The Role of High Quality Doctoral Research Training
There is a wide variety in the approach to doctoral level study across the globe. Most systems select the highest performing students at undergraduate and master's level study and then engage such individuals in developing their research skills through a combination of more detailed taught programmes on research methodologies and techniques as well as their own individual research projects. High quality and dedicated research supervision by experienced supervisors is essential and dual supervision (by primary and secondary supervisors, usually bringing different expertise) is now commonplace. In the UK, research funders, together with universities, have been involved in creating the concept of high quality doctoral training centres that provide world-class doctoral training and experienced supervision of the highest quality. Doctoral students must be exposed to training in ethics, research integrity and the importance of engaging the public in their research findings as well as being intensely focused in their own independent research projects. A critical mass of PhD students is essential to creating a sense of community and collegiality in a research-intensive university. This relates not only to the absolute number of PhD students in the university, but also to the manner in which they are organised. The concept of high quality experience as PhD students is a central feature of many graduate schools and doctoral training centres. At UCL we currently have in the order of 4900 PhD students in our graduate school and doctoral training centres, in a total student population of just over 30,000 students.
The duration of doctoral level training and research varies across the globe from 3 to 7 years and is also quite discipline specific. A typical such duration in the UK is four years. The centre piece of PhD student training is the creation of a doctoral thesis that is ultimately subject to detailed external scrutiny by the world's preeminent expert reviewers. The creation of new knowledge and an ability to demonstrate a logical and integrated set of arguments and research findings lies at the heart of every successful doctoral thesis.