onsa VISIONS AND ACTION PLAN FOR THE PHD DEGREE PROGRAMME AT THE AARHUS FACULTY OF HEALTH SCIENCES FACULTY OF HEALTH SCIENCES AARHUS UNIVERSITY

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1 US Visi onsa VISIONS AND ACTION PLAN FOR THE PHD DEGREE PROGRAMME AT THE AARHUS FACULTY OF HEALTH SCIENCES FACULTY OF HEALTH SCIENCES AARHUS UNIVERSITY

2 Visions and action plan for the PhD degree programme at the Aarhus Faculty of Health Sciences was discussed in the Academy Council and the Management Forum and was agreed between the heads of the graduate school and the dean. Michael J. Mulvany and Lise Wogensen Bach Heads of the Graduate school October 2010

3 CONTENTS BACKGROUND GENERAL VISIONS AND GOALS RECRUITMENT AND ENROLMENT OF PHD STUDENTS Recruitment Enrolment CONTENT OF THE PHD PROGRAMME PhD project PhD courses Participation in active research environments Graduate Programmes (GP) and graduate networks (GN) Study periods at other institutions Teaching and communicating knowledge PhD dissertation and awarding the PhD degree PHD PROGRAMME SUPPORT Flexible and individually planned degree programmes Finance Supervision and career guidance COLLABORATION ABOUT THE PHD PROGRAMME ONGOING DEVELOPMENT OF THE PHD DEGREE...18

4 BACKGROUND With its visions and action plan for the PhD programme at the Aarhus Faculty of Health Sciences, this paper originated at a faculty meeting on March Attending the meeting were members of the deanship, heads of departments, heads of the Graduate Programmes (GPs), PhD students, members of the Academy Council and the heads of the graduate school. A summary was prepared on feedback from the working groups and the open discussion at the plenary meeting. All participants had opportunity to comment on this summary, and the text has been discussed by the faculty leadership. The heads of the graduate school, which is responsible for the PhD programme at the faculty, prepared the following description of the visions and plans for the graduate school based on the summary mentioned above. 2

5 1 GENERAL VISIONS AND GOALS The heads of the graduate school has the following general visions and goals: To maintain and ensure a successful, individually planned PhD programme for the PhD student, as well as PhD degree standards at the highest international level. To maintain and ensure that PhD programmes are primarily based on independent research projects. To maintain and ensure that PhD programmes involve participation in a challenging scientific environment with optional study periods abroad, relevant courses at a high academic level, and experience with teaching and communicating research results. To recruit the best candidates with the greatest research potential for the PhD programme from a large and diverse recruitment base. To maintain and ensure that MD graduates account for 50% of all enrolled PhD students. To develop and ensure enrolment practices that aim to achieve a 25% share of PhD students with qualifying examinations from other universities, either in Denmark or abroad. To develop and offer a range of PhD projects spanning the entire health science area in accordance with the faculty s research strategy. To maintain and ensure qualified supervision of PhD students. To maintain and ensure a high degree of external financing of PhD programmes. To be an active participant in national and international collaboration about PhD programmes. The action plans describe the initiatives required for the heads of the graduate school to achieve its goals. 3

6 2 RECRUITMENT AND ENROLMENT OF PHD STUDENTS 2.1 Recruitment The graduate school must achieve the goal for the admission of PhD students set out in the development contract, and ensure the recruitment of potential researchers. The graduate school will focus particularly on the following: 1. To ensure recruitment of the best young researcher candidates. The graduate school must ensure that PhD fellowships are allocated to applicants who can be expected to complete the best PhD programmes. It is therefore important to consider not just the research experience documented by the applicants, but also their estimated research potential. Faculty fellowships can be used strategically as a recruitment tool to support the recruitment goals or as a tool to support new health science environments in accordance with the faculty s research strategy. The faculty s research year will be continued. The faculty will announce a number of scholarships several times a year. These scholarships are awarded on the condition that the applicant also applies for external financing. The supervisors will be encouraged to include scholarships in framework applications. 2. To maintain and ensure sufficient recruitment of PhD students to cover the entire health science area. The graduate school will prepare a strategy for communicating its different programmes with a view to recruiting applicants from among undergraduate students in relevant degree programmes (information meetings for undergraduate students at an early stage of their studies, preparatory courses, medical days, researcher days, career days, etc.). 4

