Research training at the doctoral level should be a
major focus of European research and development policy in the coming
years, the League of European Research Universities (LERU) has said in
a statement on doctoral training and the Bologna Process.
'In order to boost this continent's competitiveness and economic strength it is vital to invest in education, and in particular in higher and postgraduate education, since Europe's mostly technologically advanced knowledge economies are now crucially dependent on their ability to push the frontiers of knowledge in order to create a competitive advantage,' LERU writes.
The aim of the Bologna Process is to create a European Higher Education Area by 2010. In its statement, LERU points out that 'the organisation of research and doctoral training in Europe is highly fragmented, with over one thousand universities conferring doctoral degrees'. However, it is concerned that the degree of uniformisation that the Bologna Process has created for Bachelor and Maste r degrees will not be beneficial to research-based PhD training.
'Research-based PhD training, which requires a careful balancing of educational and research perspectives, is fundamentally different from the preceding education cycles,' states the paper. 'It would be unwise to create uniform, top-down, regulatory processes, such as credit ranges for the research-based PhD, or to regulate the status of doctoral candidates as students or employees.'
LERU believes that Europe should promote greater diversity among higher education institutions, under which each institution is encouraged to play to its strengths, be they in carrying out top level research or providing skilled graduates for local industry.
One important aspect of the Bologna process is mobility, and here LERU recommends that Europe support a genuine choice of location and country for the best doctoral candidates and enable 'better knowledge exchange processes between universities and businesses in order to increase the uptake of PhD graduates in the business world'.
The European ministers responsible for higher education will next discuss the Bologna Process at their meeting in London in May.