News 16 November 2023 09.24

Swedish doctoral education of high quality – but certain areas can be further developed

Doctoral education in Sweden generally hold the standard of high quality. Meanwhile, overarching challenges can be identified. These results are shown in a new report from the Swedish Higher Education Authority (UKÄ).

– Some of the areas that we have focused on in the report are the individual study plans of the doctoral students, graduate schools and the development of online courses and information events, says Kristina Sundberg, project manager at UKÄ and co-author of the report.

The higher education institutions have the potential to further develop the processes for how they make use of the individual study plans, Kristina Sundberg states.

– The individual study plans can be utilised for more than functioning as a checklist. The institutions clearly have extensive freedom to design them, but there is an opportunity to learn from successful examples. Between research subjects within the institutions as well as between institutions, Kristina Sundberg says.

She points out that the individual study plan has been around for 25 years, in its’ current design. Now could therefore be the time to take a closer look at how they could be developed even further.

A focus on graduate schools can produce new information

Graduate schools have become a common feature in connection to doctoral education. At the same time, says Kristina Sundberg, graduate schools may imply different things in different research environments and there is a lack of an overview of the phenomenon. The latest review of graduate schools in Sweden was conducted in the year of 2000.

– There is current lack of an updated knowledge related to graduate schools. That is why we are suggesting a future review of the number of graduate schools, their sources of financing, organisation as well as their effects and potential areas of development, she says.

The complex environment of the doctoral student – a continuous challenge

The report highlights the fact that doctoral students operates within a complex environment. There are conflicts between their different roles as well as between their different aims. This affect both their working environment as well as their studies.

– The demands on doctoral students are often contradictory. They are expected to be employees, students and teachers simultaneously, says Kristina Sundberg.

In this complex environment it is of specific importance that all types of doctoral students have an opportunity to make their voices heard as well as receive relevant information. This is independent of their source of financing or first language, Kristina Sundberg stresses. This highlight yet another area of possible development: online courses and information events.

– For international doctoral students or doctoral students without doctoral studentship, it can sometimes be more challenging to gain information, says Kristina Sundberg. One way of solving this in a resource effective manner could for example be through the development of national information events offered online.

Why is it important for UKÄ to evaluate research education?

– Our focus is often on education on the bachelor’s and master’s level. But it is important to also remember that it is education on a doctoral level which supplies society with research competence and expert competence within most important areas. The challenges and areas of development that we have identified should come as no surprise to the higher education institutions, but it is important to highlight them in this report.

Facts: A close-up of doctoral education

UKÄ have evaluated 153 doctoral education programmes within 20 research subjects and five research fileds, during 2017 – 2022. Of these, 114 were assessed as having high quality and 39 as still under review, as a result of the initial evaluation. The 39 doctoral education programmes still under review, were included in a follow-up process after a year.

This page was published 16 November 2023

Tags: Research