The doctoral degree in its function as preparation for an academic career is undergoing dramatic changes. But what exactly is changing and what kinds of reforms are necessary to ensure that the doctorate maintains its structural role in enabling the innovative development of society and the sciences? Which quality standards are necessary to counter public debates about academic misconduct and plagiarism cases? Are new forms of doctoral training, such as the increasing number of graduate schools intended to function in tandem with direct work underneath a doctoral supervisor, an adequate approach? How do supervision and official doctoral formats influence the career plans of doctoral candidates and the quality of degrees? Can the marking systems and duration of doctoral programs provide any insight on these topics? Do the different fields have anything in common? How can the disciplines learn from one another? As the doctoral degree is often the first qualifying degree in some of the natural sciences, wouldn’t it make sense for polytechnics and other non-university institutes to be granted the power to award doctorates?
Through the work of the research group ‘Pro-Motion – Transforming Qualifications’, the Junge Akademie supports the current discussion about the changes being made to doctoral training and degrees. At the same time, the JA seeks to enrich this transformation through its own contributions and interdisciplinary perspectives. The research group focuses on issues of higher education policy (quality assurance, supervision of doctoral students, institutional frameworks) affected by changes to the doctoral degree while also taking into account the differing traditions of the many disciplines and universities.
In addition to the aforementioned aspects, the ‘Pro-Motion’ research group is also interested in the artistic aspects of the awarding of doctoral degrees and the regionally diverse traditions related to this event. Whether in the form of a mortarboard, a specially designed car, or the laying of flowers at a city’s memorials, there are many interesting practices to discover.
Steffen Jaksztat, Gesche Brandt, Susanne de Vogel, Koja Briedis in Gekommen, um zu bleiben? Die Promotion als Wegbereiter wissenschaftlicher Karrieren [“Here to Stay? The Doctorate as Preparation for Academic Careers“], WSI-Mitteilungen, 5/2017, 321 – 329.
Nationale Akademie der Wissenschaften Leopoldina, acatech – Deutsche Akademie der Technikwissenschaften, Union der deutschen Akademien der Wissenschaften (2017): Promotion im Umbruch [“Revolutionizing the Doctoral Degree“]. Halle (Saale).
The myth of the doctorate. But what is the cost-benefit calculation for the doctorate?
Discussion event in cooperation with the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina
Many reasons motivate students to pursue a doctorate. Intrinsic motivation is the most significant motivating factor across all disciplines. Nevertheless, many doctoral students abandon their projects, usually for several reasons: In addition to the high workload, doctoral students also drop out due to subject-specific aspects such as funding problems or a critical supervisory situation. Moreover, even after completing a doctoral dissertation, many find precarious working conditions on the way to a professorship.
These systemic conditions create uncertainty. Do the doctorate and the subsequent entry into the academic profession pay off? Or does it tend to be a dead end, leaving the majority of those who take this path burnt out and with poor career prospects? What is a realistic cost-benefit calculation for the doctorate?
In the context of a discussion event, which Die Junge Akademie organised on November 9, 2022 in Halle, the topics of doctorates and the doctoral dissertation were examined from different angles. In particular, the discussion focused on which systemic measures would be necessary to substantially improve the framework conditions for doctoral studies and the supervision of academic work.
In addition to Robert Kretschmer (alumnus of Die Junge Akademie and former spokesperson of the Pro-Motion Research Group), Daniela Böhringer (University of Duisburg-Essen), Antje Wegner (DZHW), and Inge Fiedler (Max Planck Institute for Ethnological Research) participated in the discussion. The moderator was Heike Schmoll from the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
Stellungnahme „Plädoyer Für Einen Tarifvertrag Promotion“
The doctorate is an important qualification measure in the German science system - but the financing of one's own dissertation and thus the general conditions for entering a research career are very different for doctoral students. Financing and employment contexts vary greatly from one institute and discipline to another and depend on the availability of a budget or third-party funding. This results in differences in income, uneven contract durations, and highly divergent and sometimes precarious working conditions for doctoral students, often within the same research group. In their statement, the members of Die Junge Akademie advocate for the introduction of a separate Tarifvertrag Promotion. This would guarantee all doctoral students the same remuneration within the framework of a full-time employment contract and thus ensure uniform employment relationships and fair conditions for all doctoral students.
How is the successful completion of a doctorate celebrated? The research group Pro-Motion was seeking known and unknown, existing and visionary rituals, which rightfully celebrate the completion of this phase on the academic career path. Online-submissions were accepted until June 30th 2019. Submissions were accepted in the form of videos, pictures, texts, or other completely different representations. Five submissions were distinguished and awarded collectively with 3,400 euros. Information concerning the competition can be found at promotionsrituale.diejungeakademie.de (in German only).
Press Release (in German)
Im Rahmen einer Diskussionsveranstaltung am 9. November 2022 in Halle werden die Promotion und ihre systemischen Rahmenbedingungen von verschiedenen Seiten beleuchtet und diskutiert.
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Event access: Public
18:00 — 19:30
Die Junge Akademie lädt am 9. November 2022 zum Diskussionsabend über die systemischen Rahmenbedingungen der Promotion in die Leopoldina nach Halle (Saale) ein.
Die Junge Akademie veröffentlicht Stellungnahme zur Vereinheitlichung der Finanzierungs- und Beschäftigungsformen von Promovierenden und fordert faire Arbeitsverhältnisse.