Quality in doctoral supervision

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Maintaining the quality of supervision

Assessing the capacity to provide quality supervision

‘Green light’

Before a new doctoral project can be initiated, the KI department has to give its approval to the intended principal supervisor. An assessment will be done of the suitability as supervisor, previous track record and available time for supervision, as well as the financial resources of the applicant. ‘Green light’ is a quality assurance tool to, early in the process, ensure optimal prerequisites for a good doctoral education.

Assessment of doctoral educational environment at admission to doctoral education

Guidelines have been established for assessing a strong doctoral educational environment at Karolinska Institutet (KI). A key consideration of such assessment is whether the necessary conditions are in place for a high standard of supervision.

More about assessing doctoral educational environments

The quality of supervision is also essential to the assessment of applications to the research schools and to KID and CSTP.

Courses for doctoral supervisors

KI regularly arranges a number of courses for doctoral supervisors in order to strengthen and inspire them by providing continual support and development as regards skills and approaches in pedagogy and leadership. All courses have fixed syllabuses.

Web course for doctoral supervisors. The compulsory web course for principal supervisors gives them and others involved in doctoral education an opportunity to update their knowledge of the prevailing rules and regulations, which helps to lend legal security to doctoral education at KI. The course is also included in the introductory doctoral supervision course (see below).

Introductory doctoral supervision course. The introductory doctoral supervision course is compulsory for all new principal supervisors who have not supervised a doctoral student to graduation. The course is designed to prepare participants for the role of supervisor and to inform them of its various responsibilities. The course also covers communication, legal considerations, research ethics, diversity and equal treatment, intercultural communication, doctoral education at KI, intended learning outcomes, rules for doctoral education and student recruitment.

Pedagogy for doctoral supervisors. Pedagogy for doctoral supervisors covers how to identify learning situations, formulate intended learning outcomes, encourage meaningful learning and use questions and reflection in the supervisory situation. It also covers the significance of progression and how to manage the process of achieving independence and intended learning outcomes.

Leadership for research group leaders. Leadership for research group leaders is aimed for research group leaders that have a minimum of two members in their group. During the course, research group leaders have the opportunity to learn about the roles and responsibilities necessary for a research group leader in terms of legal aspects, i.e. KI’s rules and regulations and obtain and use the tools and approaches that favour the creation of a work environment that provides the best conditions for innovative and creative research.

Seminars for doctoral supervisors

The seminars for doctoral supervisors are an opportunity for supervisors to meet colleagues and exchange experiences. They stimulate the development of self-insight into the supervisor role and inspire and strengthen participants to find their own solutions to the different challenges it presents.


In the 2016 exit poll, 81 per cent of KI’s newly graduated doctors said that they would recommend their supervisor to prospective students (an aggregate of the “agree” and “somewhat agree” responses – see figure 1). The corresponding figures from previous exit polls were 82 per cent (2015), 79 per cent (2014), 78 per cent (2013), 75 per cent (2012), 71 per cent (2011) 76 per cent (2010), 74 per cent (2009) and 72 per cent (2008).

According to the 2014 employee survey, 92 per cent of doctoral students agreed with the statement that they had a good relationship with their supervisor (on a scale of 1 (totally disagree) to 6 (totally agree), 51%, 30% and 11% gave a score of 6, 5 and 4 respectively; 4% gave 3, 2% gave 2, and 1% gave 1).

All courses for doctoral supervisors are evaluated, and the results used to develop and improve the courses.

Doctoral education