“Our hope is that departments, faculties and doctoral programmes will use the report to review and improve postgraduate education,” notes Therese Ljunghammar, project manager at the University Administration and one of the authors of the report. “We supply the materials and general analyses so that everyone can then dig deeper in line with their own environment. All of the materials are available and it is possible to get references and ideas from different parts of the University.”

The report was published in June 2023. It highlights that the most important factor governing whether doctoral students are satisfied with their doctoral education is the relationship with their supervisor. Future career opportunities within academia and their own performance also proved to be important factors.

Generally, the results of the report were positive. Both doctoral students and their supervisors are satisfied on the whole with doctoral education. However, this does not mean that there are not areas to be developed and improved.

Areas for development

“A proper introduction has proven to be an important factor in doctoral students’ satisfaction with their education,” notes Maria Magnusson, project manager at the University Administration and one of the authors of the report.

A well-thought-out introduction can help to solve several of the needs that arise in the report. For example, doctoral students have poor knowledge of the Higher Education Ordinance’s qualitative targets governing doctoral level studies. An introduction can also examine expectations, which demands doctoral students place upon themselves and on the supervisors and research environment? An introduction could also highlight the Guidelines for Doctoral Studies at Uppsala University.

“Some parts of the University have developed full welcome packages. They could serve as inspiration,” notes Therese Ljunghammar.

Course evaluations should always be offered, even for doctoral education courses. A pleasing development is that more departments are now offering course evaluations compared to when the previous survey of doctoral education was carried out in 2015.

“Feedback from the course evaluations can always be improved, however,” notes Magnusson.

Greater focus on career guidance

Another area for development is the follow-up of the individual study plan. This can be improved, with greater focus being placed on career guidance for doctoral students.

“There are quite extensive demands placed on all programmes to offer support and guidance for students’ future careers, and we should be able to offer that support for doctoral education too,” adds Ljunghammar.

The report also notes that doctoral students feel stressed in general.

“Many doctoral students are working too many overtime hours. It is important for the University to monitor their working conditions,” adds Magnusson.

Range of courses important

Many doctoral students think that the courses are one of the strengths of their doctoral education.

“However, the range of course is a common theme appearing in the survey’s areas of development. The doctoral students feel that information is unclear and that the courses are offered too infrequently. Both doctoral students and supervisors have stated in the open response sections that the range of doctoral education courses in their field is too limited,” explains Ljunghammar.

Language difficulties and inclusion in the research environment are other important areas of development for doctoral students with degrees from another country.