Shaping the Future of Doctoral Education brought together those interested in the development of doctoral education

The Finnish Union of University Researchers and Teachers (FUURT) organised a discussion on the development of doctoral education and the Doctoral Education Pilot at the University of Helsinki’s Think Corner on 16 February 2024. 

The event included a summary of the Doctoral Education Pilot Programme (2024–2027) by the Ministry of Education and Culture, followed by an interesting panel discussion on various topics. The panel covered a wide range of issues related to doctoral training and the careers of PhD holders, i.e. research funding, PhD supervision, and researcher career paths. 

The event was hosted by Khalil Shahramian, Doctor of Dentistry from the University of Turku and co-founder of Science Pitchers. 

Khalil Shahramian 

Senior Ministerial Adviser Paavo-Petri Ahonen from the Ministry of Education and Culture gave insights on the Doctoral Education Pilot from the Ministry’s perspective. Between 2024 and 2027 the programme will fund up to 1000 new fixed-term doctoral researcher positions in flagship areas across Finnish universities, aiming to test new practices in doctoral education and increase the intersectoral mobility of researchers. Questions from the audience raised concerns e.g. about the representativeness of the pilot programmes across different research fields and the issue of continuation of funding after three years. 

Senior Ministerial Adviser Paavo-Petri Ahonen

Panel Discussion on Doctoral Education: Reflecting on the Current and Paving the Way Forward

Participants in the panel discussion were Annu Perttunen, Chair of the Doctoral Education Development Working Group, Unifi, Pauli Väisänen, Vice Chair of FUURT, and Adam Smale, Professor and Dean of the School of Management, University of Vaasa.  

Participants in the panel discussion: Annu Perttunen, Pauli Väisänen, and Adam Smale with the event host Khalil Shahramian.
FUURT’s President Tero Karjalainen

In his introductory talk, FUURT’s President Tero Karjalainen highlighted how more than a third of early-career researchers have reported in FUURT’s surveys that they have had to rely on more than three sources of funding for their research. Early-career and doctoral researchers need stability in their research funding so that they can focus on advancing their work rather than applying for funding. The panellists agreed that it is crucial to secure funding for the complete duration of the PhD research project if we want to attract the best talent in research. They also pondered on the question, how to maximize the impact of the research funding universities already have.  

Professor of Social and Public Policy Mikko Jakonen from the University of Eastern Finland  raised the question about doctoral supervision and the quality of guidance. According to Jakonen, the three building blocks of doctoral research are funding, time, and supervision. How can we guarantee that universities have enough resources for doctoral supervision? Jakonen asked. The panellists emphasised the importance of the support from the universities to the supervisors, and that the supervision of doctoral research should not be left to just one supervisor.  

Professor Mikko Jakonen

Meri Jalonen, Chief Specialist from LAB University of Applied Sciences, asked the panellists tough questions about the career prospects of early-career researchers, especially international researchers. Jalonen challenged the panellists and the audience to reflect on the issue, how we can build long-term career prospects for PhDs and retain them in Finland. The panellists discussed the importance of career guidance and ways to develop it in universities from the perspective of doctoral researchers. The importance of universities’ connections with other sectors and the expansion of career opportunities for PhD holders outside the university was also highlighted. 

Chief Specialist Meri Jalonen

After the panel discussion, Joni Ollonen from the University of Helsinki presented his point of view on the discussion as a PhD researcher. Ollonen highlighted the expectation management on the Doctoral Education Pilot.   

PhD researcher Joni Ollonen

Around 50 people attended the event in the Think Corner, and the livestream was followed by over 200 people around Finland. Thank you to everyone who participated in the discussion! 

See the event page: Shaping the Future of Doctoral Education

Watch the recording of the event on FUURT’s YouTube channel.

Text: Siiri Nousiainen
Images: Milla Talassalo