Published: 29-08-2022 09:58 | Updated: 31-08-2022 13:54

Clinical doctoral students in focus during hearings with academic vice president candidates

Hearing av vicerektor-kandidater till kommittén för forskarutbildning
Hearings of candidates for the post of Academic Vice President of the Committee for Doctoral Education. From left to right: Michael Fored, Margaret Sällberg Chen, Erika Franzén and Robert Harris. Photo: Erik Flyg

During the hearings ahead of the election of the Academic Vice President and Vice Chairperson of the Committee for Doctoral Education, much of the focus was on clinical doctoral students. The digital election began on 25 August and will continue for one week.

At the start of the hearings, the four candidates – Michael Fored, Erika Franzén, Margaret Sällberg Chen and Robert Harris – presented themselves and their visions. 

In his presentation, Michael Fored stressed the point that doctoral education at KI is already of a high standard. 

“To be even better, we must trust on our ability and commitment,” said Michael Ford, senior lecturer at the Department of Medicine, Solna (MedS). “Focusing on details, objectives and risks has its place, but more than this we should be concentrating on direction and strategy. Are we heading towards better doctoral education, and if so, what are the success factors? All of us must question what our incentives are for devoting ourselves to doctoral education.”

One of Erika Franzén’s concerns was the supervisors. 

“We need to give supervisors the best educational and financial support,” said Erika Franzén, professor at the Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society (NVS). “We can also put more work into doctoral financing. We need to get more clinicians into doctoral education at an early stage, and one way to do this is to open more clinical research schools.” 

She also called for greater collaboration with the healthcare sector.

More research schools for clinical doctoral students

Margaret Sällberg Chen, Professor at the Department of Dental Medicine at the stage.
Margaret Sällberg Chen, professor at the Department of Dental Medicine (DentMed) Photo: Erik Flyg

Margaret Sällberg Chen also raised the issue of more research schools for clinical doctoral students during her presentation. 

“We need to take good care of our doctoral students and empower their development,” said Margaret Sällberg Chen, professor at the Department of Dental Medicine (DentMed). “And to make sure that their supervisors have sufficient time to devote to them. Sustainable doctoral education based on high scientific competence benefits everyone.”

She also addressed the possibility of getting the competence inherent to KI’s different infrastructures involved in doctoral education. 

Robert Harris, currently the Academic Vice President and Chairperson of the Committee for Doctoral Education, began with a review of the committee’s work, drawing attention to new international collaborations, more research schools, trialling targeted KID funding for new supervisors and other such issues.

Robert Harris, Professor at the for Clinical Neuroscience (CNS) at the stage.
Robert Harris, professor at the Department of Clinical Neuroscience (CNS). Photo: Erik Flyg

“My leadership rests on two pillars: communicative dialogue and professional responsibility,” said Robert Harries, professor at the Department of Clinical Neuroscience (CNS). “We need to include everyone in a dialogue in which we inspire people to act instead of just talking about what they intend to do. It’s important here that we take a more flexible approach and don’t increase the amount of red tape. KI can take a more leading role in harmonising doctoral education at all universities in Sweden.”

After their introductory presentations, the candidates were questioned on such matters as how they would go about increasing the number of clinical doctoral students, allocating KID funding and making essential doctoral courses available at the right time.

Current challenges facing doctoral education

The candidates were also invited to give their opinion on the challenges currently facing doctoral education. Margaret Sällberg Chen raised the everyday situation for the clinical doctoral students. 

“We need to take a closer look at how we can reach our external doctoral students more effectively,” she said. “Our employee surveys reveal nothing about what it’s like at their work places. One way of doing this is to arrange regular symposia, where doctoral students and supervisors can meet.”

Michael Fored said that only a small proportion of doctoral programmes have problems. 

“All in all, the problems are a matter of incentive. What aspects of KI’s systems and career ladder cause obstacles? We mustn’t shy away from reflecting on and questioning today’s systems,” said Michael Fored.

Erika Franzén, Professor at the Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society (NVS) at the stage.
Erika Franzén, professor at the Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society (NVS) Photo: Erik Flyg

Erika Franzén also addressed the clinical doctoral programmes.

“But we can’t tackle this alone. We need to collaborate with the employer, Region Stockholm to create clearer guidelines on responsibilities and discuss the issue of financing,” said Erika Franzén. “At present, it’s hard for us to make sure that the quality of their doctoral education is high enough.”

According to Robert Harris, the lack of time is one factor that has a detrimental impact on the clinical doctoral programmes. 

“If the ever-increasing demands on research and results are to be met, the doctoral students need to be able to devote time to their research, which they can currently only do in their spare time,” said Robert Harris.

How to vote

Everyone employed as a teacher or researcher on at least a 50% contract at KI is eligible to vote. All eligible voters will receive an internal email containing a link to a digital voting system for the election in which they are able to vote.

See recorded hearings to each Committee here