YUFE Approach to Doctoral and Postdoctoral Training

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What is the YUFE Approach to Doctoral and Postdoctoral Learning?

The YUFE partners will continue their work on a vision for joint European education and alliance-wide career support. A part of this vision for joint European education is to integrate doctoral and postdoctoral training activities with the YUFE values (e.g. on responsible research) and more specifically to stimulate responsible research through designing, developing, implementing and/or piloting a comprehensive doctoral and postdoctoral training model and tracking framework.

To bridge the divide between the research and education dimensions of doctoral training, and to implement innovative approaches to doctoral and postdoctoral training and development, YUFE courses will be organised for early career researchers as well.

With this vision in mind, YUFE aims to promote, implement and pilot the YUFE DIOSI Model for Doctoral Learning (1), the YUFE postdoctoral training and development scheme (2) and the YUFE DIOSI Impact and Graduate Tracking Framework (3); to organise YUFE courses for early career researchers (4); and to create a framework for joint supervision and mentoring (5).

The first focus will be the promotion, implementation and pilot of the full cycle concept on doctoral education that was developed in the DIOSI project, which is called the YUFE DIOSI Model for Doctoral Learning.

For the promotion, implementation and pilot of the YUFE postdoctoral training scheme, we will work closely together with the YUFE4Postdocs project, an ambitious training programme co-funded by Horizon Europe’s Marie Sklodowska-Curie programme, which has already developed the YUFE Postdoctoral Programme Career Tracks on Citizens’ Wellbeing and European Identity.

More news on the YUFE postdoctoral training and development scheme, the YUFE DIOSI Impact and Graduate Tracking Framework as well as the creation of a framework for joint supervision and mentoring and the organisation of YUFE courses for early career researchers will follow soon.

The YUFE DIOSI Model for Doctoral Learning

In the DIOSI project, the YUFE DIOSI Model for Doctoral Learning was created coming to terms with doctoral learning in a changing higher education environment where a failure to adjust the entrance to workforce to the slowing expansion of the research system has led to an overproduction of aspiring scientists with limited opportunities for permanent careers in academia.
These evolutions have had a crucial impact on the doctoral experience where doctoral education in Europe has evolved from serving a calling in academia and developing into competitive researchers to also become highly-skilled knowledge professionals with transferrable competence-based profiles. This evolution has not resulted in any convergence of views or solutions and a wide variety of doctoral experience still exists today.
A vision was therefore developed for the future of doctoral learning and a joint model of doctoral learning –finding itself at the crux between research, education, and innovation – was explored. The new YUFE DIOSI Model was thus defined based on this analysis and contains five principles:

  • a joint vision on doctoral learning with three main desired outcomes for a YUFE DIOSI PhD holder (1);
  • an overarching framework for the doctoral programme that acknowledges diverging expert visions on the ideal learning format(s) for the doctorate, which includes:
    • transferrable skills training (2);
    • formal and informal learning (3);
    • an extended thesis reflection (4);
  • a strategic reframing of supervisory relationships (5).

Virtues that YUFE DIOSI DCs acquire, (Kersschot, 2021 based on Mowbray & Halse, 2010)

1.        The YUFE DIOSI Vision for Doctoral Learning

In the YUFE DIOSI Model for Doctoral Learning, the doctoral candidate (DC) stands at the centre of the (doctoral) universe as an active steward in charge of their research and career. Ownership and autonomy are key to achieve personal and professional development and throughout the learning process.

The DC becomes the holder of unique expertise on the specific subject, stretching the barriers of new knowledge.

This goes hand in hand with a development in the capabilities and capacitates of the DC, at the level of personal development. The process should be mirrored in the professional portfolio and career development of the DC.

In this process, the YUFE DIOSI DC is supported by both the supervisor, the supervisory committee and guided by a non-academic mentor.

The institutions should provide constructive and practical support with the supervisors as the guide.

