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Supervision of doctoral theses.

How to prevent and cope with problems ans incidents?

Innovative Doctoral Education

The doctoral student of the s. XXI

The supervisor of the s. XXI

Doctoral supervision_1.png
  • Exponential increase in the scientific production and publication of regulations and manuals on the quality and excellence in doctoral education (EHEA, ERA, OCDE, etc.).

  • Development and implementation of formally structured doctoral programs (in the Catalan context, regulated by the  RD 99/2011):

    • Provision of a maximum duration of 3 years, with one renewable year.

    • Collection of evidence on the quality of doctoral students' education through   Documento de Actividades Formativas del Doctorado.

  • Increasing attention to the quality of doctoral education and, in particular, doctoral supervision.

    • Implementation of specific training courses to train doctoral supervisors. In some contexts, it is necessary to pass a process of accreditation of supervisory competencies.

  • Focus on doctoral students' mobility in the three dimensions of the concept: internationalization, interdisciplinarity, and intersectoral.

  • Special focus by universities in providing doctoral training that guarantees the acquisition of skills and competencies transferable in multiple contexts, in order to promote access to the job market of recent doctors.

  • Prepare doctoral candidates to access professional research careers in the public and private sector, both inside and outside academia.

  • Formalization of the new doctoral trajectories through the creation of Modern Doctorates: industrial, professional, clinical, etc.

New academic demands:

  • Limited time to do the doctorate (3-4 years).

  • Document of Formative Activities of the Doctoral Student.

  • Publication during doctoral studies.


Changes in the researcher profile:

  • New motivations and intentions to start the doctorate.

  • New career prospects.


Changes in outputs and products:

  • Theses by publication (obsolescence of monograph).

  • Products more oriented to the transference of knowledge to society and non-academic sectors.

  • Portfolios that show the acquisition of transversal and research competencies.


Changes in processes:

  • Co-authorship

  • Supervisory team

  • Diversification of trajectories to develop an identity as a researcher and the professional career in research.

Types of doctoral supervision conditioned by:

  1. Type of doctorate  

  2. Characteristics of the doctoral student  

  3. Phase of the doctoral trajectory in which we are  


The role of the supervisor is situated and dynamic; it evolves along the trajectory and offers support for the new challenges:

  • Scientific writing (co-authorship)

  • Ethical issues

  • Individualized trajectories

  • Support network

  • Contacts network

  • Balance between academic and personal life


Supervision modes:

  • Co-supervision

  • The supervisory team

Collaboration with supervisors from non-academic and/or university sectors.  

Bibliographical references and web resources

Download the book The European Higher Education Area.


Principles of Innovative Doctoral Training (Vittorio, 2015, p. 548):

  • research excellence;

  • attractive institutional environment;

  • interdisciplinary research options;

  • exposure to industry and other relevant employment sectors;

  • international networking;

  • transferable skills training;

  • quality assurance.

Download the Handbook for the supervision of modern doctorates del projecte SuperProfDoc.

  • 20% of the European doctorates are disciplinary;   a 21.2%, trans-disciplinary; 27% multi-disciplinary; and 31.8%, professionals.


In the manual, you will also find a synthesis of the main changes in the profile of PhD students and the style of supervision in modern doctorates.

Åkerlind, G., & McAlpine, L. (2017). Supervising doctoral students: variation in purpose and pedagogy. Studies in Higher Education, 42(9), 1686–1698.

Castelló, M., Mcalpine, L., & Pyhältö, K. (2015). Trends influencing researcher education and careers: What do we know, need to know and do in looking forward. Frontline Learning Research, 3(3), 1–4. Download the article.

Curaj, A., Matei, L., Priscopie, R., Salmi, J., & Scott, P. (Eds.). (2015). The European Higher Education Area. Between Critical Reflections and Future Policies.

Malfroy, J. (2005). Doctoral supervision, workplace research and changing pedagogic practices. Higher Education Research & Development, 24(2), 165–178.

McAlpine, L., & Norton, J. (2006). Reframing our approach to doctoral programs: an integrative framework for action and research. Higher Education Research & Development, 25(1), 3–17.

Ministerio de Educación (Gobierno de España) (2016). Real Decreto 99 / 2011 por el que se regulan las enseñanzas oficiales de doctorado. Texto consolidado.

Fillery-travis, A. (2017). Multi-disciplinary Practice Based Doctorates: An Appreciative Inquiry in Design, Development, and Delivery in the European Union. SuperProfDoc Project Conference.

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