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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Get engaged in the PhD Chapter!

With mandate periods ending in December, we are looking to fill several board and functionary positions. Join us, be part of our team, and help us in our efforts to ensure high-quality education and professional development opportunities, advocate for doctoral students’ rights, and support doctoral student welfare. PhD Chapter board members are eligible to receive time compensation for their work and prolong their studies.

Open PhD Chapter Board positions will include:

  • Vice Chairperson
  • Treasurer
  • Business Liaison
  • Webmaster
  • Communication Manager
  • Council Coordinator

Open functionary positions will include:

  • Nominating Committee
  • Standard Bearers
  • Master of Ceremonies
  • Head of Women’s Doctoral Committee (WoP)
  • Auditors

Check out the job descriptions here.

If you want to get engaged, apply here.

If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch with the current board (board@dr.kth.se) or the Nominating Committee (nominations@dr.kth.se) and we will be happy to answer them. We are looking forward to your application! 

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Doctoral student representation in the third-cycle education network

On Thursday, the 29th of October, a meeting of a relatively new forum, the third-cycle education network (Sv: forskarutbildningsnätverket) was held. The idea behind this network is to bring all the FAs (directors of third-cycle education at school levels), all the PAs (program responsibles for third-cycle education) together with the central leadership of KTH to discuss doctoral education. This was only the second edition of such a meeting. The first one was organized in VT20. From now on such meetings will be organized twice every semester. For HT20, the second meeting is scheduled for 18th December. At KTH, similar networks have existed for both the first and second cycles of education.

In Thursday’s meeting, the doctoral representatives were led by the PhD Chapter Board members Jasmin Höglund Hellgren and Mohit Daga. Several doctoral representatives from the school councils also participated. In general the meeting focused on the program analysis of PhD programs as an important part of the annual monitoring of programs and KTH quality assurance system. The PhD program analysis is done by the PAs and then also used by the FAs when doing the aggregate analysis at school level.

The parts of the program analysis are the following:

  • An analysis and self-evaluation of the program status – an analysis of quantitative data
  • An analysis and self-evaluation of the feedback from PhD students, supervisors and administrative/technical staff
  • An analysis and self-evaluation of national assessment areas and KTH prioritized goals: digitalization and integration of equality in the education
  • An analysis and self-evaluation of the integration of sustainability in the education
  • An analysis and self-evaluation of the development of the program

The program analysis of 2021 will have a special focus on digitalization and integration of equality mainly due to the rapid shift from working and teaching on campus to moving almost all activities online as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, and due to the criticism formulated by the Higher Education Authority (UKÄ) concerning the lack of systematic integration of equality in KTH’s programs.

The main point on the agenda was a workshop conducted by Magnus Johansson, KTH’s Quality Assurance Officer, together with Sofia Ritzen, the Vice Dean of Faculty. The workshop discussed the upcoming quality dialogue involving doctoral education. Different aspects of doctoral education quality were discussed, for instance, doctoral courses, supervision, the ability for doctoral students to build a research network within KTH and beyond were discussed.

It was pointed out by the student representatives that the policies and guidelines regarding the doctoral courses need to be revisited. There was a general agreement for this. Regarding, supervision, it was discussed that there must be tangible mechanisms to evaluate supervision. One of the suggestion made by student representatives was to conduct personal interviews of the doctoral students. For doctoral students to build a research network beyond KTH, it was pointed out that the current guidelines and regulations discourages mobility during doctoral studies. Further, it was also mentioned that the departmental duties for doctoral students, must in practice adhere to the percentage of activities mentioned in the eISP and not overshoot it.

One of the tangible outcomes of this meeting was an agreement that doctoral students from each program will be included by the PAs during quality dialogue. In this meeting, a presentation regarding the doctoral student survey was also made by PhD Chapter Board member Mohit Daga. The FA of SCI School who was present in the meeting, through an email to the PhD Chapter, appreciated the presentation and also extended an invitation to make a similar presentation for the SCI School leadership team.

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PhD Chapter Meeting and Elections — October 19th, 2020

The PhD Chapter board welcomes the members of the PhD Chapter to the first chapter meeting of the operational year 2020/2021, which will take place on October 19th, 2020, at 17:17 (precise venue TBA due to format considerations).

During this Chapter meeting, we will hold by-elections for vacant positions on the Chapter board, which are Education Manager and Webmaster. Read more about the positions here and click here to apply. The deadline for applications is September 29th. Please get in touch if you have any questions; we’ll be happy to answer them!

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