Increasingly, professionals from sectors as widely apart as business and the arts, or the public sector and the service industries, are seeking an opportunity to transform their knowledge questions into a PhD research project. Graduate Schools in the Social Sciences and Humanities can facilitate these ambitions by:
- Accepting proposals on research topics related to the applicant’s professional expertise from his/her previous work experience.
- Offering a short-term PhD programme for students with a near-complete doctoral education.
- Allowing PhD students to undertake their studies as a part-time project beside their professional work.
- Offering dedicated PhD programmes in applied and professionally oriented areas.
- Example: The Erasmus Graduate School for Social Sciences and Humanities has developed a dedicated PhD candidate class for the research department of Codarts, the school of the arts in Music, Theatre, Dance and Circus in Rotterdam, offering a bespoke ‘research in arts’ programme.
- Offering collaborative PhD programmes or studentships that require close interaction between universities, public research laboratories, private companies, public bodies and NGOs.
Most PhDs move to non-academic jobs. Acknowledging this observation, many SSH Schools have engaged in activities that help their graduates to find a job:
- Allowing a work experience period or on the job training to be part of the PhD training;
- Supporting PhD students in acquiring teaching experience at foreign institutes and universities.
- Establishing career planning services for PhD students that can support their placement outside of academia.
- Example: The Leuven International Doctoral School for the Humanities and Social Sciences Young Researchers’ Career Centre (YouReCa) organizes regular PhD career talks where PhD holders who have moved away from academia share their experiences with PhD students and PhD students are encouraged to extend their network. For this and similar initatives, YouReCa works closely together with the KU Leuven PhD Society, an organization run by PhD students and postdocs with a specific focus on career perspectives: Check PhD Society.
- Supporting meetings and networking opportunities for PhD students with alumni and/or representatives of companies, to promote their career opportunities outside academia.
- Sharing information on job openings both in academia and outside with PhD students.
Best practice: Loughborough University – Collaborative Studentships. Collaborative doctoral studentships are jointly funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), one of the participating universities in the Midlands Graduate School (MGS), and an external agency drawn from the private, public or third sector. The MGS aspires to award 18 collaborative studentships per annum on a competitive basis. The level of funding contribution provided by the external agency is variable. While private companies may contribute to student fees and maintenance grants, third sector organizations may contribute to the student’s research expenses or through providing office space and access to mentoring. [PDF-link]