JDAZ joint doctoral programmes

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Joint doctoral programmes

This chapter deals with aspects that need to be taken into account when developing and managing joint doctoral programmes. The joint doctoral programmes are presented in a separate chapter to highlight the differences with joint bachelor and master programmes. These main differences lie in the often more unstructured format of the doctorate, the complex nature of research, development and supervision.

Key messages for practitioners

  • 1. Get to know your consortium partners and their national regulations well, before you start developing the joint doctoral programme.
  • 2. Jointly develop a comprehensive course vision and strategy for the joint doctoral programme.
  • 3. Develop balanced supervision processes across the consortium, and formal monitoring procedures to monitor candidates’ research progress.
  • 4. A personal cotutelle agreement is required, regulating each partner’s responsibilities with regard to joint supervision, evaluation and doctoral thesis defence. A joint doctoral programme must include joint supervision, but it can also entail collaboration on joint research training.
  • 5. Create a research and communication platform where doctoral candidates and staff can collaborate throughout the consortium.
  • 6. Provide doctoral candidates with relevant training and research tools and facilities.
  • 7. Where legally allowed, arrange employment contracts for the candidates.
  • 8. Set up a consortium agreement regarding intellectual property and spin-off activities.
  • 9. Appoint an ombudsman as a go-between between management and doctoral candidates, and a committee to deal with ethical questions.
  • 10. The Euraxess website offers information for doctoral candidates and higher education administrators.

Character and added value

Doctoral programmes are intensely research focused, and therefore have different characteristics compared to master programmes. For instance, there is a closer relationship between doctoral candidates and academic staff. Doctoral programmes are more focused on research creation and the advancement of new thinking, and are at the edge of the relationship between higher education and the 'knowledge triangle'.

As compared to the reasons stated for joint bachelor and master programmes (see section 5.2), joint doctoral programmes have three additional elements of added value:

  • they are seen as giving a stable structure to longstanding research collaborations between institutions in different countries (taking the cotutelle experience a step further);
  • they offer international students more attractive opportunities and, usually, access to more funds;
  • joint doctoral programmes contribute to institutional research development and may contribute to improving research quality.

Development

The need for a comprehensive course vision on joint doctorate programmes is described in the Erasmus Mundus Quality Assurance EMQA handbook. It offers a seven point overview:

  • identify the unique selling proposition of running a joint programme, including the type of consortium and the academic content;
  • further develop the description of the rationale and the mobility paths;
  • work on a sustainability strategy;
  • develop a common vision on shared cultures, both academic and administrative;
  • work on a thorough employability strategy for candidates;
  • agree on the examination process, taking into consideration transparency;
  • agree on the degree awarded and maximise its recognition.

JOIMAN gives good recommendations on aspects relating to doctoral programme partners (pp.171-173).

The JOI.CON guide stresses the importance of knowing beforehand both the partners and the regulations of the countries involved. The JOI.CON Annex includes Comparison Tables to help institutions explore all potential obstacles to joint doctoral programmes beforehand (pp.81-139).

The Erasmus Mundus Quality Assurance (EMQA) website provides a checklist of actions and good practice in relation to integrated learning outcomes, programme pedagogy, balancing learning and teaching, as well as assessment mechanisms.

The Erasmus Mundus Quality Assurance (EMQA) website also provides a checklist of actions and good practice on how the mobility pathways can be developed to match intended learning outcomes.

The EMQA project has developed ways to provide an integrated academic strategy, including staff development, training and research components. The Handbook of Excellence provides a comprehensive overview of issues a consortium should address:

  • develop balanced supervision processes across the consortium;
  • make sure to have a research and communication platform where students and staff can collaborate throughout the consortium;
  • look after the assessment mechanisms for the work of candidates, and make sure that they are coherent and balanced throughout the consortium;
  • provide candidates with training, research tools and facilities;
  • set up a formal procedure to monitor the candidates’ research progress;
  • pay attention to effective cultural awareness in the course and research trajectory, and the consortium – and make sure staff mobility effectively contributes to that.

The Erasmus Mundus Quality Assurance (EMQA) website offers four guides on the following issues in developing and managing joint doctoral programmes:

Management

In the case of joint doctorates, the JOIMAN report notes that a clear organisational and managerial structure is key for success and that the management structure of Erasmus Mundus Joint Doctorates differs from non-Erasmus Mundus-funded programmes.

