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Learning and supervision in project-based doctoral education

CHEF Talk by Anders Sonesson (Senior Lecturer at Division for Higher Education Development) and Anders Ahlberg (Senior Lecturer at Academic Development Unit), Lund University, Sweden.

2019.08.12 | Søren Smedegaard Bengtsen

Date Thu 21 Nov
Time 12:00 13:00
Location CUDiM, Campus Aarhus, building 1483, room 656. Video-link to Danish School of Education (DPU), Campus Emdrup, room D120.

Project-based doctoral education, i.e. when a doctoral student’s education is embedded within a supervisor’s research project, is the norm in medicine, engineering, technology and the sciences, but it is becoming increasingly common also in other subject areas. Typically, projects are designed by the supervisors before students are admitted, and the projects, as well as students’ and other project members’ salaries, are wholly or partially funded by research grants won in competition. The success of the projects, in terms of high quality research output, is of great importance for the supervisors’ academic careers and prospects for future funding. Although doctoral students could be expected to join a group of experts, working in the forefront of their field, both educational researchers and practitioners have warned that student learning and independence under these circumstances are at risk of being down-prioritised or overlooked.  

In the first part of this talk, Anders Sonesson will present results from a study on doctoral student learning and supervision in medicine and the health sciences. In the second part, Anders Ahlberg will comment on these results and provide examples from his work as faculty study director for doctoral education at the Faculty of Engineering (LTH) at Lund University. We will also invite participants to share their experiences of project-based doctoral education and to discuss trends and future challenges.



ANDERS SONESSON is a senior lecturer in Educational Sciences and heads the division for Higher Education Development at Lund University. His main focus is doctoral education and through more than a decade of workshops and courses he has met with over 1500 supervisors from a wide range of subject fields. His publications particularly focus the intersection between policy and practice, and how ongoing changes in governance of both education and research interact at the level of doctoral education and create tensions. Current projects deal with doctoral education in medicine and the assessment of doctoral theses. He is editor-in-chief for the Swedish academic journal Högre utbildning, which regularly publishes articles on doctoral education and supervision. 

ANDERS AHLBERG is an associate professor at the Centre for Engineering Education, Faculty of Engineering (LTH), Lund University. He is faculty study director on the Research Programmes Board for the engineering grad schools, with 200 main supervisors and 600 doctoral students. As such he organizes doctoral student and supervisor training programmes and activities that go beyond disciplinary thesis and course work. His faculty strategy involves creation of local knowledge on aspects of doctoral education that is used to cross-inform and challenge involved stakeholders (students, supervisors, administrators, faculty leaders). Current projects include longitudinal monitoring and analysis of the development of doctorateness in an international early stage researcher cohort of a 3yr Marie Curie research programme.