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April 28th, 2021 5:00 PM through  6:30 PM
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This webinar series, organised by the SRHE Postgraduate Issues Network, and in conjunction with the Philosophy and Theory of Higher Education Society, focuses on the evolving impact and implications of the coronavirus pandemic on researcher education and the doctorate by means of theoretical reflections and with a view to practical courses of action, for the medium and into the long term.  The series follows on and draws from the PaTHES led webinar in November 2020, Revitalising doctoral education – beyond global trauma.  With provocations from four internationally acclaimed keynote speakers (recording of the presentations is on the PaTHES website), the 2020 webinar explored and set the scene regarding the challenges, possibilities and prospects for hope regarding the prosperity of researcher education.

The pandemic lands on us all and affects ‘normal’ operations, initially through organisation and management, then having implications for curriculum and for teaching and learning (to utilise Harold Silver’s 1998 typology of innovations in higher education). Mindful of the ‘message systems’ of curriculum, pedagogy and evaluation (i.e., assessment) with respect to the classification and framing of educational knowledge (Bernstein 1971), this 2021 series follows on by asking not what is the point of a doctorate now but what could be the point of a new form of doctorate, that embraces the need for creativity, inclusivity and interdisciplinarity to meet constant change.  In service of this aim the series covers important questions about the place of different epistemologies and cultures.  And the series pays close attention to the matter of establishing equivalence regarding supervisory and assessment practices. 

This first of four Webinar’s in the series looks at whether in these unprecedented and uncertain times, Covid 19 will reform and change Doctoral Education.

Our two guest speakers will discuss different perspectives on a variety of issues concerning Doctoral Education, including greater student-centred approaches to training and supervision, the mental health of Doctoral candidates, Doctoral completion rates and the relevance of Doctoral knowledge for the workplace. How is Covid 19 changing Doctoral Education? This question touches upon many current issues, including virtual training for supervisors as well as virtual studying techniques for Doctoral candidates. Both speakers will discuss the challenges and potential opportunities this ongoing period provides for not only reflection but practical changes to systems of Doctoral Education. The virtual audience will be able to submit questions or issues around the Webinar themes for discussion within a question-and-answer format. The event is scheduled to last for 90 minutes.

Guest Speaker 1 – Dr. Susan Porter (University of British Columbia (UBC), Canada - Doctoral Reform for the 21st Century

The world is experiencing some of the most urgent problems of human existence. They, and our societies, are characterized by increasing complexity, uncertainty, interconnectedness, and interdependence, all painfully manifest in the COVID pandemic. These times demand extraordinary abilities of our doctoral graduates, irrespective of their modes and locations of work, including adaptability, humility, collaborative aptitudes, and an array of higher-order cognitive skills that encompass systems thinking, lateral thinking, and the ability to perceive and incorporate multiple perspectives and ways of knowing into one’s thought, communications, and actions. Such fundamental, holistic growth is not easily gained at the doctoral level, and likely not through un-assessed learning opportunities disconnected from students’ core intellectual development (their research). Rather, we have been advocating for a more student-centric, transformative, approach that includes a broadening of what is deemed legitimate doctoral research and its products and a reimagining of the academy’s mentoring paradigms. Over the past 6 years at UBC, a number of initiatives have been implemented that affirm the viability and effectiveness of this view. These will be described, as will work that has been done across Canada in this area and the ramifications for (and necessity of) these approaches for a post-COVID world.

Guest Speaker 2 – Professor Rosemary Deem – Royal Holloway, University of London - How will Covid 19 change doctoral education? A critical appraisal

Doctoral education has many recent critiques of developments and challenges (Altbach, de Witt, & Yudkevich, 2020; Bongaart & Lee, 2021; Cardoso, Tavares, Sin, & Carvalho, 2020 ). Concerns range from ‘overproduction’ of doctoral graduates to who can access the doctorate (people of colour, working-class applicants and anyone with a disability?).   Other important issues include candidate mental health, completion rates and the relevance of doctoral knowledge to employers and the public. Doctoral work has been disrupted during the Covid-19 pandemic by laboratory and university closures, unavailability of archives and non-electronic publications, travel bans affecting conference and fieldwork plans, thesis work disrupted by lack of suitable equipment and bandwidth and/or home schooling of children, vivas being moved online and a need to extend funding and submission dates.  Many regard adjustments made as problematic (e.g., loss of face-to-face supervision) but some changes are good.  Many seminars, conferences and workshops are now online and accessible to international audiences.  Online vivas avoid problems with travel, HR requirements for examiners and candidate visas.  Institutions are forced to consider flexibility in doctoral work and its wider justification through open-access, FAIR data-management, citizen science and lifelong learning.  A brighter future for the doctorate could yet materialise. 


Altbach, P. G., de Witt, H., & Yudkevich, M. M. (Eds.). (2020). Trends and Issues in Doctoral Education Worldwide: An International Research Inquiry. London and New York: Routledge

Bongaart, R., & Lee, A. (Eds.). (2021). The Future of Doctoral Research: Challenges and Opportunities London and New York: Routledge

Cardoso, S., Tavares, O., Sin, C., & Carvalho, T. (Eds.). (2020 ). Structural and Institutional Transformations in doctoral education: social, political and student expectations. London: Palgrave Macmillan



Susan Porter is the Dean and Vice-Provost of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies at the University of British Columbia (UBC), and a Clinical Professor in Pathology. She has been President of the Canadian Association for Graduate Studies and has served in numerous contexts related to graduate education in Canada and the USA. Throughout her 20-year career in graduate education administration, she has sought to promote and facilitate fundamental reform to better prepare graduates for this century’s urgent needs. She is this year’s recipient of the Council of Graduate Schools’ Debra W. Stewart Award for Outstanding Leadership in Graduate Education.

Rosemary Deem is Emerita Professor of HE Management, School of Business & Management and Doctoral School Senior Researcher, Royal Holloway (University of London), also at Royal Holloway: Dean of History/Social Science (2009-11): Vice-Principal Education (2011-17); Vice-Principal Teaching Innovation; Equality and Diversity (2017-19).  Fellow, UK Academy of Social Sciences.  Dean (1994-1997) and Graduate School Director (1998-2000) Lancaster University.   Faculty of Social Sciences & Law Postgraduate Dean (2004-6) and Faculty Research Director (2007-2009), Bristol University.  Current Co-editor, Higher Education(Springer). OBE, services to HE & social science, 2013.  2015-2018 Chair, UK Council for Graduate Education. Currently Chair of Trustees, Sociological Review Foundation. 



Other events in this series

The Post-Pandemic Doctorate, Opportunities For Revitalisation Of Theory And Practice: The Aims And Scope Of The PhD 10th May 2021

The Post-Pandemic Doctorate, Opportunities For Revitalisation Of Theory And Practice: Re-Designing The Doctorate For The New Era Of Global Online Higher Education 24th May 2021

The Post-Pandemic Doctorate, Opportunities For Revitalisation Of Theory And Practice: Tricky Issues Of Assessment. 21st June 2021


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