7 3. To maintain and ensure that MD graduates account for approximately 50% of all PhD students. When determining the criteria for allocating PhD fellowships, the graduate school will use different incentives to make it easier and more attractive for MD graduates to apply for a PhD degree. Information about combined PhD programmes will be given higher priority. It is possible, for example, to combine part-time PhD studies with internship at a hospital (basic clinical training) or specialist training, provided the PhD degree can be completed within a maximum of six years. By introducing schemes like combined PhD programmes and the integrated PhD (MD/PhD, 4+4, 3+5), the graduate school is making an extra effort to enrol medical students to support the recruitment of medical doctors to the biomedical departments at a later stage. 4. To develop and ensure that approximately 25% of PhD students have acquired their qualifying examinations at another university, either in Denmark or abroad. The graduate school will prepare a strategy for increased recruitment of foreign PhD students in collaboration with the university s other main academic areas and the International Centre. Together with the working group on recruitment, the graduate school will prepare strategies for how the academic networks of the researchers themselves can best be utilised to more actively recruit both foreign and Danish PhD students. Application and enrolment procedures must be available and easy to understand for foreign applicants, and the graduate school website must contain contact details for the scientific environments (departments, institutes and the Graduate Programmes). A number of faculty fellowships will be earmarked as mobility grants for foreign applicants. Foreign recipients of mobility grants who need an introduction to Danish research environments can be offered financial support for their cost of living for a brief period of time in the form of trainee grants. 5

8 5. To support development and completion of qualitative PhD projects. The graduate school will collaborate with relevant graduate programmes to draw on the experience of other institutions with a tradition for qualitative PhD projects, and contribute to establishing collaboration agreements and developing courses and seminars within qualitative PhD research that cut across different faculties. 2.2 Enrolment A Danish PhD programme takes three years, which is a short period of time seen in an international perspective. The graduate school must therefore provide the right framework for a good and productive degree programme from the very first day, and ensure that the PhD student gets the best possible opportunities to complete the programme within three years. Projects must therefore be approved before enrolment. 1. The graduate school will increase the number of project descriptions that can be approved by the PhD committee without revision as a basis for enrolment. It will be possible for applicants to apply for introductory scholarships prior to their enrolment as PhD students. This system will be introduced gradually with a view to creating an optional six-month trial period during which the student can also participate in course activities. The graduate school will prepare guidelines for preparing the project description, which will be available on the website. To ensure the quality of the project description, PhD students should present their projects and study plans verbally to their supervisors, the head of the Graduate Programme (GP) and other interested parties before applying for enrolment. Precise and easy-to-understand guidelines for the pre-assessment of project descriptions will be prepared. 6

9 2. The graduate school will focus on developing and ensuring processing routines and procedures that give the students the best possible conditions for enrolment and commencement of their studies. The graduate school will ensure that the enrolment procedure is both quick and transparent. In the enrolment procedure, emphasis will be placed on the scientific content and depth of the project, including: o that the project has sufficient scientific content. o that the project description contains both definite and explorative components. o that the project can be completed within the given time frame. o that relevant collaboration between clinic and basic departments is established, if academically relevant. o that the PhD student works in an academic environment. The graduate school must ensure upon the student s enrolment that the project description is supported by a realistic study plan in accordance with the provisions in the PhD Executive Order. The graduate school will establish a procedure to ensure that the process of approving project descriptions and revisions can be completed without interruptions. This includes providing concise feedback to the student and delegating the review of project descriptions, if applicable, 7

