Principles for Innovative Doctoral Training

In the framework of the European Research Area, the European Commission has developed a set of seven principles for innovative doctoral training. The seven EU principles were based on the ten Salzburg principles (enriched in 2010 by a series of Salzburg II Recommendations on ways to implement the principles), good practice in Member States and the Marie Curie experience. They have been endorsed by the EU Council of Ministers in their conclusions on the modernisation of higher education on 28/29 November 2011. These seven principles are presented below.

1. Research Excellence

Striving for excellent research is fundamental to all doctoral education and from this all other elements flow. Academic standards set via peer review procedures and research environments representing a critical mass are required. The new academic generation should be trained to become creative, critical and autonomous intellectual risk takers, pushing the boundaries of frontier research.

2. Attractive Institutional Environment

Doctoral candidates should find good working conditions to empower them to become independent researchers taking responsibility at an early stage for the scope, direction and progress of their project. These should include career development opportunities, in line with the European Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers.

3. Interdisciplinary Research Options

Doctoral training must be embedded in an open research environment and culture to ensure that any appropriate opportunities for cross-fertilisation between disciplines can foster the necessary breadth and interdisciplinary approach.

4. Exposure to industry and other relevant employment sectors

The term 'industry' is used in the widest sense, including all fields of future workplaces and public engagement, from industry to business, government, NGO’s, charities and cultural institutions (e.g. musea). This can include placements during research training; shared funding; involvement of non-academics from relevant industry in informing/delivering teaching and supervision; promoting financial contribution of the relevant industry to doctoral programmes; fostering alumni networks that can support the candidate (for example mentoring schemes) and the programme, and a wide array of people/technology/knowledge transfer activities.

5. International networking

Doctoral training should provide opportunities for international networking, i.e. through collaborative research, co-tutelle, dual and joint degrees. Mobility should be encouraged, be it through conferences, short research visits and secondments or longer stays abroad.

6. Transferable skills training

“Transferable skills are skills learned in one context (for example research) that are useful in another (for example future employment whether that is in research, business etc.). They enable subject- and research-related skills to be applied and developed effectively. Transferable skills may be acquired through training or through work experience”. It is essential to ensure that enough researchers have the skills demanded by the knowledge based economy. Examples include communication, teamwork, entrepreneurship, project management, IPR, ethics, standardisation etc.

Business should also be more involved in curricula development and doctoral training so that skills better match industry needs, building on the work of the University Business Forum and the outcomes of the EUA DOC-CAREERS project. There are good examples of interdisciplinary approaches in universities bringing together skills ranging from research to financial and business skills and from creativity and design to intercultural skills.

7. Quality Assurance

The accountability procedures must be established on the research base of doctoral education and for that reason, they should be developed separately from the quality assurance in the first and second cycle. The goal of quality assurance in doctoral education should be to enhance the quality of the research environment as well as promoting transparent and accountable procedures for topics such as admission, supervision, awarding the doctorate degree and career development. It is important to stress that this is not about the quality assurance of the PhD itself rather the process or life cycle, from recruitment to graduation.

European guidelines and principles for doctoral training:

Last updated: 20.5.2020