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AU launches major quality analysis of its PhD programmes

As a PhD student, you can now help assess the quality of your PhD programme by completing the questionnaire you have received in your e-Boks. The survey is conducted every four years, and the responses are included in the work AU does to ensure the quality of its PhD programmes.

2021.01.05 | Anders Hylander

Foto: Anders Trærup/AU Foto

Are PhD students at AU thriving? Do they get sufficient guidance, and are they well integrated in the local research environment? And does the university recruit and educate talented graduates who feel that they have the ability, will and desire to conduct research at a high level?  

These are some of the questions that the survey on the quality of PhD programmes focuses on in the questionnaire that was sent to all current PhD students and recent PhD graduates on 5 January.

The vice-dean of the Faculty of Arts, Anne Marie Pahuus, is spokesperson for the graduate school leadership circle at AU, which is behind the survey. She emphasises that the results are important for quality assurance work.

“The survey gives us, among other things, insight into whether our PhD students have the right opportunities to exercise and develop academic independence, and where there might be a need for better support of the well-being and integration of the programmes and teams they are a part of. Additionally, this year’s survey will also include a section about the corona situation, which has all PhD programmes in some way,” she says.

She hopes that the survey, which takes approx. 15 minutes to complete, will have the same high response rate as in 2013 and 2017. In those years, the response rate was almost 80%.

”I believe that those 15 minutes are well spent. The input we get from the questionnaire can benefit a lot of people, including future generations of PhD students, since we draw on the survey results in our continuing work with developing PhD degree programmes at AU,” says Anne Marie Pahuus.

She also notes that there will be questions on the form that may seem out of step with reality right now, but which are necessary to include in the survey every year. For example questions concerning changing working environments when going abroad.

AU’s PhD association welcomes the survey

The Aarhus University PhD Association (AUPA) welcomes the survey of PhD degree programmes. René Bærentsen, who is chairperson of the association along with Tenna Foustad Harbo, says:

”In AUPA we are happy to see that AU continues to show an interest in improving the conditions of PhD students. At the same time, we hope that AU will listen to the input that the survey gives us – and we especially hope that both new and existing initiatives to improve conditions will be implemented and continued.

René Bærentsen points out that the Covid-19 pandemic of the past year has put extra pressure on PhD students. He hopes that what we have learnt from the Covid-19 situation will be taken into future work to develop the PhD degree programmes.

AU’s educational research and development unit is behind the survey

Gitte Wichmann-Hansen, associate professor at AU’s educational research and development unit, Centre for Educational Development (CED), is the project manager for the survey. This is the third time she has directed the process.

”The questionnaire was developed based on research-based literature about PhD degree programmes and in close dialogue with the leaders of the graduate schools. It has also been validated multiple times, including through interviews with PhD students. This is how we ensure that we get the most valid results possible,” she says about the approach to the survey.

Just like the previous times that the survey has been conducted, the form includes questions about topics like the quality of PhD student guidance, research environment culture, workload amount and career plans, as well as  motivation and well-being.

The 2021 survey is being conducted in collaboration with the consulting firm Rambøll, which is handling data collection and the final reporting of the results. The publication of the results will take place this spring.


  • All enrolled PhD students at AU will receive a personal link to the questionnaire in their e-Boks on 5 January.
  • The same applies to those who have received their PhD degree from AU during the last six months.
  • The questionnaire takes approx. 15 minutes to complete. The deadline for taking the survey is 3 February.
  • The results of the survey will be used internally at AU to develop and improve the PhD degree programmes. The results will also be used in a number of international evaluations of AU’s PhD degree programmes, which take place later in 2021.

More info:

Research, Research, All groups, All AU units, Aarhus University, Talent development, Education