role of supervision and assessment: in respect of individual doctoral candidates, arrangements for supervision and assessment should be based on a transparent contractual framework of shared responsibilities between doctoral candidates, supervisors and the institution (and where appropriate including other partners).
  • Achieving critical mass: Doctoral programmes should seek to achieve critical mass and should draw on different types of innovative practice being introduced in universities across Europe, bearing in mind that different solutions may be appropriate to different contexts and in particular across larger and smaller European countries. These range from graduate schools in major universities to international, national and regional collaboration between universities.
  • Duration: doctoral programmes should operate within an appropriate time duration (three to four years full- time as a rule).
  • The promotion of innovative structures: to meet the challenge of interdisciplinary training and the development of transferable skills.
  • Increasing mobility: Doctoral programmes should seek to offer geographical as well as interdisciplinary and intersectoral mobility and international collaboration within an integrated framework of cooperation between universities and other partners.
  • Ensuring appropriate funding: the development of quality doctoral programmes and the successful completion by doctoral candidates requires appropriate and sustainable funding

In identifying the Salzburg principles, the European University Association (EUA) signaled specific focus on doctoral education across the European universities and its critical components. The topics addressed in these principles are quite similar to components of doctoral education in the United States and issues for doctoral education needed for the 21st century. One of the significant results of the Salzburg principles was the development of Doctoral Colleges and the concept of graduate campuses at European Universities. Graduate Schools have long existed in the U.S., doctoral schools/colleges is a new concept but one that has helped facilitate change in doctoral education in Europe.

Conversations about doctoral education and doctoral education reform in Europe and U.S. have continued in the last 10 years.  Today there are more commonalities and convergence about doctoral education than throughout history. In 2018, the publication of two significant reports has provided a lens into the evolving PhD education: Graduate STEM education in the 21st century (NASEM, 2018) and Doctoral Education in Europe Today (EUA, 2019).

The report entitled Graduate STEM Education for the 21st Century (2018) was published by the U.S. National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM). The report included the identification of core competences for the Master’s and PhD degrees and recommendations for 21st century universities.  Although the report focuses on STEM programs, the competencies and recommendations apply more broadly to graduate education beyond STEM.  The core competencies for the ideal PhD degree fall into the following two broad categories: (a) Develop Scientific and Technological Literacy and Conduct Original Research and (b) Develop Leadership, Communication, and Professional Competencies

Recommendations for implementing quality graduate education in the 21st includes the following:

  • Rewarding Effective Teaching and Mentoring
  • National and Institutional Data on Students and Graduates
  • Ensuring Diverse, Equitable, and Inclusive Environments
  • Career Exploration and Preparation for Graduate Students
  • Structure of Doctoral Research Activities
  • Funding for Research on Graduate STEM Education
  • Stronger Support for Graduate Student Mental Health Services

“Importantly, this report also calls for a shift from the current system that focuses primarily on the needs of institutions of higher education and those of the research enterprise itself to one that is student centered, placing greater emphasis and focus on graduate students as individuals with diverse needs and challenges.” (2018, p.3)

During this same time period, the EUA-CDE conducted a survey of European universities about doctoral education throughout Europe.  The survey of doctoral education was based upon the Salzburg principles and designed to collect data in the following areas:

  • Organizational structures
  • Training and activities
  • Career development
  • Funding
  • Mobility
  • Time to completion
  • Supervision
  • Application and admission
  • Decision-making processes
  • Completion rate

The EUA-CDE doctoral education report includes data on the topics above and resulted in the identification of strategic priorities for European doctoral education moving forward.  The strategic priorities included the following:

  • Funding for doctoral students
  • Ethics and scholarly integrity
  • Attracting students from abroad
  • Career development
  • Gender equality
  • Open access/open science
  • Health/wellbeing of doctoral candidates
  • Increasing number of doctoral candidates
  • University-business cooperation
  • Societal engagement of doctoral candidates

As shown in the figure above, the top three strategic priorities for universities in Europe were funding for doctoral students, ethics and attracting students from abroad.  For more information about the findings, recommendations and suggested actions, see the report.

In addition to these specific doctoral education topics and priorities, universities in Europe and the U.S. continue to explore evolving issues facing the 21st century university.  Among these are focus on teaching/learning, diversity and equity, open access, innovation and entrepreneurship, technology, academic freedom and accessibility.  Changes in doctoral education are critical for the 21st century university and doctoral colleges/graduate schools can help lead the path forward.

