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A. Teixeira, M.J. Rosa, L. Castro, A. Silva

University of Aveiro (PORTUGAL)
Doctoral Education (DE) has been under considerable transformation in recent decades. There has been a significant increase in the number of doctoral students, programmes and universities offering doctoral degrees. Basically, DE has moved from a ‘small group of privileged apprentices in a handful of elite universities’ to ‘tens of thousands of doctoral students in hundreds of universities’ around the world (Bernstein et al., 2014: 7).

Cardoso et al. (2018) summarised a number of factors that have led to DE transformation, including the diversification of doctoral candidates’ profile, changes at the level of doctoral programmes organisation and structure, its nature and form and the assumption that it is now a third cycle of studies. Furthermore, DE is seen as a strategic resource for the knowledge society and economy and has become a target for policy attention and intervention, under the scope of the Lisbon Strategy and the Bologna Process. As such, quality issues regarding funding, duration and completion, internationalisation and mobility, organisation and shape, supervision, skills and competencies and the transition to the labour market have emerged in policy debates and initiatives around DE. This led to the need of demonstrating that DE is adequately managed, efficient, transparent, fit for purpose and providing the highest quality research education and training for the labour market. DE has become under the scrutiny of internal and external quality assurance (QA) (Cardoso et al, 2018).

It was under this context that the University of Aveiro, through its Doctoral School, decided do design a QA subsystem (SubGQ_PD) for its DE offer, aligned with its internal QA system. Due to DE education specificities, considered to be a bridge between research and education, the challenge was to design and implement a QA subsystem that took into account the two components and would be able to effectively assure and improve the quality of DE. As such, the SubGQ_PD design started from the assumption that doctoral programmes comprise both research work and doctoral courses, putting its emphasis on the strengths and weaknesses of these two components to answer the question: How to assure and improve DE quality? A pilot test was run in 2016 and thereafter it was put in place, firstly only regarding the research work component (2016/17) and then all of it (2017/18).

This paper intends to present the design and implementation of the SubGQ_PD, including the steps followed and the main results obtained. So far, the implementation allowed identifying good practices that need to be shared among all intervenient, as well as to detect some problems, which were targeted for further analysis and corrective actions. Overall, it is our belief that this subsystem may contribute to the quality of UA’s doctoral education and its future improvement and increased impact.

[1] Bernstein, B. L., Evans, B., Fyffe, J., Halai, N., Hall, F. L., Jensen, H. S., Marsh, H. and Ortega, S. (2014). The continuing evolution of the research doctorate, in M. Nerad and B. Evans (Eds.), Globalization and its Impacts on the quality of PhD Education: Forces and Forms in Doctoral Education worldwide (pp. 5-30). Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers.
[2] Cardoso, S., Rosa, M.J. and Miguéis, V. (2018). Quality assurance of doctoral education: current trends and proposals for future developments. Paper presented at the 4th Douro Seminar, Douro Valley, 7-9 October 2018.