The Forces and Forms Event Series

The History of Forces and Forms in Doctoral Education Worldwide

Since the advent of the 21st century, in light of globalization and of governments wishing for their countries to become knowledge societies, the Center of Innovation and Research in Doctoral Education (CIRGE) at the University of Washington in Seattle, in 2005 began a series of international workshops starting to explore the forces that were driving reforms and changes in doctoral education around the globe and the forms these changes were taking. These workshops, which included experts from all six continents, including graduate deans, funders of doctoral education, top administrators, and, of course, doctoral students, were vehicles for stimulating cross-national research and for establishing international networks for information exchange and collaboration. The goals were to stimulate action to promote the education of innovative and socially responsible doctoral recipients worldwide; equal distribution of high-quality doctoral education around the world; and greater inclusion of diverse societal groups in doctoral education.

In 2005, the first workshop was held in Seattle and focused on understanding the issues of that particular time. It resulted in a book publication of 14 country profiles titled, Towards a Global PhD? Forces and Forms in Doctoral Education Worldwide (2008). The second workshop, in 2007, held in Melbourne, Australia, (co-organized with Graduate Dean Barbara Evans), investigated the effects of globalization and new quality assurance practices on doctoral education, as well as doctoral education’s potential for nation building. It also asked what a PhD is, in terms of competencies acquired. The findings were published in a book titled, Globalization and Its Impacts on the Quality of PhD Education Worldwide: Forces and Forms of Doctoral Education Worldwide (2014).

The third workshop in 2009 took place in Kassel, Germany and was co-organized with Dr. Barbara Kehm. The heart of this workshop was to develop and agree upon practical recommendations for graduate deans, funders of doctoral education, and professorial advisors to doctoral candidates. The resulting policy recommendations, The Policy Potential of Innovation and Internationalization in Doctoral Education: Recommendations for Equity, Diversity and Innovation are published in an article, “Global Perspectives on Advocating for Change in Doctoral Education,” in Learning and Teaching: The International Journal of Higher Education in the Social Science (3:1, 2010).

The last of the workshops zeroed in on a particular region, Southeast Asia, and took place in Penang, Malaysia in 2010 and was co-organized with Dr. Beate Scholz and Graduate Dean Roshada Hashim. Its goal was to form a regional, collaborative network that would become a “knowledge hub” for doctoral education in the region. The workshop resulted in graduate deans from Thailand and Malaysia who were present, afterwards passed a declaration that acknowledged that doctoral education should be a source for social cooperation and sustainability of natural, human, and institutional resources.

15 years after the first workshop, CIRGE and its network saw a need to review the development of the forces and forms in doctoral education worldwide again. There have been significant changes in doctoral education worldwide in the last decade: in many countries, the numbers of doctoral candidates and doctoral-granting institutions have increased, with the intention to help drive both national innovation and research performance of individual institutions, especially in Asia. Worldwide, there is a greater focus on diverse employment prospects and transferable skills of doctorate holders and postdocs. At the same time, the world is changing faster than ever. Seemingly adverse developments with yet unknown effects, namely digitization as a potential driver of progress as well as a simultaneous deterioration of democracies, which have aligned with the rise of populist or fundamentalist movements, characterize the second decade of the 21st century. Training doctoral candidates to become the next generation of creative, critical, autonomous, and responsible intellectual risk-takers is more essential than ever in these times of epochal challenges and unsettling changes.

We approached the Volkswagen Foundation, a private German foundation which has allocated substantial resources to doctoral education, for grant funding to review the successes and failures of reforms since 2005 and to explore ways of training and preparing new generations of doctoral holders.

Now, during the first week of September 2019, we are coming together in Hannover, Germany, the site of the Volkswagen Foundation, to undertake this review while considering the newly configured and constrained global context. We plan to discuss the findings against the general background of common values, namely academic and research freedom as part of universal human rights and ethics, research integrity, and societally relevant and responsible research.

Five groups, with participants from all parts of the world, completed this review by each focusing on a specific topic related to doctoral education.

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