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Doctoral Training in Europe

Categories: News | EURAXESS China News

Tags: PhD


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Learn more about doctoral training in Europe in the article below.


Doctoral training in Europe

by our colleagues in EURAXESS LAC

About Doctoral education

"Doctoral education is a primary source of new knowledge for the research and innovation systems in Europe. The outcomes of doctoral education are both:

  1. young researchers who proved their skills for a professional life as “creative, critical and autonomous intellectual risk takers", and "those who go into roles beyond research and education, in the public, charitable and private sectors, where deep rigorous analysis is required.", as pointed out by LERU, "as well as
  2. the research output in the form of a doctoral thesis that contributes to the development of world science and the innovation system."


In its Report of Mapping Exercise on Doctoral Training in Europe "Towards a common approach" in 2011, the European Commission (EC) aimed at "shaping the future of doctoral training in the context of the Innovation Union policy. [.] Doctoral training is a primary progenitor of new knowledge, which is crucial to the development of a prosperous and developed society. Developed economies rely on new knowledge and highly skilled knowledge workers to feed a process of continuous innovation. They rely also on adequately trained responsible citizens that can adapt to changing environment and can contribute to the common good. Grand societal challenges like climate changes and healthy ageing require complex solutions based on high level frontier research carried out by new generations of researchers.

Several initiatives have been taken to identify and promote good practice in doctoral training, most notably [.]” by the European University Association (EUA).

“In the framework of the Bologna process, the European University Association (EUA) launched in 2005, after extensive consultation through a structured bottom-up process, Conclusions and Recommendations on Doctoral Programmes for the European Knowledge Society, better known as "Salzburg Principles". These principles were confirmed and enriched, in 2010, in the Salzburg II Recommendations.”

Seven Principles for Innovative Doctoral Training

Based on the initiatives cited above and many other (by the League of European Research Universities LERU, Coimbra Group, different thematic and international initiatives), as well as good practices in Member States and the Marie Curie experience, the European Commission identified seven principles composing a common approach to enhance the quality of doctoral training in Europe.

  1. Research Excellence
  2. Attractive Institutional Environment
  3. Interdisciplinary Research Options
  4. Exposure to industry and other relevant employment sectors
  5. International networking
  6. Transferable skills training
  7. Quality Assurance

More visually:

Source: IDT tree, by IDEA Consult based on Report of Mapping Exercise on Doctoral Training in Europe: Towards a common approach (2011)


These principles have been endorsed in the Council conclusions on the modernization of higher education, Brussels, 28-29 November 2011.

The Council calls on institutions and Member states "to link, where relevant and appropriate, national funding to the Principles for Innovative Doctoral Training". With that aim, the European Commission is supporting National funding agencies through the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions COFUND scheme that covers the co-financing of national or institutional doctoral training programmes in compliance with the 7 principles.

A diversified European higher education system

The EC 7 principles were not meant to be constraining and are rather considered by EU member states and associated countries as a “guiding tool” to inspire in the reforms in doctoral training and education in Europe.

Doctoral training remains very different from a country to the other. It can also vary within a country across universities, faculties/departments or disciplines. It is important to note that, as stated by LERU, those "varied practices [.] successfully achieve high quality doctoral education within a vigorous research culture and these must not be stifled.”

For more details on how doctorate training is organised in the different European member states and associated countries, check EURODOC survey on the Doctorate structures across Europe here.

To date, country fiches were published on Croatia; Czech Republic; Italy; Netherlands; Norway; Poland; Slovenia; Spain; Switzerland; Ukraine.

“The duration of doctoral education varies across Europe according to the national university structures and disciplinary traditions, but requires as a rule a full-time endeavour of 3 to 4 years."

Where to Find PhD Positions

The best place to start is to look at our job portal at Learn how to use it to find PhD positions by visiting the article below:

The European Union also funds PhD positions indirectly through the Marie Skodowska Curie Action Innovative Training Networks. Learn more about them in the article below:

Beyond that there are many member states that run comprehensive guides for people intersted to come to do a phd. See for example:

EURAXESS National Portals

Also check the EURAXESS National Portals for all kinds of practical recommendations and support for going to each Member State of the European Union and Associated Countries.