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Flanders’ knowledge potential: investing in Ph.D. degrees
Today, the Ph.D. degree in Flanders no longer provides direct entry into an academic career at a Flemish universities. As career opportunities for the highly skilled become more diversified across national and sector boundaries, ‘success’ in Ph.D. investments cannot only be measured by evaluating Ph.D. completion rates. Researchers who ‘drop out’ and embark on other careers may still contribute significantly to the knowledge economy challenges, but the return for the university’s investment in their potential is small. Differentiating Ph.D. support according to disciplines and focussing on transferable skills development for all researchers ought to be a priority in all universities.
The variety in funding routes for Ph.D. research at Flemish universities, expected to become even more diversified when taking into account increasing European Ph.D. schemes (joint programmes, Marie Curie grants,...), has its advantages in the sense that researchers can combine appointments in order to extend their funded Ph.D. research time, to gain additional experience or to vary between individual research work and project-based team work. Highly concerned about maintaining the high quality of Ph.D. research at Flemish universities, improving completion rates has yielded better returns on investment than reducing the time of funded Ph.D. programmes. Directing performance pressure towards reducing Ph.D. programmes to 4 years or less may be counterproductive to keeping the high level of completion rates.
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