An example of the organisational structure and partner responsibilities of a joint Erasmus Mundus doctoral programme with four institutions, is given on the Erasmus Mundus Active Participation EMAP project website. The website also includes a slide presentation and short film on the course management, visibility and sustainability of Erasmus Mundus joint doctorates.

The EMQA Handbook of Excellence – Doctoral Programmes gives a comprehensive overview of seven practical activities to be undertaken in the development and management of joint doctoral programmes. The guide gives the following guidelines:

  • define which administrative bodies are responsible for the candidates;
  • plan the finances taking into account contingencies;
  • set up a consortium agreement regarding intellectual property and spin-off activities;
  • arrange employment contracts for the candidates;
  • set up and implement a quality assurance system for the programme;
  • develop a consistent internationalisation strategy;
  • develop and implement a marketing strategy.

The EMQA project presents valuable information on setting up realistic financial strategies, with good practice and examples at doctoral (and masters) level.

With regard to managing joint doctoral programmes, the JOIMAN report suggests that it is good practice to appoint an 'ombudsman' as go-between between management and doctoral candidates. A committee to deal with ethical questions is also useful.

Student recruitment and selection

EMQA’s Handbook of Excellence – Doctoral Programmes describes (in its fourth 'high level action') the need to focus on the doctoral candidates: how to recruit the best, provide value, and keep them linked to the programme once they are alumni. Not only the academic point of view must be considered, but also practical issues such as housing and visa. The Handbook suggests the following seven activities to undertake:

  • recruit and select those candidates that are best equipped for the programme;
  • look at the candidates’ preparation, both academically and logistically;
  • set up a supporting network for social, cultural and academic activities;
  • share IT, library and other services between the consortium;
  • get the best out of providing other learning opportunities such as language training and communication;
  • prepare candidates to get the best out of their post-programme career by offering competences and skills training;
  • work on establishing a good relation with alumni.

To select joint doctoral candidates, the JOIMAN report observed that in some cases, a special body was set up to select applicants, and that the selection committee was generally composed of representatives of all partner institutions. The report noted that the selection of joint doctoral candidates may consist of two processes by two separate groups of persons. The selection procedure may include a formal interview in which candidates present their research project to two professors, a language assessment and a motivation check. Some institutions do their pre-selection on the basis of CVs, draft research plans and reference letter(s). The final selection, however, is jointly done by all partner universities.

The JOI.CON training project provides an example of an application form for a joint European doctoral degree.

Taxation

Taxation is often a difficult issue, and those involved in developing and managing joint programmes must be aware of the fact that taxation regulations are set at the national level. Euraxess offers details on taxation issues for doctoral mobility.

Agreements

In joint doctoral programmes, a cotutelle agreement is individual. This means that a personal agreement for each PhD candidate is always required. The cotutelle contract regulates the partners' responsibilities with regard to joint supervision, evaluation and doctoral thesis defence. Additional institutional, national or framework agreements can still be formulated, referring to general procedures and systems. Quality assurance, admission, assessment and diplomas are aspects such agreements could cover. A joint doctoral programme must contain joint supervision, but it can also entail collaboration on joint research training.

Templates

Examples of agreement templates are:

The JOI.CON training project also offers:

  • an example of a joint doctorate degree and of a Diploma Supplement of a joint doctorate;
  • an example of an application form for a joint European master and doctoral degree.

Sources

Key sources

Erasmus Mundus Active Participation (EMAP) project website, including slide presentation and short film on the course management, visibility and sustainability of Erasmus Mundus joint doctorates.

Erasmus Mundus Quality Assurance (EMQA) website.

Erasmus Mundus Quality Assurance (EMQA), Erasmus Mundus Quality Assessment 2012, Handbook of Excellence Doctoral Programmes. Brussels, Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency, 2012.

Erasmus Mundus Quality Assurance (EMQA) has practical guides on:

Euraxess website

JOI.CON, Practical approaches to the management of joint programmes: results from the JOI.CON Training Project, Leipzig University, 2012.

Other sources

Ekman JØrgensen, T., CODOC – Cooperation on doctoral education between Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe, Brussels, European University Association, 2012.










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