Degree Programs & Courses Doctorate

Survey for doctoral students

In November 2018, the Vice-Rectorate Development conducted a survey of doctoral students at the University of Bern on their satisfaction with the doctorate and with the support at doctoral level. The aim of the survey was to gauge the current situation of doctoral students and to use the results of the survey as a basis for the further improvement of the quality and attractiveness of doctorates at the University of Bern.

Key results

Response rate

The response rate of the survey is 41% (N=723; excluding doctoral students qualifying for Dr. med.).

Doctoral students’ satisfaction levels

The results of the survey show that the majority of doctoral students are satisfied with both the support from supervisors and with their doctorate overall. Male doctoral students are somewhat more satisfied than female doctoral students. Satisfaction levels are higher in structured doctoral programs than in graduate schools or in the traditional individual doctorate. These levels are positively influenced if a doctoral agreement has been drawn up or the requirements for completing the doctorate successfully are communicated clearly at the beginning of the doctorate, if meetings about research work are held regularly, and if the main supervisor does not have too many doctoral students to support.

Doctoral agreement and communication of requirements

Only 60% of doctoral students state that they have drawn up a doctoral agreement with their supervisor, although the doctoral agreement is considered by the majority of doctoral students to be a useful tool for clarifying the framework conditions of the doctorate and shaping the relationship with the supervisor. For example, doctoral students with a doctoral agreement indicate more often that the requirements for completing a doctorate successfully were communicated transparently than doctoral students without an agreement.

Length and frequency of meetings

The majority of doctoral students have a meeting with their main supervisor to discuss their research work scheduled within four weeks. Around three quarters discuss their research work at least every three months with their main supervisor. Around 10% say that they have a meeting with their supervisor less than every six months. Most doctoral students consider the frequency of the meetings to be sufficient and rate the discussions as helpful.

Key measures

  • Introducing team supervision (at least two supervisors) for all doctoral students
  • Revising the doctoral agreement (as a template), including the information leaflet
  • Greater monitoring of the use of the doctoral agreement
  • Compulsory career path meetings during the doctorate (guidelines/checklists integrated in the doctoral agreement)
  • Introduction of training and information events for supervisors
  • Expansion of central course and information services for career planning and preparation