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Doctoral Studies

Working Group

Chair: Gunda Huskobla

Gunda Huskobla is Managing Director of the Graduate Academy of Friedrich Schiller University Jena in Germany. Her concern is to enhance and effectively secure the quality of doctoral education in order to provide young researchers with the best possible qualifications for future assignments both within and outside academia. Her background is in business administration. She holds a PhD in Economics and did research on organisational development and change in the field of strategic management. She has been a member of the Coimbra Group Working Group on Doctoral Studies since 2011.


Vice-Chair: Adriana Zait

Adriana ZAIŢ is professor and director of the Doctoral School of Economics and Business Administration from University Alexandru Ioan Cuza Iasi, Romania. She holds a PhD in econometrics and teaches business research methods, intercultural management, services marketing and public relations. As PhD theses coordinator in Marketing, she supervised 29 doctoral students from 2007 to the present, and has been member in more than 30 doctoral coordination commissions. Her main interests are in ensuring an interdisciplinary and intercultural education for doctoral students, in a research environment in quest of a better adaptation to the complexity, volatility and incertitude of our world.


Focus of Working Group

Doctoral Studies constitute a key activity and major priority for multi-disciplinary research universities and represent one of the most important contributions of universities to the development of societies, requiring creative and collaborative approaches by universities. Substantial reform of doctoral studies has taken place across Europe over recent years, and the challenges of implementation and consolidation are central to the strategies of universities. The main remit of the working group is on an exchange of information, sharing of best and innovative practice and joint activities of Coimbra Group Universities in the organization of doctoral studies and of early research careers. In this context, Coimbra Group Universities aim at increasing their participation in European research and education projects. At the same time, the expertise of the working group members is an excellent basis for possible contributions of the Coimbra Group to European policy-making relating to doctoral studies and early research careers.

Recent highlights

  • Effects of the Covid-19 crisis on doctoral education: For doctoral candidates, the Covid-19 situation is of big concern. Research activities have been impacted (e.g. travelling, fieldwork and placement activities had to be stopped or postponed until further notice). The adaptation to online teaching is time-consuming. Doctoral researchers with caring responsibilities face additional unforeseen challenges in balancing family duties and academic careers. Generally, the longer the pandemic situation lasts, the higher the risk for delays, for funding gaps and for mental health problems. The working group exchanges on the effects of the Covid-19 crisis on doctoral education, e.g. on the organisation of doctoral training, on providing distance-supervision and on how to address challenges which the doctoral researchers are currently facing.
  • Interdisciplinarity in doctoral research: One of the proposed research principles according to Horizon Europe is to foster cross-disciplinary and cross-sectoral innovation. Yet, interdisciplinary research is challenging in multiple respects (e.g. department structures, lacking opportunities to network with other doctoral researchers, possible disadvantages for academic career paths, organisation of supervisory committees, disciplinary reviewing panels at funding agencies and journals etc.). The working group plans to address the challenges of promoting interdisciplinarity in doctoral research and to identify possible solutions (e.g. by looking at existing interdisciplinary programmes and specific support structures). The next step is setting up a report with findings from a survey on interdisciplinary attitudes.
  • HRS4R Career Framework: The working group held a workshop on the HR Excellence in Researchers Award in connection with an exchange on career development for doctoral researcher (together with the RSO Working Group).
  • Participation in the Erasmus+ capacity-building project “YEBO!”: The working group is actively involved in research and education projects with focus on doctoral education. In the past 3 years, it delivered thematic input and expertise to a capacity-building project on the internationalisation of PhD studies in South Africa (Erasmus+ project “YEBO!”). The project officially ends in 2021.

Ongoing/forthcoming activities

  • Science Communication: The past months showed the importance of science communication. Early-stage researchers should know about it and be trained in communicating with a non-specialist audience. One example is the well-established 3MT (3-Minute Thesis) Competition of the Coimbra Group. In 2017, the DS working group initiated the first Coimbra Groupwide 3MT competition, which has been held annually ever since. It is a research communication competition, which requires doctoral researchers to effectively explain their research to a non-specialist audience in three minutes with only one slide. Within the Coimbra Group, the competition draws a lively picture of the variety and capability of doctoral research at the member universities. The Working Group would like to build on this and look closer at the aims, tools and visibility of outreach activities.
  • Employability of PhDs: Traditionally, the doctoral training prepares for an academic career path. At the same time, many competencies and skills gained during the PhD phase are relevant for future careers both within and outside academia. In fact, there are some countries where the majority of PhD graduates leaves academia. In order to tackle the issue of doctoral employability systematically, the working groups “Doctoral Studies” and “Employability” want to organise a joint staff training week. The aims will be to exchange on the organisation of career services for PhD candidates at the member universities and to explore specific instruments of support.
  • Supervision training and support: Both the PhD awarding institutions and the supervisors themselves bear responsibility for ensuring adequate support. Following workshops on good doctoral supervision, work commences on a publication. The paper collates existing resources from theCG members with the aim of determining a set of universal recommendations on how to support good doctoral supervision as well as highlighting a broad range of promising institutional practices.
  • Quality Assurance and Enhancement: The aim is to compare doctoral studies evaluation approaches at Coimbra Group member universities. So far, a scoping study has been conducted. The next step is to finalise the publication of the survey findings amended by examples of good practice.This will lead to an exchange of information on QA&E in the field of doctoral education as well as to sharing good and innovative practices.

Contact person at the CG Office: Benjamín Martínez Sanchis (martinez@coimbra-group.eu)