EUROPE: Give doctorates a wider role

It is time doctorates were seen as a qualification for all kinds of jobs in the modern world and not just as a ticket for an academic career, says the League of European Research Universities. A new league paper says the doctorate has evolved into a qualification for people who are "highly creative, critical, autonomous, intellectual risk-takers who push the boundaries of knowledge and innovation whatever their employment destination may be".

A growing number of doctoral graduates now go into non-academic careers says Professor David Bogle, main author of the LERU paper and head of the graduate school at University College London.

"This indicates there is a strong demand from the private and public sector for the skills that a doctorate instils for employment beyond the education sector," Bogle said.

The paper sets out policy recommendations for European governments, EU institutions and universities, arguing that if Europe was serious about its objective "to become the most dynamic knowledge society in the world", strong support of doctoral education was vital.

Such training should be concentrated in research-intensive environments where excellence is fostered, says the paper.

It says that PhD graduates stand out by their competence, by their achievement and by their social skills. Under this last heading, the paper explains that such graduates "develop a team work attitude and can collaborate and communicate with specialists and non-specialists".

It was the combination of these three skill sets that equipped doctoral graduates "to successfully apply their advanced skills in or beyond research and to take up leading roles in any employment where deep, rigorous analysis and creative thinking are needed."

The development and take-up of these skills by society required a strong vision, forward looking investment and concerted effort by governments, employers, universities and by talented bright minds to make it happen.

The league called on governments and the EU to increase investment in doctoral education, and on employers and universities to work together so that "rigorous research remains the cornerstone of the doctorate and that doctoral training is a suitable preparation for work in today's world".

Among other recommendations to universities, it called for research to remain the cornerstone of the doctorate, and to develop doctoral graduates who were creative risk takers with a rigorous approach to the research questions they tackled.

The LERU is an association of 22 leading European research-intensive universities.