DOCTORAL EDUCATION IN PORTUGAL: MAPPING THE LANDSCAPE
Doctoral education is a key element for the promotion of Europe as the most dynamic knowledge society in the world, as envisioned by the European Research Area (ERA). Working as a strategic resource for the knowledge society and economy, doctoral education encompasses the potential to provide countries with research and knowledge production capacity, in the framework of social development and innovation (Bernstein et al., 2014; Cardoso, Rosa, & Miguéis, 2020; Nerad & Trzyna, 2008). As a result, doctoral education has progressively become the target for policy attention and intervention which, in general, has impacted its nature and form (Bernstein et al., 2014; Kehm, 2020). In Europe, under the Bologna Process, and in line with recommendations from organizations such as the European University Association (EUA) and the League of European Research Universities (LERU) (e.g. EUA, 2005; 2010; 2016; LERU, 2010; 2014; 2016), doctoral education has become more varied and structured, namely through the inclusion of an additional curricular component to that of research. Nowadays, it covers an array of models including traditional research doctorates (PhD), professional doctorates, industrial doctorates, or joint doctorates, each of them addressing specific goals and purposes (Bao et. al, 2016; Kehm, 2020). One of these purposes is for doctoral education to respond to increasingly diversified career expectations beyond academia (Friedrich-Nel & Mac Kinnon, 2017; McAlpine, 2020). The number of doctoral students, as well as of programmes, in the most diverse scientific areas, and of universities offering doctoral degrees, has also increased (Clarke & Lunt, 2014).
Many of these changing trends have been followed by Portugal and are currently visible in the configurations assumed by doctoral education. The paper aims to contribute to a better understanding of these configurations, through mapping the present landscape of doctoral education in the country. The preliminary analysis of the current offer of doctoral programmes by Portuguese universities (both public and private) (DGES, 2020), suggests that doctoral education has an uneven distribution in terms of the nature of the university (e.g. dominance of public universities), geographic prevalence (e.g. urban centres in the Atlantic cost of the country), and scientific areas of the programmes (e.g. predominance of sciences, mathematics and informatics and social sciences, commerce and law).
Moreover, a certain homogenisation is identified in terms of doctoral programmes’ duration (e.g. 3 years) and structuring (e.g. 1st year curricular component), with programmes provided through collaborative schemes (i.e. collaboration between universities, polytechnics and/or for-profit organizations) being residual.
These trends are worthy of reflection and some of them are envisaged, at the end of the paper, in recommendations. These recommendations are addressed to policy-makers and universities in the sense of an eventual reorganisation of the doctoral education landscape and improvement of its alignment with social and political expectations regarding this education level.