References.

Doctoral education in Europe today: Approaches and institutional structures (2019).  European University Association

Graduate STEM education for the 21st century (2019).  National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM).

Salzburg Principles II Recommendations (2010).  European University Association (EUA).

Effecting change in graduate education

It seems like I’ve been advocating for change in higher education for a long time now.  In some of my presentations dating back 1990s and recent blogs include posts about a ‘futurisktic‘ perspectives, university for the 21st century (Duderstadt, 2001), a call for embracing the ‘conceptual age‘ (Pink, 2005) and more. As a strong advocate for change in higher education, I want to share an example of change for graduate education.

Last week (June 12-14), the VT Graduate School hosted a conference on creating a space and place for graduate education drawing upon the 13+ years of experience gained through the innovative Graduate Life Center (GLC) and the Transformative Graduate Education (TGE) initiative offered by the VT Graduate School.  Graduate education colleagues and student affairs professionals attended the inaugural gathering to participate in the conversations about the “places, spaces, services and collaborations it takes to support the unique needs of graduate students”.

The conference was focused on the “what” and “how” of creating a space and place for graduate education.  In my opening remarks, I focused on the “why” and the historical context that prompted the development of the GLC and the TGE programs.  To begin….the call for change and the confluence of Duderstadt (2001) and Pink (2005).

In his book entitled “A University for the 21st Century, Duderstadt (2001) wrote that if lasting institutional reform is to be achieved, it will require changes in graduate education, with greater emphasis upon the integration of the disciplines and their applications to societal issues.  Daniel Pink (2005) argued in his book “A whole New Mind” that society has moved from the agricultural age to the industrial age to the information age and for the 21st century, the conceptual age.  Specifically, he wrote that “we are moving from an economy and a society built on the logical, linear, computer-like capabilities of the Information Age to an economy and a society built on the inventive, empathic, big-picture capabilities of what’s rising in its place, the Conceptual Age.”

Although other reports, books and professionals have called for change, Duderstadt and Pink were very influential in my rethinking and re-imagining graduate education and the leadership role that Graduate Schools could play.  Graduate schools and graduate deans have and must accept the responsibility for creating a space and place for graduate education. This can be done physically regardless of the size of the space and can definitely be accomplished conceptually in building and growing academic community(ies).  At their core and among the underlying principles, Graduate Schools and Graduate Deans must be responsive, integrative, interactive, inclusive & innovative. We (graduate deans) have the power to convene and we must be lead the transformation.  The calls for change in graduate education are loud including the most recent document from National Academies of Science, Engineering and Mathematics (NASEM, May 2018) entitled Graduate STEM education for the 21st century.  Although the report is focused on STEM, the recommendations are applicable to graduate education in general.  We (Graduate Schools, Graduate Deans) have responsibility for change, must be strategic and lead the transformation.

 

Obviously there are differing perspectives and views of and from the different parts of the university not unlike the fable of the blind “men” and the elephant.  Although many within the university community might want to see the Graduate School in a more traditional sense and less transformative, leaders needs to see things differently and look for that which is “unobvious” to others.  Times have changed and we have the responsibility to create a new culture for graduate education by developing meaningful and relevant programs. In doing so, I found the following strategies to be useful:

  • programs (e.g., workshops, classes) that provide added value (e.g., career development) to the degree
  • programs and opportunities that compliment not duplicate departmental efforts
  • incentives for participation including graduate certificates and academic credit
  • resources need to be identified within Graduate School and utilized to offer programs and opportunities
  • programs and opportunities should be innovative, dynamic and evolving and especially meaningful and relevant to current and future graduate students
  • strong commitment from the Graduate Dean (e.g., advocate, champion for change)

The consensus study report (NASEM, 2018) indicates that “it would be wise to acknowledge and understand the current and future challenges facing this system (higher education) and take steps now to ensure that it remains vital, adaptable, and relevant for many generations to come. To neglect graduate education, or to ignore threats to its success, puts the economic, social, and cultural well-being of the nation at risk. (p. 19, 2018)

Graduate education needs to change and we can transform graduate education through by understanding cultural change and building a new culture with new traditions and expectations for graduate education for the 21st century.  We don’t need to do this alone; we can develop partnerships and collaborations.  The charge to graduate deans is to take the lead and the challenge to our student affairs colleagues is to join us.  We can create a space and place for graduate education.

