Doctoral studies in chemistry or pertinent interface topics have already been the subject of a detailed approach. The Budapest Descriptor for the third cycle (2005), an adaptation of the relevant Dublin Descriptor setting the fundamental requisites of the qualification, reads as follows:

Third cycle degrees in chemistry are awarded to students who:

 Have demonstrated a systematic understanding of an aspect of the science of chemistry and mastery of those skills and methods of research associated with the topic of this research;

 Have demonstrated the ability to conceive, design, implement and develop a substantial process of research in chemical sciences with rigour and integrity;

 Have made a contribution through original research that extends the frontier of knowledge in chemical sciences by developing a substantial body of work, some of which merits national or international refereed publication;

 Have competences which fit them for employment as professional chemists in senior positions in chemical and related industries, or for a progression to a career in academic research.

Such graduates:

 Are capable of critical analysis, evaluation and synthesis of new and complex ideas;

 Can communicate with their peers, the larger scholarly community and with society in general about their areas of expertise;

 Can be expected to be able to promote, within both academic and professional contexts, scientific and technological advancement in a knowledge based society.

In order to address career environments in chemical sciences, doctoral candidates should develop core research skills, which could be systematised as follows:

• Acquaintance with the methodology of research.

• Acquaintance with interdisciplinary research environments.

• Ability to use scientific instrumentation and interpret results.

• Ability to develop original, independent and critical thinking.

• Ability to formulate questions, to give structure to a scientific argument, to find adequate methods and theories for tackling problems.

Complementing scientific proficiency, transferable key competences include the ability to effectively advance in an industrial or government environment, to act self-dependently, and to have leadership capabilities. The doctoral candidate would therefore be responsive to training in the following issues:

 The planning process – objectives, strategies, policies, decision making.

 The structure and process of organising – authority vs. self-contained work, organisational flexibility, adaptability to novel situations, time management.

The management of information – analysis, evaluation, synthesis and selection of complex concepts and facts.

 The communication process – communication skills (including presentation techniques, language skills, writing of project proposals and reports), tutoring and training skills, ability for knowledge transfer and interaction with peers, audiences & panels, the scholarly community & society in general under multilingual conditions.

 The development process – internal and external training, handling innovation.

 The management of financial issues – facing budgetary and market-oriented questions, dealing with budgetary restrictions.

 The process of controlling and assessing quality.

 Social responsibility and ethics.

To a certain level, core research skills and key competences are acquired while working on the thesis. Nonetheless, quite often their attainment would require further formal or non-formal teaching, mostly in the form of specialised workshops or relevant course modules.

Based on analogous considerations, third-cycle studies in chemical sciences are gradually developing into structured programmes. A quality label of largely trans-national impact, the Chemistry Doctorate Eurolabel®, is guaranteeing transparency towards the research community and the labour market, while enhancing the development of structured doctoral programmes, by offering quality assurance at the level of the European Higher Education Area.

As already cited, thirteen countries have adopted a fully structured scheme for all disciplines. In addition, the establishment of doctoral schools is greatly enhanced in the thirty educational systems allocating ECTS credits to taught elements, and especially in those fully applying the credit system in the third cycle. According to the PhDChem 2011 survey, in chemical sciences or pertinent interface topics courses and workshops are commonly allocated the equivalent of 60 ECTS credits, the margin fluctuating from 15 (in three-year cycles) to 120 (in four-year cycles) credits.

The introduction of adequate reliable ‘Bologna tools’ in the third cycle is further reinforcing the contribution of higher education to the process of innovation by creating a frame permitting universities, eager to exchange systematically knowledge and skills for the benefit and through the mobility of early-stage researchers, to have full intelligibility in methodology and tools.

In this context, and with the intention of proceeding to a rational and transparent implementation of structured doctoral programmes in chemical sciences, the use of ‘Bologna tools’ should be considered in a critical, comprehensive and unbiased way. 

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