Structured PhD programme

Structured PhD programme—a framework for supervising PhD students.

In Germany, there have been attempts for some years to provide the PhD process with a clearer framework, moving away from the “journeyman and master” model and towards a “cluster of students” model. So far, graduate schools have acted as a supplement to the traditional supervision model, not as an alternative. The spectrum ranges from large, multidisciplinary centres, which are more concerned with administration than with content, to small colleges of PhD students and supervisors working on overlapping research topics.

Structured PhD programmes offer “an active and intensive research environment”, says Dr Kathrin Ruhl from the Competence Centre for Study and Career at the University of Koblenz-Landau. After all, several supervisors are involved, guests can be invited, and—depending on the budget of the institution—PhD candidates have money available for publications, conferences and student assistants.

Ruhl sees two major disadvantages of structured programmes: the scholarships awarded by graduate schools and research training groups do not include health or pension insurance, for one thing, and PhD students do not gain any experience in university teaching and committee work, for another.