Report from WebInUnion project survey on doctoral studies in Serbia

Great most of the respondents declared that, during their PhD studies, they collaborated with other institutions or other departments within their institutions. Among those who collaborated, 42% emphasized that this collaboration was strong and continuous; 17% collaborated only with colleagues from the different departments of their organizations, while 21% collaborated only when they were in need for some specific information. 15% of respondents did not collaborate at all with other institutions or other departments within their institutions, in course of their PhD studies.

In Republic of Serbia, only small number of researchers completed their PhD studies as a result of common PhD programme of two or more institutions. Hence, 69% of respondents denied such collaboration, while of remaining respondents, 15% declared that this collaboration had significant and positive impact to their studies.

The growing number of research institutions offers some opportunities for international cooperation (as declared by 76% of respondents). It seems that researchers are using these opportunities for study visits during their PhD studies. 56% of respondents indicated that they have been using the opportunities, classified as “Other”. It is assumed that they referred to the programmes of bilateral scientific cooperation widely promoted and supported (co-funded) by the Serbian government, based on bilateral agreements with France, Slovakia, Italy, China, Belarus, Greece, Slovenia, Portugal and other countries. It can be also concluded that researchers were using the opportunities offered by Tempus (35%) and Erasmus Mundus (29%) programmes. It is very important to emphasize that no one researcher has been using Marie Curie fellowships and grants.

Based on the answers of the respondents, it seems that universities in Serbia offer a growing number of PhD study programmes in languages other than Serbian, as indicated by 47% of respondents. Respondents answered that in 100% of these cases, PhD studies are offered on English language.

It is the impression that one of the major weaknesses of the PhD studies in Serbia is unregulated relationship between a mentor and a student. 75% of respondents supported this statement by indicating that there is no written contract or agreement between a mentor and a student in their organizations. The remaining respondents answered that such an agreement exists but 9% indicated that it is partial or incompletely designed.

Different options regarding the number of mentors for a PhD student existed. 43% of researchers worked with only one mentor, 33% with two, 10% with more than two mentors.

Structure of responses related to the access to research infrastructures during the PhD studies is very unsatisfactory. Only 40% of researchers indicated that they had unlimited access to infrastructures; 39% had only partial access, while 13% denied that they had access to the research infrastructures needed for the research work related to their PhD studies.

The level of PhD students’ satisfaction about their collaboration with mentors is also high; the rates of satisfaction are linearly distributed from “very satisfied” (35%) to “not satisfied at all” (7%).

The fact that as much as 43% of respondents declared that they were employed immediately after the completion of PhD studies is related to the common practice of attending PhD studies while working as a teaching assistant at the public universities. For this reason, it is very difficult to establish the relevance of PhD studies, based on the answers of the respondents. Regarding the relevance, 39% of respondents emphasized high relevance (marks 4-5), 18% - low relevance (marks 1-2), while 20% were neutral (mark 3).

From the list of additional skills gained during their PhD studies, the respondents highlighted the most: creative and critical thinking (84%), independent taking of intellectual risk (71%) and team work (50%). Based on the answers, it seems that following skills are not so common in the PhD programmes: entrepreneurship (9%), project management (22%) and intellectual property (26%). When asked, what additional skills they wanted to gain during their PhD studies, the respondents gave following (relevant) answers: “fundraising, project work, project management, independent taking of intellectual risks, intercultural communication, team work”.