For the learning outcomes or acquired intellectual virtues, three main outcomes or domains were found in the European Qualifications Framework for Lifelong Learning (European Commission, 2008) and in the conceptualisation of coalescing virtues created by Mowbray & Halse (2010), on which the YUFE DIOSI Model for Doctoral Learning builds:

  • developing cognition: the acquisition of sophia (knowledge);
  • developing research and other skills: the acquisition of technè (skills/technique);
  • developing personal resourcefulness: the acquisition of phronesis (autonomy, integrity and other agreed competencies for the doctorate holder).
2. The YUFE DIOSI Doctoral Programme Framework

The doctorate is the level at which the learning process is a catalyst for the creation of new knowledge and there is no single method towards approaching and reaching that goal. Therefore the YUFE DIOSI Model for Doctoral Learning proposes a mix of types of learning where the following components are proposed as part of the YUFE DIOSI doctoral trajectory:

  • The following topics of (transferrable skills) learning/training:
  • research ethics & integrity, unconscious bias in research and the work context;
  • open science & innovation;
  • research skills;
  • broader skill development (related to career goals);
  • entrepreneurship (recommended for those that would benefit from training on it).
  • A mix of formal and informal training formats:
  • joint formal training to foster community and/or cohort development;
  • formal training (to choice) as an effective way for learning;
  • informal training.
  • A research plan and individualised development plan as part of a PhD thesis with an extended and thorough side-note (self-)reflection which allows for identifying specific needs and tailoring the learning process to the doctoral candidate and in the end focuses on acquired competences during the learning process.
3. The YUFE DIOSI Supervisory Team

In the YUFE DIOSI Model for Doctoral Learning the relationship between supervisor and supervisee is key to the success of the PhD research, and to the wellbeing of the doctoral candidate (DC). As a supervisor, professors take on many roles going from director of a thesis, to a mentor and coach and even supporter

Additionally, a new basic component to the supervisory team is added, the non-academic mentor. There are several reasons to include this person: improved career goals, training goals, a stronger relationship with society, to enhance impact and public engagement, and potentially even a stronger relationship between the DC and the institution.

The non-academic mentor:

  • needs to hold a PhD or equivalent research experience, scholarship or professional practice;
  • will primarily guide with specific attention to the formal training and professional development components and to non-academic career related questions which might encompass wellbeing;
  • provides an additional link to the institution – even if employed elsewhere.

There is thus a tripartite of supervision in which (at least) three parties are present: a traditional supervisor (academic, professor with a PhD), the DC and a non-academic mentor.

The Pilot Programme

To test this joint vision and overarching framework on doctoral learning, we plan to organise a pilot for (partial) implementation of the YUFE DIOSI Model for Doctoral Learning. With this pilot programme, we aim to have 300 doctoral candidates enrolled, spread throughout all partaking institutions.

To engage in the pilot we are looking for 1 or more doctoral school(s) per YUFE institution who would like to implement (part of) the YUFE DIOSI Model for Doctoral Learning in their Doctoral Study Programme.

It is not necessary to implement the entire model, this can be done partially or in stages during the pilot period.

Based on the elaborate evaluation at the end of this pilot project, specific recommendations will be formulated afterwards to help other institutions with further implementation of the YUFE DIOSI Model for Doctoral Learning.

How a Doctoral School/Programme Can APPLY for the Pilot of the YUFE DIOSI Model for Doctoral Learning?

The timeline of the pilot is as follows:

  • applications will be launched in October 2023;
  • selection of Doctoral School Programmes will take place at the end of 2023;
  • planning of the pilot will take place in the beginning of 2024;
  • the actual pilot will start in May 2024;
  • evaluation of the pilot will take place in January 2026.

As this pilot programme concerns doctoral education, we are specifically looking for experts on doctoral education, representatives from the doctoral schools, doctoral candidates and/or supervisors and other stakeholders in this field who are willing to participate in this pilot programme.

If you are interested to partake in our pilot programme, or if you would like extra information on the subject, you can contact Kaisa Latinen (kaisa.laitinen@uef.fi) from the University of Eastern Finland who coordinates the pilot programme.


The DIOSI project (Developing and Implementing hands-on training on Open Science and Open Innovation for Early Career Researchers) developed by the YUFE alliance has received its review from the  European Research Executive Agency of the European Commission. They state that the project has delivered exceptional results with significant immediate or potential impact. For more information you can click here.