Innovative Doctoral Training (2015)


Innovative Doctoral Training at Universities of Science and Technology
Publication date: October 5, 2015

Authors: IDEA League, CESAER, CLUSTER, EuroTech Universities Alliance and Nordic Five Tech

Click here to download the full report, or download the Joint Statement here.


Universities of science and technology (TU’s) have long acknowledged the important contribution of doctoral researchers in the creation of new knowledge. In the past, the training of doctoral researchers was largely tacit and implicit. In more recent years, universities, together with European and national policy makers, have made certain elements of this training more explicit. For example, in 2011 the European Commission published the seven principles of Innovative Doctoral Training (IDT).

With this paper, five associations of universities of science and technology – CESAER, CLUSTER, EuroTech Universities Alliance, IDEA League and Nordic Five Tech – contribute to this ongoing discussion on IDT from the perspectives of their 53 member universities located across Europe. This paper does not necessarily represent the views of all these universities, but it aims to highlight some best practices and challenges that TU’s encounter in the development of their doctoral training programmes. The paper aims to stimulate a further in-depth discussion about the future of doctoral training both with key European stakeholders and between the universities themselves. The paper presents a first set of recommendations targeted at universities, as well as European and national policy makers, on how to encourage the further uptake and implementation of IDT models.

TU’s face many challenges similar to comprehensive universities in relation to IDT – particularly in respect to the (three) principles of Research Excellence, Attractive Institutional Environment and Quality Assurance. Faced with the increasing variety of career perspectives of doctoral researchers, TU’s are constantly developing innovative approaches in their provision of doctoral training. In doing so, TU’s have specific experience and models to offer in relation to the (four) principles of Interdisciplinarity, Transferable competences, Exposure to the non-academic sector and International networking.

On the basis of best practice models of IDT across Europe’s TU’s, the following recommendations are presented:

  • Inter-institutional centres for high-quality training on transferable competences, capabilities and skills, such as entrepreneurship, leadership, open science and responsible innovation, should be supported with sustainable funding.
  • Industry-driven Public Private Research Partnerships should be developed to increase the exposure of doctoral researchers to industry, including Small and Medium Enterprises.
  • The right incentives should be provided to doctoral researchers, as well as to their academic supervisors and to their institutions, in order to ensure that transferable skills training modules are recognized as an integral part of the doctoral degree.
  • Industrial and professional doctorates should be further explored, encouraging their wider uptake on a transnational level.
  • Funding programmes for Innovative Training Networks should be reinforced through the creation of a platform at European level to discuss and develop guidelines for development of curricula in transferable skills.
  • Funding programmes should be strengthened to encourage projects that go beyond the individual scientific disciplines, in order to encourage true cooperation between engineering and natural sciences and social sciences and humanities.
  • With the vast majority of doctoral researchers pursuing a career in the non-academic sector, funding agencies should further emphasize innovation, project management, entrepreneurship and other relevant transferable skills in doctoral training programmes.
  • Universities and funding agencies should encourage new forms of multilateral collaboration between doctoral researchers to work on the grand societal challenges.
  • The European mobility of doctoral researchers should be built upon by increasing opportunities for international tenure-track or tenured position after graduating.
  • Universities should share their best practices in encouraging interdisciplinary doctoral theses.

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