Quality framework for doctoral education

What is it?

Ghent University’s Quality framework for doctoral education ensures quality assurance from the entry point to the completion of the doctoral process. It is a guiding tool composed of 10 building blocks and was approved by the University’s Board of Governors on May 8th 2015. These building blocks remain the framework for further plans, actions, evaluations and improvements of the doctoral process.

In addition, this quality framework underpins the accountability of doctoral level education for all stakeholders: doctoral students, supervisors, future employers, funders. It also illustrates the shared responsibility for a quality culture within the research community (supervisors and doctoral researchers), at management level (advisory and deciding bodies, Doctoral Schools and faculties) and at operational level (Doctoral Schools Coordination Unit).

Ten building blocks to ensure quality

  1. The faculty is responsible for admission to a doctorate at Ghent University. The faculty investigates whether a candidate meets the entry conditions regarding university degree, language, essential scientific knowledge and personal competencies for academic research. The faculty also investigates whether the proposed supervisor possesses the time and expertise required to take on supervisory responsibilities.
  2. The (main) supervisor is in charge of supervising the doctoral research. He/she receives assistance from others. This could be a doctoral advisory committee, cosupervisors or others who take on a guiding role.
  3. The doctoral student develops towards an independent researcher. As such, he/she acquires the necessary scientific expertise and competencies corresponding with PhD level.
  4. The regulatory framework for the doctorate is Ghent University’s Education and Examination Code. In addition, the Charter for doctoral students and supervisors elaborates on the responsibilities and expectations of all those involved in the doctoral process and lays the foundations for a quality relationship between supervisor and doctoral researcher. Should any conflicts arise, the doctoral student can consult the ombudsperson and the faculty can avail itself of the procedures required to intervene.
  5. Doctoral students at Ghent University receive the necessary tools and guidance to develop broader competencies at the level of doctoral research. In addition, doctoral researchers are expected to maximize their talent development. They receive the support required to achieve this in their research environment.
  6. All doctoral students, regardless of their nationality, appointment or funding, receive adequate support. They have access to essential information, funds, training and infrastructure, as well as access to the social networks within the research environment. This supports their development as a researcher and prepares them for a wide range of careers.
  7. The administrative processes that organise the recruitment, selection, introduction, progress and graduation of doctoral students require continuous improvement. In order to be as effective as possible, increasing automatisation of the administrative process is essential.
  8. The Doctoral Schools support the entire doctoral process in terms of quality assurance, training provision and preparation for the (non)academic labour market. They provide information, organise courses, manage administrative workflows in the doctoral training programme, coordinate the Doctoral Schools Councils, establish regional and international networks and collaboration, perform internal policy analyses, etc.
  9. The doctoral dissertation serves as evidence of the development as independent researchers. Its quality is guaranteed first and foremost by good guidance and support and by the various steps in submitting the dissertation.
  10. An independent assessment of the doctoral student’s performance is guaranteed by a well-founded composition of the examination board. The board is composed of internal and external members whose expertise matches the research being delivered. Should the quality appear to be insufficient, the examination board can decide not to award the doctoral degree, or to reassess the dissertation upon revision by the doctoral student.

Which actions is Ghent University currently undertaking in order to improve quality in the doctoral process?

  1. Improving admission and introduction of new researchers (COMPLETED)
  2. Developing an online toolbox of good practices in a quality doctoral environment
  3. Further integrating administrative processes in OASIS (the university’s education and student administration system)
  4. Implementing the charter for doctoral students and supervisors (COMPLETED)
  5. Consolidating the training opportunities for supervisors (COMPLETED)
  6. Developing the procedures to intervene in case of insufficient progress (COMPLETED)
  7. Evaluating training and supervision
  8. Sharing information and data
  9. Developing a competency framework for doctoral students (COMPLETED)
  10. Making adjustments to the doctoral examination regulations (COMPLETED)
  11. Appointing the Doctoral Schools to monitor process of quality improvement