Chapter 6. Doctoral training

In recent years, Portugal has greatly increased its capacity to train high-level subject specialists, researchers and academics through expanding doctoral training. However, as the number of doctoral graduates has increased, questions have arisen about the ability of the Portuguese economy to offer suitable employment opportunities for larger numbers of highly trained individuals and the relevance of the doctoral programmes provided in the nation’s universities. This chapter examines developments in the supply of doctoral training in Portugal and evidence on the destinations of doctorate holders in the country. It suggests that public investment in doctoral training can be better targeted, the quality of doctoral programmes can be improved and that there is a need to ensure the Portuguese economy makes better use of the high-level skills of doctoral graduates to support national development.

    

6.1. Introduction

Across the OECD, higher education institutions play a key role in training high-level subject specialists and researchers through doctoral degrees (PhDs). In Portugal, as in a number of other OECD countries, only higher institutions officially recognised as ‘universities’ currently have the right to award PhDs, reflecting the traditional concentration of research in this type of institution. As elsewhere, a majority of doctoral graduates in Portugal have historically gone on to work in teaching and research roles in universities or, to a lesser extent, public research. There is a certain logic to this: the higher education and public sectors accounted for 89% of total domestic expenditures on basic research in Portugal in 2015 and continue to perform a large majority of basic research activity in nearly all OECD countries.1

While most basic research tends to be performed in academic institutions, 70% of total research expenditure in the OECD – including applied research and experimental development – occurs in the business sector (OECD, 2017). In Portugal, where business-led research activity is less extensive than in many other OECD members, almost half of total domestic research expenditure occurs in the business sector. Although not all research-related jobs require a PhD,2 research, research management and analytical positions in the wider economy do represent especially relevant opportunities for doctoral graduates to exploit their advanced knowledge and research skills effectively outside the academic sector. Their ability to do this depends both on the quality and relevance of their training (including the field of their PhD) and on the availability of jobs where they can actually make use of their additional knowledge and skills.

Doctoral graduates who go on to work in industry can play an important role in transmitting knowledge between the academic sector and the business sector (Stephan, 2007). They also contribute to the capacity of firms to absorb research-based knowledge, as firms learn about research and innovative approaches being produced by other actors in the economy, whether they are other firms or public entities (Cohen and Leventhal, 1989). Furthermore, a significant body of evidence identifies links between research undertaken – primarily by PhD holders – in higher education and the public sector and innovation in the wider economy (Box 6.1).

Despite the potential contribution of PhD holders to innovation and productivity growth within and outside the academic sector, questions remain in all OECD countries about the overall level of demand for PhD graduates and the best way to design doctoral training and related public support mechanisms. Undertaking a PhD – typically lasting at least four years in Portugal – represents a significant investment in terms of time, resources and foregone earnings for individuals. It is also an investment for society as a whole. Not only do many PhD candidates often receive direct financial support from the public purse, but each talented individual engaged in doctoral research is diverted from other types of productive activity in the economy. It is therefore crucial that decisions about investing in a PhD, by the individual and by the state, are made on the basis of a sound understanding of the likely costs and benefits of doing so. While the potential benefits in terms of individual fulfilment, creation and use of new knowledge and development of national research capacity are considerable, the risks – particularly in relation to doctoral graduates finding suitable subsequent employment – are also real.

Box 6.1. Public research and innovation: evidence of the links

Some of the key channels through which knowledge is transferred from the public to the private sector include publications, patents, face-to-face contacts, spin-offs and spin-outs and time spent by staff and students working in industry (Stephan, 2012). A large body of work examines how knowledge, generated by PhD holders working in the public sector, spills over to the private sector and ultimately contributes to economic growth.

In general, basic research rarely produces tangible products or direct economic benefits. Instead, it provides intermediate inputs that, are “indispensable in the further research leading eventually to commercial innovations.” (David et al., 1992) Many new products and processes have grown out of research in the public sector. Examples include hybrid crops, the Internet, lasers, and bar codes (Stephan 2012). Nowhere is the contribution of public research more clear-cut than in the area of pharmaceuticals, with three-quarters of the most important therapeutic drugs introduced between 1965 and 1992 having their origins in public sector research (Cockburn and Henderson, 1998).

More broadly, researchers have sought to analyse the relationship between public research through different lines of enquiry:

  1. 1. By examining the relationship between published knowledge and productivity growth in manufacturing industries. A study by Adams (1990), for example, proxied knowledge stocks by counts of publications, discounted for obsolescence, in different fields and linked these to different manufacturing sectors. This found that the stock of knowledge directly relevant to the industry accounts for 50% of growth in total factor productivity.

  2. 2. By surveying firms about the role public knowledge plays in innovation. A survey by Carnegie Mellon (Cohen, Nelson and Walsh, 2002) found that public research – and by inference, the PhD holders doing it – is critical to R&D in a set of industries in the United States, with pharmaceuticals heading the list.

