Statistics from Supervisor of the Year Award Nominations

The deadline for the nominations for supervisor of the year award was on 4th of December 2020. The jury received 64 nominations made by 116 doctoral students and alumni. Note that our rules allow alumni participation up to 1 year after graduation or defending the doctoral thesis. One nomination was withdrawn. The statistics from each school is given below.

CBH21
EECS21
ITM8
ABE7
SCI6
Supervisor of the Year Award 2020 – nominations breakdown from each of the five schools of KTH

The jury shall now work to determine the validity of nominations using the data from KTH. Since only doctoral supervisors are allowed to be nominated, hence the jury shall only allow supervisors listed in the ISP to be eligible to be nominated. The nominated supervisors must be listed in sections 4.1 and 4.2 of the ISP, that is Principal supervisor or Assistant supervisor. Note: Person(s) listed in 4.4 of the ISP (Additional persons) are not eligible to be nominated.

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Passing on the experience: How to influence doctoral student education at KTH?

KTH has many international doctoral students, many of them are even foreign to the idea of education influence by students. Often there are gaps in understanding the system. Doctoral students are represented in almost all central level forums. The structure of these forums changes over time. At the moment, the main forums include the faculty councilthe board of educationthe employment board, the council of strategic affairs, and the university board. Similarly, doctoral students are represented at the important decision-making bodies of the five different schools of KTH. Through this blog post, I will give a three-step process from my understanding of how to influence education at KTH.

Background: Swedish Laws

The Swedish laws on education are very supportive of student influence. I would further go on to add that one of the most supportive clauses for student influence ever written on a piece of paper exists in Swedish laws.

The students shall have the right to exert influence over education at the universities. The universities shall work to ensure that the students take an active part in the work to further their education.

The above clause has two parts, first, the students have the right to influence, and second, the universities need to make sure that students can actively exercise this right. The question often arises, what are the ways in which students can appropriately use these rights. It is one aspect to be a passive representative in a board/committee/workgroup and another to actively influence decisions using the rights.

Three Step Model

I present a three-step model for active student engagement to change the policies. This should be done by deliberation within the student body and picking policies of importance. Once, you have decided on your set of issues, you could follow the three-step process.

  • Actively influence the agenda. It is the most important step. If your issue is not brought into the agenda, it will never be discussed. To bring the issue to the agenda, raise it in the preparatory meeting or the other questions point (often the last point of the agenda) to be included in the next meeting’s agenda.
  • Formation of workgroup. Once the issue is included in the agenda, actively inform the meeting regarding the issue. If no decision could be made, suggest the formation of a work-group (be prepared before-hand about the names). In the workgroup, discuss the policy matter and suggest changes/new addition be brought.
  • The decision by the board. Once the workgroup provides its recommendations the respective board shall decide on the policy. Be prepared for different kinds of questions that could be raised. One must not take the questions or remarks against the suggested policy negatively but instead on a positive note. If the board decides to accept the policy measure, then it’s a win-win situation. If it rejects, suggest the policy matter to be returned to the work-group.

What student representatives should not do?

Student representatives should only exercise the interest of students. They must not let anyone else’s interest be exercised by renting their shoulders; even if the matter is presented and molded in a way to masquerade as students’ interest. One needs to be watchful. It must be said, that this is not a very Swedish style, so such issues will be rare. Also, student representatives should not be pedantic and raise unnecessary doubts on the matters discussed. Instead, they must find a balance.

This blog was posted by Mohit Daga, Vice-Chairperson of DR for the year 2020.

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PhD Chapter Meeting and Elections — December 9th, 2020

The PhD Chapter board welcomes the members of the PhD Chapter to the second Chapter Meeting of the operational year 2020/2021, which will take place on December 9th, 2020, at 17:17. Please find the summon here. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and associated restrictions, the meeting will take place over Zoom. Highlights of the meeting will include elections for several positions and presentations of the board report and audit report of last year’s (2019-2020) board.

All doctoral students are welcome to join, but note that you must be a PhD Chapter Member (that is, a doctoral student and paid member of THS, the KTH Student Union) in order to have voting rights during the meeting. Please fill out this registration form if would like to attend the meeting: https://forms.gle/8sx3pFodShoh36Me9. We will send a reminder email with the Zoom link to all registered participants.

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Discussing Doctoral Education at KTH’s Board of Education (UN) and SCI School’s FA+PA group

On 18th November, Mohit Daga (Vice-Chairperson, PhD Chapter) gave a presentation about doctoral education at the KTH’s Board of Education (Sv: Utbildningsnämnden, UN) and SCI School’s FA+PA group.

