Identifying key factors in successful bidding for doctoral training

Paul Spencer and jane Khawaja

Doctoral education and the funding mechanisms to support it have been transformed across Europe. In the 20 years since the Bologna Process’ began, doctoral training across the European Higher Education Area (EHEA)2 has evolved significantly.The need to reform doctoral education and improve the quality of the doctoral training environment is summarised in the Salzburg Principles (2005) and reproduced in Table 8.1. Further recommendations on how to enrich these 10 principles and implement the reforms were set out in the Salzburg II Recommendations (2010), followed by the European Commission publishing its Principles for Innovative Doctoral Training (2011). Taken together, these proclamations have significantly influenced how funders of research target investment in the training of the next generation of doctoral researchers.

This chapter examines how the 2018 call for applications to host Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs)2 by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), a major funder of doctoral training in the United Kingdom, epitomises the quality enhancements required in successful applications for funding to deliver high-quality training to doctoral researchers. The key factors found in successful bids for CDTs are easily linked to these quality improvement themes, for example the use of cohort-based training to achieve critical mass, the employ of multiple partners to foster increased interdisciplinarity in the doctoral training environment and the promotion of innovative structures allowing an increased diversity of both disciplines and people. Continued evolution of the doctoral training environment is evidenced by an increasing focus on research integrity both in terms of the research carried out and of the diversity of people who carry it out and/or support the UK research base.

The University of Bristol, learning from previous successful exercises, engaged in the EPSRC call for CDTs (2018), investing time and support from a wide range of colleagues in faculty and two key professional services, the Research and

TABLE 8.1 A summary of the Salzburg Principles (2005)

Principle

Additional context

i

The core component of doctoral training is the advancement of knowledge through original research

At the same time, it is recognised that doctoral training must increasingly meet the needs of an employment market that is wider than academia.

ii

Embedding in institutional strategies and policies

Universities as institutions need to assume responsibility for ensuring that the doctoral programmes and research training they offer are designed to meet new challenges and include appropriate professional career development opportunities.

iii

The importance of diversity

The rich diversity of doctoral programmes in Europe - including joint doctorates - is a strength which has to be underpinned by quality and sound practice.

iv

Doctoral candidates as early stage researchers

[They] should be recognised as professionals - with commensurate rights - who make a key contribution to the creation of new knowledge.

V

The crucial role of supervision and assessment

In respect of individual doctoral candidates,

arrangements for supervision and assessment should be based on a transparent contractual framework of shared responsibilities between doctoral candidates, supervisors and the institution (and where appropriate including other partners).

vi

Achieving critical mass

Doctoral programmes should seek to achieve critical mass and should draw on different types of innovative practice being introduced in universities across Europe, bearing in mind that different solutions may be appropriate to different contexts and in particular across larger and smaller European countries. These range from graduate schools in major universities to international, national and regional collaboration between universities.

vii

Duration

Doctoral programmes should operate within an appropriate time duration (three to four years fulltime as a rule).

viii

The promotion of innovative structures

To meet the challenge of interdisciplinary training and the development of transferable skills.

ix

Increasing mobility

Doctoral programmes should seek to offer geographical as well as interdisciplinary and intersectoral mobility and international collaboration within an integrated framework of cooperation between universities and other partners.

X

Ensuring appropriate funding

The development of quality doctoral programmes and the successful completion by doctoral candidates requires appropriate and sustainable funding.

TABLE 8.2 EPSRC Centres for Doctoral Training at the University of Bristol

University of Bristol Centres for Doctoral Training

1

EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Composites Science, Engineering and Manufacturing

2

EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Future Autonomous Robotic Systems (FARSCOPE-TU: Towards Ubiquity)

3

EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Trust, Identity, Privacy and Security in Large-scale Infrastructures (TIPS-at-Scale)

4

EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Computational Statistics and Data Science: COMPASS

5

EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Quantum Engineering

6

EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Technolog)’ Enhanced Chemical Synthesis

7

EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Aerosol Science

8

EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Digital Health and Care

9

EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Future Innovation in Non-Destructive evaluation (FIND)

Enterprise Division (RED) and the Bristol Doctoral College (BDC),to coordinate the submission of high-quality applications as lead institutions to host the CDTs. The EPSRC process was rigorous with a two-stage application (outline stage and a full proposal stage) throughout 2018. The outcome was announced in February 2019; of the 75 CDTs that were funded, the University of Bristol was successfully awarded as lead partner for nine CDTs, the greatest number for any single institution (Table 8.2).

The authors both had significant roles in supporting the preparation of the bids, the implementation of the University commitments made to the successful CDTs and the continued sharing of emerging good practice. The process was developed and managed by one of the authors (Khawaja). RED works in partnership and closely with the academic, professional services, student, industry and entrepreneur communities to help sustain and grow activities that create the culture, reputation and impact that define the University of Bristol. The Bristol Doctoral College was established in 2013 to facilitate the growth, development and support of the thriving community of postgraduate researchers across all research degree programmes at the University of Bristol.

 
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