Doctoral candidates profit from increased transparency and uniform quality standards
Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) has passed general doctoral regulations which will be valid for all faculties. The new regulations come into effect on 21 January 2013 and will govern all preconditions and procedures for doctorates at FAU. This is a major step forward in terms of quality management that has been taken by only few full universities in Germany so far. Rather than having to deal with the seven different regulations which had become more and more heterogenous over time, doctoral candidates can now refer to one single document which will guarantee uniformly high quality standards as well as transparent procedures irrespective of the faculty at which the candidate is completing their doctorate.
The road towards the new general doctoral regulations was long and sometimes quite bumpy: since the right to award doctorates traditionally lies with the faculties, various doctoral regulations had been developed over time, not only with differences in terminology but also with regard to certain stipulations. Graduates, especially candidates from abroad who considered obtaining a doctorate at FAU after completing their university degree in their home countries, therefore had a hard time. They had to struggle with inconsistent terminology, and the individual preconditions and procedures were hard to compare.
For this reason, the new general doctoral regulations passed by all FAU faculties undoubtedly constitute an achievement. Comparable to the general examinations regulations, the doctoral regulations guarantee that the same high quality standards are met throughout the University, and include, for instance, the stipulation that the doctoral thesis must be submitted in a digital format to allow for a plagiarism check and that candidates must state whether they have used the services of a commercial agency in completing their project. The regulations thus establish optimised and transparent procedures, standardised wording and terminology as well as equal treatment of all doctoral candidates. This is of particular importance for all candidates working on interdisciplinary projects, since their work was governed by several different regulations before. The supplementary faculty doctoral regulations take into account the specificities of individual disciplines. The General Doctoral Regulations also stipulate that doctoral candidates register at FAU and apply for admission at the beginning of their project. This will give them greater legal security since, according to FAU’s Constitution, this makes doctoral candidates official members of the University. Thanks to the new procedures, doctoral candidates will be registered with the University from an earlier point in time on and will thus have closer connections to the University as a whole and not only to their respective working groups or supervisors. This means they will also be fully integrated into the official communication flow and can retrieve general information and details on their current status as well as on further topics in both German and English – anytime and anyplace. Moreover, an online administration interface was established which offers further functionalities for doctoral candidates, supervisors and administration staff.
The foundations to improve the general conditions of doing a doctorate and to pass general doctoral regulations were laid at FAU as early as 2006 with the establishment of a centralised Graduate School. The Graduate School’s Steering Committee includes the heads of the doctoral committees of all faculties, i.e. the people responsible for the co-ordination of doctoral proposals whom doctoral candidates can turn to with any questions on their project. This specific set-up allows for discussions on an interdisciplinary level. These discussions foster a deeper understanding of the differences and similarities of individual disciplines and guarantee a lively and productive exchange as well as a continuous dialogue.
What proved decisive in the end? ‘Intense communication, openness on the part of the faculties and a high level of persistent commitment,’ says Prof. Dr.-Ing. Joachim Hornegger, Vice President for Research and Head of the Steering Committee of FAU’s Graduate School. ‘The development of general doctoral regulations is part of the overall process to improve the conditions for doctoral candidates at FAU, which started with the timely establishment of a central Graduate School. By systematically registering all doctoral candidates, establishing a special membership status for them and launching the online portal www.docdaten.fau.de, new transparency standards have been set for the administration of the doctorate process. The introduction of the General Doctoral Regulations is a further step on our way to creating optimal conditions for completing a doctorate in an excellent academic environment.
Dr. Monica Mayer
Managing Director of FAU Graduate School
Phone: +49 (0)9131 85 20722