Eve of departure: Global Perspectives Program 2018

For nearly two decades now I have been actively engaged with higher education around the world (which provided the impetus for the establishment of the Global Perspectives Program).  I have watched with great interest the emergence of the  Bologna Process in Europe in 1999 and now the extension of the Bologna process for another 10 years.  Universities around the world have been and are challenged to become 21st century universities and this requires change.  There is no need to abandon the rich history of many universities, but change requires colleges and universities to rethink the who, how, where, when and even the why of higher education.

Universities around the world are grappling with a number of issues, many of which are local or national.  These often differ by country, institutional structure, political climate, financial constraints and more.  Recently, I have noticed that many European universities with the encouragement of the European University Association (EUA) are embracing some of the timely topics which are also lively topics within the United States.  And these will inform the discussion of the participants during our journey known as #GPPVT18.

This is year 13 for the VT Graduate School Future Professoriate: Global Perspectives program (GPP) in Switzerland. Thirteen years and it seems like yesterday when I flew to Zurich to initiate the program.  It is truly amazing how time passes so quickly and how much the program has evolved.

Although we visit the same countries (Switzerland, France, Italy) and the same universities in those countries, the same hotels and even some of the same restaurants, the experiences are different due to the GPP participants and the new places and people within the universities we visit. This year there are 13 graduate students traveling plus the GPP Graduate Assistant Abram and me. Abram was a participant last year and has switched roles for #GPPVT18. The participants come from 13 different degree programs located in five different colleges (4 from Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, 3 from Agriculture and Life Sciences, 3 from Engineering, 2 from Science).  The diversity of academic disciplines, lived experiences, social identities and perspectives is rich and serves to enhance the experience.  I look forward to meeting up with the group at Hotel St. Josef on Sunday, May 27th at 15.00 (3 pm).

Each year we identify a theme which focuses our attention on trends, challenges and issues facing higher education in Europe especially Switzerland.  This year’s theme is “Evolving European and U.S. higher education”.  The GPP’18 participants will explore four timely topic areas (teaching/learning, open access, inclusion/diversity and doctoral education) during the university visits, engage in group dialogue at the GPP summit in Riva San Vitale, and ultimately at the global seminar at the Embassy of Switzerland in Washington D.C. in June.  The exploration of these topics will be invigorating and the dialogue rich.

Check out the website (futureprof.global), read our blogs, and follow up on twitter (#gppvt18).

 

Citizen Science: Engaging citizens in research

The 2018 Annual Conference of the European University Association was held in Zurich, Switzerland April 5-6, 2018 using the theme of “engaged and responsible universities shaping Europe”.  Topics included social responsibility, lifelong learning, sustainable Europe, social inclusiveness and diversity, open science, scientific integrity and ethics, and more.  The sessions included lively discussions and live tweeting (#EUA2018Zurich).  It was informative to hear about the EUA perspectives on these topics and to reflect on these same topics as discussed (or not) among higher education leaders in the U.S.  The presentations can be found on the EUA website.

A fascinating presentation on Citizen Science closed the conference and is the focus of my comments here.  In the U.S., we have frequently referred to the social responsibility of the university and public engagement as part of the university mission especially land grant universities.  We have used terms including ‘citizen scholars’ (eg., VT Graduate School Citizen Scholar program), ‘scholar citizens’, ‘scholar activists’ and to some extent citizen science.  The programs and opportunities vary across universities but highlight the connections between the university and society.  Citizen Science in the U.S. seems to be a relatively new entity (first conference in Oregon in 2012), books authored recently (e.g., C. Cooper, Citizen Science: How ordinary people are changing the face of discovery, 2016) and often associated with the environment issues (e.g., Citizen Science Association).

In his introductory comments at the EUA Hot Topic session and overview, Daniel Wyler (University of Zurich) identified Citizen Science as an element of open science and described Citizen Science as able to “enlarge the scope of research in all fields of science and able to enhance public education and the understanding of science”.  He argued that “many scientific and societal issues need citizen science” in areas such as the environment, aging, and energy” and could be helpful in providing the foundation for long-term policy decisions.  He shared guidelines for universities and policy makers and introduced the Citizen Science Center Zurich which is jointed operated by the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich. The goal of the Center is to enable “researchers and citizens to create and conduct research collaborations that produce excellent science” in support of the UN 2030 Agenda 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Examples of citizen science in the European context were shared by Kevin Schawinski (ETH Zurich), Sabine Stoll (University of Zurich) and Julia Altenbuchner (University College London).  The three shared distinct examples of science conducted at universities that actively engaged citizens in the research.  As part of the process, citizens could become actively engaged in the design of research projects, data collection and analysis, developing recommendations, and shaping research agendas and public policy.

