Responsible Doctoral Programmes for a Responsible Future


Last year at about the same time we wrote a blog about the exciting programme and high-profile speakers for the EFMD Doctoral Programmes Conference 2020 on the topic of Responsible Doctoral Programmes for a Responsible Future.

Unfortunately, the global Covid-19 pandemic led to the cancellation of the conference and we were unable to facilitate discussions around this important topic. We are delighted that in 2021 we will be able to meet again and pick up from where we left.

Interestingly, as timely as our main theme was last year and still is, we must be aware that the global context in which we are meeting has changed. The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated and made visible social divides followed by calls for a more sustainable and responsible recovery from this crisis. But what does this mean for doctoral education?

Looking at responsible doctoral programmes for a responsible future has never been more pertinent. The number of doctoral graduates worldwide has significantly increased over the last two decades (OECD, 2016) while at the same the time the value of a doctoral degree is questioned as e.g. The Economist states that ‘doing a PhD is often a waste of time’ (Dec. 2016). Doctoral candidates have faced challenges and hardship during the pandemic and doctoral programmes have to address them. We therefore decided to continue with the theme of “Responsible Doctoral Programmes for a Responsible Future” for the upcoming EFMD Doctoral Programmes Conference.

According to the Oxford Dictionary “responsible” can mean anything from having a job/duty to causing something to being reliable. For our conference we take a broad view on “responsible” and incorporate multiple perspectives. Designing and providing responsible doctoral education first of all means developing graduates who are equipped with a critical mindset, and valuable knowledge and skills for the job market and who are ready to contribute to society, be it in academia or beyond. Secondly, responsible doctoral education enables individuals to thrive and experience the doctorate as a meaningful undertaking. Thirdly, it values plurality and diversity with regards to research topics and methods, knowledge creation approaches and collaborations in order to tackle wicked problems and challenges of our time.

Day one

At our online conference, we will explore the aspects of responsible doctoral programmes according to the doctoral journey – starting at the end with entering the job market to finishing with the recruitment process. We will kick off with a panel of experts (Professor Peter McKiernan, University of Strathclyde and co-founder of the Responsible Research in Business and Management (RRBM) initiative; Dr Alexander Hasgall, European University Association Council for Doctoral Education; and Wilfred Mijnhardt, Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University) discussing what responsible doctoral education really means and how programmes can align responsibly with a school’s purpose and mission. This will be followed by an interactive jam session on how we prepare graduates to enter the job market and we end the first day with a networking activity to break the ice and stimulate informal contacts amongst delegates.

Day two

On the second day, we focus on the delivery of responsible doctoral programmes addressing key challenges experienced by programme directors and managers. Dr Karen Clegg (Head of Research Excellence Training, University of York) and Professor Stan Taylor (Honorary Professor, Durham University & Chair, UKCGE Research Supervisors’ Network) shed light on the role of supervision in responsible doctoral education. This is followed by two facilitated world cafés addressing common issues during the doctorate: Engagement and Monitoring completion plans. The second day concludes with an interactive session in which delegates can bring their own challenge and seek feedback and inspiration from peers to take this forward after the conference.

Day three

On Wednesday, representatives from institutions supporting the recruitment of doctoral candidates (ETS Global, FindAPhD and DocNet) present their views and data on trends in the recruitment process and what this means for responsible doctoral programmes. We will then be introduced to the serious game Doctoral Quest (developed by Grenoble Ecole de Management), which supports future potential doctoral candidates in key decisions at the beginning of a doctorate. The conference will be closed with a summary of the key findings, announcement of the next conference location and a virtual drink.

We are looking forward to three half days of interaction, discussion and networking on highly relevant issues concerning doctoral provision in business and management schools around the world during these challenging times. We appreciate the opportunity to develop, sustain and engage with our community of practice to set the agenda for responsible doctoral education. We hope to see you online in May 2021!

If you have any questions, please feel free to get in touch with:
Dr Christine Unterhitzenberger, Conference co-Chair
Dr Eva Cools, Conference co-Chair
Dr Jean-Alexis Spitz, Conference Manager

* The conference will be taking place online from 10 to 12 May 2021 (three afternoons). Further details and registration can be found on the event webpage.