Advisory report on researcher training

Collaboration between universities is critical to training PhD candidates. In the Netherlands, there are two main categories of PhD programme: interuniversity research schools and what are usually “local” graduate schools. There is plenty of scope for both categories, according to an advisory report published jointly by the VSNU, the NWO and the Academy in March 2010.

The Researcher Training Working Group published its advisory report in early 2010. The group, installed by the Academy, the NWO and the VSNU, advised on how collaboration between universities can be combined with the university’s responsibility for bestowing doctoral degrees. The report was prompted by the declining number of interuniversity research schools and the growing number of graduate schools being set up within universities.

The working group emphasised the importance of interuniversity collaboration in PhD programmes. PhD candidates benefit from their exchanges with other graduate students. Critical mass and expertise merit special attention in the smaller disciplines, for example the humanities. Interuniversity research schools that meet this need should have a firm basis that offers the prospect of long-term support.

The Academy, the NWO and the VSNU consider it important to evaluate the added value of individual research schools on their merits. Research schools may apply to the Research School Accreditation Committee (ECOS) for assessment and accreditation, regardless of their specialist discipline.

Modifications made to the Standard Evaluation Protocol (SEP) and the accreditation procedure for research schools will make it easier to monitor the quality of interuniversity collaboration. Doctoral programmes have been subject to systematic evaluation since 2009 as part of the system of external evaluations.

The committee was chaired by Academy member Peter van der Vliet. The VSNU provided support for the committee, with the Academy Bureau and the NWO playing an advisory role.


March 2009 – March 2010