10 3 CONTENT OF THE PHD PROGRAMME 3.1 PhD project Society needs educated and talented people in the health science area, both nationally and internationally. The graduate school must educate researchers at a high international level. To achieve this goal and ensure that the projects are completed within the agreed time frame, it is important that PhD students and supervisors continuously reassess the quality and progress of the project throughout the degree programme. 1. In planning the commencement of studies, the graduate school will make sure that an assessment is made at an early stage as to whether it is realistic to expect the project to be completed in time. Evaluations will be made after 6, 18 and 30 months. The evaluation after six months primarily focuses on deciding whether the plans for the degree programme remain realistic. If this is not the case, the student is given three months to revise the plans as set out in the PhD Executive Order. After 18 months, the evaluation primarily focuses on determining the progress made in the form of a halfway evaluation in which the PhD student and the supervisors verbally present the provisional results and plans for the remainder of the project to a committee, normally consisting of the original pre-assessors and the head of the Graduate Programme (GP). The evaluation after 30 months focuses particularly on explaining the plans for finalisation of the degree programme. After 12 and 24 months, the supervisors and the student hold a special meeting at which they assess the progress of the project. In connection with the meeting, the supervisors and the student have an obligation, jointly or separately, to notify the heads of the graduate school if there are reasons to believe that the PhD programme will be delayed or cannot be completed. Alternatively, they can consult the PhD student counsellor. A brief report is included in the portfolio in connection with each evaluation. 8

11 3.2 PhD courses The course programme should benefit the academic development of the individual student and support the completion of the project. It is the responsibility of the graduate school to provide clear guidelines for achieving this goal. 1. The system for revising the course programme, enrolment procedures and the administration of course activities should be as flexible, easy to understand and accessible as possible. The course programme is divided into a portfolio of compulsory and elective courses offered by the graduate school, as well as subject-specific courses organised by the Graduate Programmes (GPs). As part of the range of elective courses on offer, the faculty collaborates with other graduate schools at Aarhus University regarding courses in transferable skills that cut across different faculties. All courses are evaluated and the evaluations are used both in connection with the graduate school s assessment and amendment of the courses on offer and by the individual lecturer when planning the content of subsequent courses. The guidelines for calculating ECTS credits and activities attracting ECTS credits will be reviewed and clarified. 2. The graduate school will plan the commencement of the degree programme to make sure the student quickly receives relevant course offers. Compulsory courses and other activities that support the completion of the student s project should be completed as early in the programme as possible. The faculty will aim for fixed enrolment deadlines so that compulsory course activities can be completed shortly after enrolment. In general, compulsory courses and similar activities should be offered within six months of enrolment. 9

12 3.3 Participation in active research environments Graduate Programmes (GP) and graduate networks (GN) The PhD programme is based on specialised Graduate Programmes (GPs). The GPs are research communities that aim to facilitate collaboration and improve the quality of scientific themes. All PhD students are associated with a GP, and the main supervisor will often be associated with the same GP. The GPs are thus one of the cornerstones in the establishment of active research environments for the PhD students. The GPs are responsible for: The planning and running of academic courses, as well as summer schools, annual meetings, series of seminars, etc. totalling 10 ECTS credits for the individual student, preferably involving foreign partners. Recommendations for enrolment. Providing advice to the heads of the graduate school regarding measures to ensure the quality of the PhD programme. Development of the academic environment. The GPs are encouraged to include students in their own academic networks, both nationally and internationally. 1. The graduate school seeks to strengthen and develop the GPs. The GPs will be encouraged to take on several specific tasks. The graduate school will implement an appropriate organisational and financial framework for developing the individual GP areas. The job as head of GP will be remunerated. In addition, the GP department in question will receive an annual amount for coordination of GP tasks. The GPs will be encouraged to develop regional, national and international graduate networks (GNs). The GPs will be encouraged to promote student participation in courses organised by other GPs. The graduate school is developing a simple payment method for participation in courses at other GPs. 10

