During the first semester of 2021, DocEnhance’s three courses on Supervision, Data Management, and Career Management and Entrepreneurship were piloted within partners’ universities existing PhD programmes for proof-of-concept. Six universities over Europe were chosen to reflect diversity in terms of culture and in the developmental stage of their PhD programmes, for a better assessment of the concept’s applicability across Europe.
The course on Data Management was run by Karlstad University in Sweden and the University of Chemistry and Technology, Prague, in the Czech Republic. Nova University of Lisbon in Portugal and Tampere University in Finland ran the course on Career Management and Entrepreneurship. The Supervision course was run by Tampere University in Finland, Matej Bel University in Slovakia, and University of Alcalá in Spain.
After each pilot course, participants and organisers were invited to complete a brief questionnaire on different aspects of the courses and to provide comments or suggestions for further development and improvement. This feedback, collected and analysed by partner Fundación Universidad-Empresa, will be taken into consideration when refining the course concept and content for the second piloting round in Spring 2022.
Organisers, educators/trainers/supervisors, and students were questioned on the relevance and usefulness of the courses, as well as the perceived room for improvement. Questions covered topics such as the practical organisation of the course piloting, course content, learning materials, methodology, learning outcomes and satisfaction in terms of relevance and outcomes.
Main evaluation outcomes
High student satisfaction
Students rated the overall courses as 4,96 on a scale of 6, with almost 8 out of 10 participants (78,2%) considering that they are very good or excellent, and 9 out of 10 saying that they would recommend the courses to other students.
In line with these ratings, expected learning outcomes were met very well (41,2%) or completely (26,5%) in 7 out of 10 cases, and almost 8 out of 10 participants (78,3%) considered that they would be very useful or completely useful for their future career development.
Ratings were generally highest for the Career Management and Entrepreneurship Course, followed by the Supervision Course and the Data Stewardship Course.
Adaptation of course guidelines, contents, learning materials and work methods was globally considered to be very good, although there were slight differences between courses.
Courses required more time and effort than expected
It was notes that a majority of participants (almost 7 out of 10) considered the time and effort required to achieve course objectives to be a bit more than expected (46,3%), very much (19,4%) or too much (2,9%). Only 13,5% of respondents considered the time and effort needed to complete course objectives to be very little or a little.
Suggestions for course improvement
Several suggestions were also made to improve the courses in terms of student profile, interaction, theory vs practice, course content, learning materials and methods, and course duration. Depending on the course, respondents suggested specific contents to be included in the courses, re-designed, shortened or lengthened.
Respondents also suggested that the courses should focus on younger students (i.e. new PhD students) or beginning supervisors. Several respondents believed that the course should be available – even mandatory – for the whole university.
Interaction with students could be further improved, possibly with smaller groups in a face-to-face environment with dynamic sessions, debates and discussions and more synergies. Respondents also pointed out the advantage of organising group discussions with people from the same areas of knowledge or similar disciplines to enhance sharing of applicable know-how, practices and experience.
Collaboration between the academic and non-academic sectors
The Evaluation questionnaires included an open-ended question on the key issue of collaboration between universities and the non-academic sector in doctoral education, based on respondents’ personal experiences in doctoral education activities and in the pilot course taken.
One out of three respondents referred to the lack of communication and alignment between the orientations, expectations, standards and work cultures in the academic and non-academic sectors and the need to “build entry points to work together”.
Another one out of three respondents expressed their views specifically with regards to collaboration between the academic and non-academic sectors in doctoral education, pointing out the importance of offering doctoral students the opportunity to experience non-academic work environments, work methods and processes in order to better adjust their roles to fit different sectorial needs. Respondents also referred to the need to valorise doctoral training in the non-academic sector, and to adjust doctoral programmes to labour market demands in order to create employment possibilities for PhDs in the non-academic sector.