Extreme Citizen Science (ExCiteS) is one example and can be described as “a situated, bottom-up practice that takes into account local needs, practices and culture and works with broad networks of people to design and build new devices and knowledge creation processes that can transform the world.”  Current projects include: Doing it Together Science (DITOs), Extreme Citizen Science: Analysis and Visualisation (ECSAnVis), WeGovNow, and Challenging RISK (Resilience by Integrating Societal and Technical Knowledge).  Check out these exciting projects and see how citizens are helping with research.  And there’s a free new online course entitled “Introduction to Citizen Science and Scientific Crowdsourcing”.

Another example comes from Kevin Schawinski who engaged citizens in his research on galaxy and black hole astrophysics.  He and his colleagues initiated a project entitled Galaxy Zoo which can be found with Zooniverse.  Zooniverse is the “world’s largest and most popular platform for people-powered research.”  Zooniverse provides many opportunities for citizens to engage in meaningful research with professors and currently lists 84 very diverse projects on their website.  These range from arts to literature to medicine to space and demonstrate the real projects and publications as a result of Citizen Science. Very impressive.

Universities have a responsibility to society and a Citizen Science approach provides the opportunity to reframe science through ‘people-powered-research’, to challenge our existing paradigm of research, to redefine “expertise”, and to empower genuine public engagement.

Effectiveness requires psychological safety: Musings for higher education

Team work is not a new concept but is likely taking on greater significance in the 21st century.  Working in teams is needed not only to understand and address the complexity of the issues facing society today but to recognize the importance of and to engage actively with diverse perspectives in the conversation. The key to success is the effectiveness of these teams as investigated by Google in their study of team effectiveness and described in the Guide: Understand Team Effectiveness in 2015.

Although it is important to have particularly knowledgable individuals on the team, the “who is on a team matters less than how the team members interact, structure their work, and view their contributions”.  The study revealed the following five key factors were important to successful and effective teams:

  • Psychological safety – feeling safe to take risks and be vulnerable
  • Dependability – getting work done on time and meeting expectation
  • Structure and clarity – having clear goals and roles
  • Meaning of work – meaningfulness and personal
  • Impact of work – work matters and positive change

Google found that the psychological safety was the most important key factor and the foundation for the others.

Higher education can take lessons from these findings as we conduct much of our work in teams throughout the university (e.g., faculty research teams, task forces and committees, administrative units pursuing strategic goals, organizations and associations, and more).  In addition, the context of the 21st century university lends itself to an interactive and innovative learning environments at the core of our mission.

The “work” in higher education is often undertaken in teams or in collaborations with others. The “work” as demonstrated through the missions of the university (e.g., teaching, research and service) and seen in our outcomes (e.g., education/degrees, research findings) must be meaningful and relevant not only to the individual(s) but to society as well. Inasmuch as colleges and universities are preparing the next generations of professionals, it is important that we do so as global citizens who will work in an increasingly more collaborative contexts.  As I have argued before, the university (especially the 21st century university) is a social institution with responsibility to society and therefore our “work” must matter and be about positive change.

Following in the spirit of academic freedom and liberal education for students, U.S. universities tend to subscribe to principles that guide our words and actions (e.g., principles of community) and actively promote inclusion and diversity.  Universities must actively encourage inclusive pedagogy and ways in which to undertake the difficult dialogues.  Although challenged by the rhetoric and divisiveness that appears in society today, institutions of higher education must continue to situate themselves to provide a welcoming and affirming environment for all where differences are respected and valued. Further, colleges and universities have an obligation to create a “space” where all (faculty, staff, students and administrators) know that diverse perspectives are valued and feel safe about taking risks, being vulnerable and learning from failure.  Innovation and creativity depend upon this and our universities must become futurisktic in our thinking and our actions.

Higher education should build and sustain a strong sense of community and adopt a philosophy of “thriving” not simply surviving. To do so, requires leadership (throughout the university) that in words and actions demonstrates that it values diverse perspectives, actively encourages the sharing of differing views and welcomes individual voices to the table.

And of course, we must continue to value and respect independent work and scholarship and at the same time value collaboration and teamwork.  The relevance of universities today depends upon the meaningfulness of our “work” and how well and effectively we work individually and together in teams and through interdisciplinary and innovative collaborative environments.