13 Study periods at other institutions The PhD student should spend time at another institution as part of the PhD programme if possible abroad. The group of supervisors is expected to draw on their own scientific networks to help the PhD student get access to another institution. 1. The graduate school will strengthen both national and international mobility. The graduate school will ensure that all PhD students can obtain financial support for studies abroad. The graduate school will ensure that planned studies abroad can be adopted as a criterion in the allocation of faculty fellowships. The faculty s administrative support in connection with studies abroad will be strengthened, and initiatives developed to support such studies in close collaboration with the university s International Centre. The heads of the graduate school will work in national and international contexts to make it possible to have the PhD diploma certified by the foreign institution. 3.4 Teaching and communicating knowledge The PhD student must gain teaching experience or experience with other forms of communicating knowledge. This will take place under supervision and courses in communication will also be offered. 1. The heads of the graduate school will maintain and ensure that the students gain experience with relevant and supervised teaching and/or communicating knowledge. Catalogues of relevant activities to provide experience with teaching or other forms of communicating knowledge will be further developed and the PhD student and supervisors will be clearly informed. As in the past, the student s experience with teaching and/or communicating knowledge should be based on an agreement between the student and the main supervisor and form part of the PhD plan. The activities should also be recorded in the student s portfolio. 11

14 3.5 PhD dissertation and awarding the PhD degree It is one of Aarhus University s main goals to produce young PhD graduates at an international level for the benefit of Danish society. 1. The graduate school will maintain and ensure that the quality of a PhD degree from the Aarhus Faculty of Health Sciences at Aarhus University is of the highest international standard. The graduate school will comply with international standards for PhD dissertations as defined by ORPHEUS. This means that the academic quality, depth and scope of the dissertation must correspond to three articles in recognised international journals in which the student is the first author, accompanied by a summary. As a general rule, one article must have been published or accepted for publishing at the time the dissertation is submitted for assessment. PhD students, supervisors and assessment committees will be informed about the international standards for assessment of PhD dissertations. The main supervisor s assessment of the PhD student s entire period of study must be documented in the portfolio with a brief description of the individual components of the degree programme (including study periods abroad, experience with communicating knowledge and participation in conferences). 12

15 4 PHD PROGRAMME SUPPORT 4.1 Flexible and individually planned degree programmes Providing students with as much freedom as possible to plan a PhD programme is a high priority. It is also extremely important to keep the time limit for the project to three years of full-time study, which is the standard duration of the degree programme. 1. The graduate school will continue to offer good opportunities for part-time enrolment and parttime employment, leave of absence and combined degree programmes. Measures will be taken to make the opportunities offered by the graduate school for parttime employment, leave of absence and combined degree programmes more visible. The graduate school will make efforts to maintain the current standard (currently 150 hours) for teaching and communication activities, regardless of the nature of the employment. In the long term, it will be an advantage to extend the initial period of the PhD programme by providing introductory scholarships before formal enrolment. The graduate school will look at the issue that enrolment and payment of a PhD fellowship terminates upon submission of the dissertation, even if the entire three-year period of the fellowship has not yet passed. Unexpected events can lead to part-time work, leave of absence and, for academic reasons, to limited extensions of the deadline. 4.2 Finance A PhD project can be financed in different ways: by employment at a hospital, with funds provided by the Danish Councils for Independent Research, the EU or private foundations, or by a faculty fellowship. Faculty fellowships are the most expensive item in the graduate school s budget. 1. It is important to ensure from the very beginning of the degree programme that sufficient financing is available to enable completion of the student s projects. 13

16 The project descriptions must include a budget for the completion of a project, indicating the sources of finance. During the period of employment, the PhD students must have equal opportunities for financial support of the activities described in their study plans, including support for studies abroad and travels to conferences. All students must be guaranteed an annual grant. The amounts are determined once a year. 2. The graduate school s budget must show all costs and revenues relating to the PhD programme. Faculty grants will be announced as full fellowships or partial fellowships. In addition, the graduate school will make a number of free places available. Fellowships will be provided in order to support the best talents and can be used as a strategic tool. The graduate school wants the external share of the financing of the school s PhD programme to remain at least 65%. The study fees for PhD students without faculty fellowships should cover the cost of the degree programme. The graduate school s budget must be transparent, grouped by activity, and must be presented to the PhD committee. 4.3 Supervision and career guidance Good professional supervision is essential for the quality of a PhD programme, and the importance of positive and productive collaboration between the student and the supervisor cannot be overestimated. In addition to the supervision, targeted career guidance during the studies can help the student choose a career upon conclusion of the degree programme. 1. The graduate school will develop and ensure appropriate supervision and guidance. 14

