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New analysis of the quality of AU’s PhD programmes

Aarhus University has just completed an in-depth analysis of the quality of the university’s PhD programmes. The analysis will be used to develop doctoral education at AU.

2014.02.04 | Sys Christina Vestergaard

Are students getting the most out of their PhD process? And is the university getting the greatest possible return on the investment represented by educating PhDs, both in the short term and the long term?

“We wanted answers to these questions, which is why we initiated an in-depth survey last year. We need the answers to create the best conditions and structure our PhD programmes in the best possible way. PhD students are of crucial importance to the universities: they are an important resource as PhD students, but as a university, we also have a responsibility to take the long-term perspective and to help ensure the continuity of the food chain of talented researchers that will drive research and development forward, both at AU and elsewhere,” explains Dean Svend Hylleberg, who is responsible for talent development at Aarhus University.

There are over 2,000 PhD students currently enrolled at Aarhus University, which represents a twofold increase in ten years. And in 2011, the university reorganised the structure and administration of its PhD programmes. In response to these developments, in 2013 Aarhus University performed a survey in order to gain a detailed understanding of what PhD students themselves think should be done to make their PhD process as fruitful as possible.

The survey covered all four graduate schools and had a response rate of 80 per cent. It thus gives deans, department heads, the heads of graduate schools and PhD supervisors a detailed understanding of how PhD students experience their PhD process.

“I am quite pleased with the thoroughness of the survey. It provides us with a truly excellent point of departure for developing our PhD programmes at all four main academic areas. There is a great deal of variation in the conditions they work under, and this is reflected in the survey,” says Dean Hylleberg.

Some aspects of the programmes function well, and others can and must be improved. He emphasises that the survey demonstrates that while Aarhus University’s PhD programmes are good, there are some conditions that can be improved, and that this will be done.

“The portrait the survey paints is a nuanced one, and now each main academic area and each graduate school will have to start discussing how the results can be used to optimise the PhD process for their own students,” he explains.

The process of developing action plans for the development of the PhD process will begin straight away at all four academic areas, their graduate schools, and at the 27 departments.

The PhD survey was carried out by the Centre for Teaching and Learning at Aarhus University, which has also published a report analysing the results.

Read the report here



Please contact Associate Professor Gitte Wichmann-Hansen (gwhansen@tdm.au.dk) if you have questions about the report.

Please contact Svend Hylleberg (sh@sam.au.dk) if you have questions about Aarhus University’s PhD programmes and the survey follow-up.

Talent development, PhD students, All AU units, Aarhus University, Academic staff