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PhD boost in sight: Greater competition and more influence

The faculty management team has adopted a proposal for a new model for how PhD projects and candidates are matched when an annual total of 30 full PhD scholarships are awarded at Health. The proposal gives the departments greater influence on the projects and operates with open, international calls for applicants. The model will now be sent for consultation.

International calls and site visits with interview rounds can perhaps help to decide which candidates are in future the best qualified to be awarded full PhD scholarships from the Graduate School of Health. 

At the same time, the departments will in future perhaps be able to point to the areas where they wish PhD students to work.

Both parts are central elements in a proposal from the graduate school for an altered scholarship model, which has been adopted by the faculty management team. The proposal will now be sent to consultation in the academic environments before the faculty management team makes a final decision on 26 September.

"What the proposal means is that the department management team and others will be more involved than they are now in the decision on which strategically important subject areas should be supported with full scholarships," says Vice-dean for Talent Development at Health, Lise Wogensen Bach.

"The proposal also indirectly encourages an increase in the quality of both the Danish and international PhD students, because the international call entails a greater element of competition. So we hope to match the right PhD projects with the best candidates to an even greater extent than today."  

The graduate school has previously worked with the model in connection with the awarding of mobility scholarships from the globalisation funds.

"The proposal may be seen as an extension of previous practice with the difference that we now involve the principal supervisors," she adds.

Departments will have more say

Roughly speaking, the proposed scenario begins with the departments appointing suitable projects within their academic focus areas and on the basis of the criteria for including at least one of the faculty's strategic focus areas: mobility, early recruitment, interdisciplinarity and collaboration with business and industry. 

"The whole application and selection process currently takes place without the departments being directly involved and the scholarships are awarded without reference to departmental affiliation. We wish to change this so that the departments themselves come to prioritise their efforts," says Lise Wogensen Bach.

When the department head and research programme director have selected the projects, they will be advertised in open calls locally, nationally and internationally, enabling interested candidates to apply for consideration for one or more of the projects.

Workshops and interviews behind final match

The question of which candidates end up being awarded a full scholarship will still initially depend on a ranking and preliminary assessment, which could then result in an invitation to further evaluation. Supervisors can still encourage suitable local candidates to apply for the position, after which they will be evaluated on an equal footing with other applicants.

But a new element in the proposal is that a recommendation on the final match between the project and candidate will be decided at workshops, where both projects and the invited candidates will be presented.
At the workshop, potential principal supervisors, research programme directors and members of the recruitment committee will interview the relevant candidates, after which the principal supervisors can prioritise among candidates while candidates can give priority to projects/principal supervisors. Based on these priorities, the recruitment committee makes a decision on the final match.

"With this part of the proposal we have taken into account the fact that some supervisors have had difficulties finding suitable candidates for their projects," says the head of graduate school at Health, Helene Nørrelund.

She adds that the proposal is expected to result in a larger recruitment base and thereby better chances of getting hold of the most talented candidates for the scholarships. 

Distribution key safeguards all departments

The graduate school proposes that a total of 30 full scholarships should be annually distributed between the departments based on the pattern shown by the distribution of PhDs over the last couple of years. This proposal means that the Department of Clinical Medicine would receive 13 scholarships annually, the Department of Biomedicine would receive 7, the Department of Public Health would receive 8, while both the Department of Dentistry and Oral Health and the Department of Forensic Medicine would receive a single scholarship.

According to the proposal, the scholarships would be announced and awarded in connection with the February and September rounds, while the 130 annual PhD grants would continue to be awarded four times a year.

The proposal has now been submitted for consultation in the PhD committee, the recruitment committee and the Academic Council, before again being presented to the faculty management team in September.



Vice-dean for Talent Development Lise Wogensen Bach
Aarhus University, Health
Mobile: (+45) 2548 8522


Head of Graduate School Helene Nørrelund
Aarhus University, Health
Mobile: (+45) 9350 8486