Quality in the doctoral educational environment

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Karolinska Institutet (KI) works continuously to strengthen the university’s doctoral educational environments and to support the individual student.

The presence of a productive environment that promotes high quality doctoral education is assessed at the point of admission, but is also something that needs to be observed during the entire period of study.


Proper supervision is essential to a strong doctoral educational environment

Opportunities for contact with other doctoral students and researchers

Research seminars, workshops, conferences and other activities are organised by KI’s departments and by various kinds of networks, such as strategic research fields, translational TEMA centres, KI’s research centres and national centres of excellence. Doctoral programmes and research schools are intended specifically for doctoral students and provide opportunities for interaction with fellow students and researchers (see below).

Doctoral programmes

KI’s doctoral programmes arrange courses and other learning activities, which helps to build a strong educational environment to supplement that offered by the departments and that exists within the individual research groups. Participating in the various activities arranged by the programmes is a way for students to create a network in their particular scientific field that extends beyond their own groups and department.

Research schools

As a complement to traditional doctoral education, KI offers a number of research schools, where a cohort of doctoral students attend specified courses and other learning activities together. Most of these research schools are for clinically active students. Joining a research school provides an opportunity for doctoral students to build networks within their own research fields.

Opportunities for international exchange/interaction

Approximately one third of KI’s doctoral students spend some time abroad as part of their studies (besides attending international scientific congresses to present their work) and one third have obtained their academic qualifications for doctoral education abroad. KI does much to promote internationalisation in its doctoral education, including offering annual travel grants for research visits abroad.

Travel grants for doctoral students

KI announces travel grants several times per year. The aim of the scheme is to encourage students to engage in more international exchange.

Exchange agreements for doctoral students

KI has cooperation agreements for doctoral students with many leading institutions and academies abroad

Participation in international conferences

All doctoral students at KI are obliged to present their own research at international conferences during their education. See the general syllabus for doctoral education for more information.

Support to doctoral students

There are different support functions available for KI’s doctoral students

Meetings with the departmental directors of doctoral education

All doctoral students are invited to meet with the departmental director of doctoral education at the time of their first annual follow-up. This is to allow the director of doctoral education to identify any potential problems and to establish a relationship with the students that might be of benefit later on in their studies.

Faculty funds: a tool for implementing and bringing acceptance to quality-improving reforms

Faculty funds are available at KI for the financing of doctoral students as a way for the university to support doctoral projects of high scientific quality. However, the funds are also used strategically to implement change and bring acceptance to quality-improving reforms.

KID-funding (faculty funds for the part-financing of new doctoral students) scheme, which was set up in 2005, covers half the cost of student maintenance, making it by far the largest investment in doctoral financing. Since it was launched, between 80 and 100 KID packages have been advertised annually, which means that roughly one quarter of KI’s doctoral students are part-financed this way. Because applications far outstrip availability, they are reviewed by different assessment groups that consider not only the quality of the project but also the competence of the supervisor(s) and the project’s suitability for doctoral education. Supervisors may only apply for KID funds with the express permission of their department.   

By attaching certain conditions to KID funds (e.g. the writing of an individual study plan, the formulation of intended learning outcomes, and the mandatory advertisement of a doctoral position) the Board of Doctoral Education has used the KID scheme strategically to bring acceptance to quality-improving reforms.

The Clinical Scientist Training Programme (CSTP) (faculty funding for the part-financing of new doctoral students) is used to encourage early doctoral education for students of medicine, dentistry, psychology and speech and language pathology at KI. Here too, the doctoral educational environment and the quality and potential of supervision are important assessment factors.

Potential principal supervisors with suitable projects in the caring sciences may apply for faculty funds for the part-financing of new doctoral students through the Research School in Health Care Sciences, FiV. Applications are judged primarily on the basis of the quality of the research project, and the principal supervisors granted funding advertise the doctoral positions competitively.

Development of the doctoral educational environment

Strategy 2018 – Roadmap for Karolinska Institutet 2014-2018 states that clearer demands ought to be drawn up for the research environments and supervisors that are accepted for doctoral education. The Board of Doctoral Education will continue to develop processes for ensuring that strong research and education environments are made available for new doctoral students.

Doctoral education