Presentation at UN

In addition to presenting data from the Doctoral student survey report, the presentation at UN touched upon some perennial aspects of doctoral education. Previously, the doctoral student survey has also been presented at the third cycle education network (Sv: Forskarutbildningsnätverket, FU-Nät), the Faculty Council (Sv: Fakultetsrådet, FR), and at the third cycle education committee (Sv: Forskarutbildningsutskottet, FU). From the doctoral survey, the presentation included key aspects of doctoral education: supervision, doctoral courses, stress and well-being of doctoral students. The presentation also talked about issues concerning international doctoral students.

number of doctoral degrees awarded by KTH
Number of doctoral degrees awarded by KTH from the year 1983 to 2019 (Source: Ladok)

A recent UKÄ report notes that three years after graduating, 62% (4,630) of foreign doctoral students had left Sweden while 38% (2,720) were still in the country. Sweden has a population of about 10 Mn, if thousands of its doctoral students continue to leave the country then it is certainly a matter of concern. There are two ways moving forward, a pessimist approach of continuing to being nonchalant about the problem and accepting that nothing can be done or an optimist solution, leading to coming up with creative ideas to take this problem head-on. In the presentation made at the UN some ideas to resolve this issue were discussed.

a) Enabling conditions for Pre-Doc (sabbatical during doctoral studies). Currently, doctoral students are widely discouraged from pursuing a pre-doc, that is a sabbatical during doctoral studies. Often Chapter 5 of Högskoleförordning (1993:100) is cited to disallow doctoral students to pursue sabbatical (absence of leave). Sabbatical period or internships could be easily offered by companies due to employment regulations. It is also easier for research universities to host a pre-doc than a post-doc. A sabbatical period could be an easy solution to help foreign doctoral students build a research network in Sweden. There are many benefits of the same, a prime among them is to encourage them to stay in Sweden after doctoral studies.

b) General skills-based courses in the PhD programs. As seen from the above graph there is a steady rise in the number of doctoral students. It has become increasingly hard for universities to absorb all the doctoral students that graduate. It is now more important than any time in the past to prepare doctoral students for different career opportunities apart from academic careers where their scientific knowledge could be used. In the survey conducted by the PhD chapter around 70% doctoral students considered it important to include courses in general skills within the PhD programs. Having such an opportunity shall help doctoral students for career outside academia, and perhaps in Sweden.

Left: Likert chart from the survey report showing interest in including doctoral courses in general skills within PhD programms. Right: Likert chart from the survey report showing possibility to learn Swedish as a part of PhD programmes and/or departmental duties.

c) Possibility to Learn Swedish as Departmental Duties. Thanks to the international culture at KTH, today, it is possible for international doctoral students to spend 5 years in Sweden, obtain a doctoral degree and still not learn basic conversational Swedish. This international culture is important to attract top talent. But then, how do we encourage doctoral students to pick up the local language? Any policy measure, which makes compulsory learning of Swedish shall make it disadvantageous for some. We need to think of out-of-the-box solutions. Can we provide 5% of departmental duties for doctoral students to learn the Swedish language? Perhaps, an incentive-based mechanism, where only regular course completion would entail future extension of such an entitlement. Learning Swedish has academic benefits as well, for example, this will allow international doctoral students to work as a teaching assistant for courses conducted in Swedish, during their doctoral education. There could be many ways to support the training of the Swedish language; various schools at KTH are sitting on high buffer of GRU money, this money could be used to fund Swedish education for doctoral students. A similar model is used for the pedagogical training of doctoral students. In the doctoral student survey, 80% of doctoral students responded that it is important to learn Swedish as a part of PhD programs and/or departmental duties. If doctoral students learn Swedish, it will help them to stay in Sweden, as many academic and industrial jobs require Swedish proficiency.

Presentation at SCI School’s FA+PA Group

The SCI School’s Director of Research Studies (Sv: Forskningsutbildningsansvarig, FA), Anna Delin invited Mohit Daga to present the doctoral student survey at the School’s FA+PA group. In this meeting, the focus areas were different from UN. The concrete points apart from the doctoral survey that were discussed here included providing the SCI School’s doctoral council members with time compensation, especially for the ones who are about to graduate soon (before the central guidelines on doctoral students’ time compensation); resolving issues concerning the compensation of departmental duties (time spent vs time compensated); and re-visiting the high credit requirements for the applied and computational mathematics program.

This blog was posted by Mohit Daga, Vice-Chairperson of DR for the year 2020.

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Supervisor of the Year Award

Attention doctoral students: Nominate your supervisor for the inaugural Supervisor of the Year Award. For more details please visit https://www.dr.kth.se/supervisor-of-the-year-award. The last date for nominations is 4th December. All nominations are to be made on a prescribed form. You may follow this link to add a reminder about the nominations in your calendar.

If you have any questions, please write to us at supervisor-award@dr.kth.se or attend our digital Q&A Session by joining the virtual meetup or by registering here.

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