Quality Management (QM) in doctoral education is an ongoing task for all executive boards involved on various university levels and takes different subject areas and contexts into account. The quality standards are based on the principles and goals defined in the Quality Strategy 2020 of the University of Basel. Due to the importance of research in doctoral studies, the processes of quality management in doctoral education are oriented towards the processes in research. The teaching and learning components are, by contrast, based on the processes of quality management in teaching.
The general responsibility for quality assurance and development at the doctoral level lies with the faculties. The departments recognize this responsibility in their area of competence. As central contact point for all matters relating to doctoral studies, the Graduate Center is involved in the coordination of the quality management on all university levels and supports the organizational units in its implementation. In the context of quality management, the assessment of doctoral level studies by the Scientific Advisory Boards is an essential element. The surveys of doctoral students and the key figures on doctoral studies serve as the basis for the quality analysis.
Survey of Doctoral Students
The organizational units (departments or faculties without departments) of the university conduct, in collaboration with the Graduate Center, periodic surveys (at least every four years) of doctoral students in order to learn about their satisfaction with their study and research conditions. For this purpose, systematic online surveys are conducted using a questionnaire consisting of open-ended and close-ended questions. Important topics are the motivation for starting a PhD, the expectations of doctoral candidates, questions about everyday research and the research environment or about supervision. In addition, specific questions can be included by the faculties and departments. The Graduate Center conducts the surveys with the support of the Quality Development team and in consultation with the respective departments and faculties. The anonymized results are made available to the departments and faculties. A detailed description of the processes involved in the survey of doctoral students is provided in the fact sheet that was drafted in collaboration with the Research Office.
Key Figures on Doctoral Studies
In collaboration with the Quality Development team, the Graduate Center provides the general key figures on doctoral studies for the organizational units of the university on an annual basis. The set of key figures includes information about the following aspects by default:
- The number of first semester students by doctoral subject and institution that conferred the master’s degree (University of Basel / other Swiss higher education institution / foreign higher education institution)
- The number of doctoral students and PhDs by doctoral subject and gender
- Annual dropout rate including the reason for the dropout (change of doctoral subject, deregistration without degree)
- Average time to complete a PhD by doctoral subject and gender
The set of key figures is constantly being refined and new key figures are added.
If required, the Graduate Center and the Quality Management team are also available to advise on the analysis and interpretation of the data.
Short Reports of the Doctoral Programs and Graduate Schools
The doctoral programs and graduate schools submit an annual short report on their finances, budget as well as their organized and planned activities to the Graduate Center.
Interconnectedness with Quality Management in Research
Since studies at the doctoral level make a fundamental contribution to research at the University of Basel, the QM processes in doctoral education are closely intertwined with the processes of quality management in research. Quality assurance and development in research is, similar to quality management in teaching, the responsibility of the departments or faculties without departments and is based on two intertwined processes: Scientific Advisory Boards (SAB) and Research Exchange Meetings. Detailed information can be found on the website Quality Management in Research.
The assessment of doctoral level studies by an SAB should, according to the SAB guidelines, occur at least once every four years. The key figures on doctoral studies and the results of the surveys of doctoral students serve as a basis for the discussion between the organizational unit and its board. At the SAB site visit, the board also interacts with doctoral students and the people responsible for doctoral level studies. After the site visit, the board writes the results of the discussion including possible recommendations for action down in a SAB report for the executive boards at the levels department, faculty and President’s Board.
Research Exchange Meetings between the Vice President for Research and the heads of departments and faculty management take place once a year. The meetings allow for a regular exchange on framework conditions for research, research topics and activities across university levels. The interpretation of the insights gained through the SABs is the central topic of the discussions, the results of the assessment of doctoral level studies and the implementation of recommendations of action are discussed and are coordinated across university levels.