17 The graduate school will prepare and publish general descriptions of the responsibilities of the main supervisor and the co-supervisor, as well as descriptions of the conditions for approval of the supervisors. The graduate school will offer all supervisors a course in supervision, and work towards the creation of web-based supervision courses. Once web-based courses have been established, participation in a supervision course will be a prerequisite for approval as a main supervisor. The number of PhD students per main supervisor will be limited to enable more young academic staff members to assume the role of main supervisor. Supervision and good supervisory procedures will remain a subject in the compulsory basic course. The PhD student counsellor scheme will be maintained and made more visible to the PhD students. 2. The graduate school wants to offer professional and individually planned career guidance to PhD students. Career guidance must be an integral part of the role as main supervisor. An interdisciplinary career guidance panel will be established with members representing clinical specialties, the university and the industrial sector. The graduate school will participate in ongoing dialogue with user groups to develop the PhD programme and make sure that it matches the competences requested by the job market. 15

18 5. COLLABORATION ABOUT THE PHD PROGRAMME The graduate school takes part in local, national and international networks that aim to help the university fulfil its overall visions and goals for the PhD programme, including: Strengthening and ensuring the quality of the PhD programme. Creating the best possible conditions for combining a PhD programme with clinical work. Creating the best possible conditions for completing a PhD degree in collaboration with relevant private companies. Creating and developing international relations that promote opportunities for the recruitment of foreign students and study periods abroad during the degree programme. Ensuring that the graduate school participates actively in the national and international development of standards and frameworks for PhD programmes. As a member of the Organisation for PhD Education in Biomedicine and Health Sciences in the European System (ORPHEUS), an organisation that comprises more than 100 health science faculties in Europe, the graduate school endorses the standards set out by ORPHEUS. 1. The graduate school takes part in a number of national collaborations about PhD programmes and wishes to continue strengthening these relationships. In collaboration with the other faculties at Aarhus University, the graduate school will establish common courses in transferable skills. In collaboration with the other health science faculties, the graduate school will facilitate participation in courses cutting across different faculties as part of the agreed Open Market. The current excellent collaboration with other health science faculties about the exchange of experiences and the development of the framework for the PhD programme, for example within the graduate networks (GNs), will continue to have high priority. In collaboration with the Danish regions, the graduate school will improve the opportunities for combining a part-time PhD degree with employment in training positions. 16

19 The graduate school will make efforts to increase its contact with Aarhus University Hospital and the Central Denmark Region to strengthen and extend the existing strong collaboration. In collaboration with departments and other relevant business partners, the graduate school will prepare a strategy for increased use of the Industrial PhD scheme. 2. The graduate school wishes to continue and further expand international collaboration about PhD programmes both in the form of education policy in general and by establishing and developing specific partnerships. The graduate school will remain an active participant in the ORPHEUS collaboration and thereby influence the European development of PhD programmes. Through its participation in ORPHEUS, the graduate school will continue to work on the establishment of common European standards for the PhD degree. The graduate school will make efforts to establish collaboration with foreign faculties to optimise the possibilities for so-called joint degrees, double degrees and collaborative degrees. The graduate school will actively contribute to increasing the flexibility of the formal requirements to PhD degrees, developed jointly by Danish and foreign faculties. 17

20 6 ONGOING DEVELOPMENT OF THE PHD DEGREE One of the main goals of the PhD programmes at Aarhus University is to provide graduate programmes catering to both the public and the private sectors. It is therefore important to focus on educating researchers who match the needs of the target group and, at the same time, provide attractive career opportunities for the PhD graduates themselves. Hospitals, the industrial sector and universities, nationally as well as internationally, constitute the most relevant future job market for PhD graduates from the Aarhus Graduate School of Health Sciences. 1. The graduate school wants to ensure that the PhD programme develops in close collaboration with the target groups. The graduate school will monitor development in the employment of health science graduates on an ongoing basis. The graduate school will strengthen its dialogue with relevant target groups about the need for developing the PhD degrees. 18

21 Contact Michael J. Mulvany Phone: Lise Wogensen Bach Phone:

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