  3. 3. By linking measures of firm innovation, such as patent counts, to university research. This approach focuses on spillovers between public research and private research and the degree to which these are geographically bound. Initial research by Jaffe (1986) suggested a strong relationship, particularly in the areas of drugs, medical technology, electronics, optics and nuclear technology. Research by Acs et al. (1992), Black (2004) and Autant-Bernard (2001), among others, has found a relationship between innovation performance in firms and university research performed in close proximity.

  4. 4. By examining whether firms with links to public research institutions outperform those without such links. Work by Zucker et al. (1999), for example, found that biotechnology firms that co-author with a “star” university researcher perform better than firms that do not, whether performance is measured by products in development, products on the market or employment. Pharmaceutical firms that co-author with university researchers have also been found to have a higher research performance (Cockburn and Henderson, 1998). Other work found that the market-to-book value of firms that cite published research in patent applications is greater than that of firms that do not (Deng et al., 1999).

In light of these considerations, the two closely interrelated questions examined in this section are:

  1. 1. Are a) the current level of investment in doctoral training in Portugal; and b) the way doctoral training is organised appropriate to meet the needs of a modern knowledge economy and how could the current situation be improved?

  2. 2. To what extent are doctoral graduates able to find relevant work in Portugal, how might demand for doctoral candidates evolve and what could be done to increase opportunities for trained researchers to exploit their skills for the benefit of Portugal?

6.2. Context

6.2.1. Stock and flow of doctorate holders in Portugal

The number of PhDs awarded in Portugal has grown dramatically since the late 1970s. Slightly fewer than 1 800 individuals graduated with a PhD in Portugal during the entire decade of the 1980s. The number of graduates then rose to around 1 000 a year by 2004-05 and reached a peak of over 2 500 in 2013-14, before declining somewhat in the following two years (DGEEC, 2016). The rapid growth in the annual number of graduates from 2005 onwards is illustrated in Figure 6.1 below.

Figure 6.1. Number of doctorates awarded and recognised in Portugal, 2005-15
picture

Source: Direção-Geral de Estatísticas da Educação e Ciência DGEEC, 2016.

Largely as a result of this greatly increased domestic production of PhD graduates, by the end of 2015, there were estimated to be around 30 800 doctorate holders in Portugal (DGEEC, 2017)3. The most recent survey of doctorate holders in Portugal (DGEEC, 2017) indicates 84% of those with a doctorate had acquired their PhD in Portugal, the remaining 16% having completed a PhD abroad and subsequently had it recognised in Portugal. 79% of doctorate holders in Portugal received their doctoral training in 2000 or later, meaning the population of highly trained researchers in the country is relatively young (an estimated 44% were aged under 44 at the end of 2015).

The stock of doctoral holders in Portugal would be larger were it not for the relatively high overall levels of out-migration experienced by the country, historically and, more recently, in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. While anecdotal reports exist about the scale of this ‘brain drain’ – on occasions discussed with the Review Team in interviews – there are no reliable data specifically on the out-migration of doctorate holders. Although collecting such data can be challenging, more accurate information on the destinations and intentions of doctorate holders moving abroad would be valuable for policy-making.

Of the 2 351 doctoral candidates who graduated in Portugal in 2015, over 20% obtained their degree in the field of engineering, manufacturing and construction; over 15% in the field of natural sciences, mathematics and statistics and between 11-13% each in the fields of social sciences, journalism and information, health and welfare and arts and humanities. As shown in Figure 6.2, despite the large increase in overall numbers, the share of doctoral candidates graduating in different fields of study in Portugal has remained broadly stable for most fields since 2005. Exceptions are natural sciences, mathematics and statistics and agriculture, forestry, fisheries and veterinary, which have seen only modest increases in graduation numbers since 2005, and have thus seen their relative share of graduates fall. Conversely, the fields of education and health and welfare have seen the proportionally largest rise in graduates, with their share of total graduates increasing accordingly.

Figure 6.2. Graduates at doctoral level or equivalent by field of education in Portugal
picture

Source: Eurostat, Graduates by education level, programme orientation, sex and field of education database.

In recent years, slightly more women than men have graduated each year with a doctoral degree in Portugal (in 2015, for example, 53.6% of doctoral graduates were women). In many of the broad fields of study used above, the number of graduates of each gender is roughly equal. The main exceptions, based on data for 2015, are education (75% were women), health and welfare (68% were women) and information and communication technologies (76% were men).

6.2.2. Organisation and funding of doctoral training in Portugal

Only universities have the right to award doctoral degrees in Portugal. In the early 1970s, the country’s four oldest universities – Porto, Coimbra, Lisbon and the Technical University of Lisbon4 – awarded all doctoral degrees granted in Portugal (Heitor et al., 2014). By 2016, the network of institutions providing doctoral training had expanded and diversified. As shown in Table 6.1, in 2016, the oldest four universities awarded just under half of all doctoral degrees, with a further 30% awarded by the three universities founded in the early 1970s: the New University of Lisbon (Universidade NOVA de Lisboa), the University of Aveiro and the University of Minho. The remaining 30% of doctoral degrees were awarded by a range of other public and private universities.

Table 6.1. Doctoral graduates in Portugal 2015/16 by awarding institution

University 

 Public / Private

Number of doctoral graduates

% total doctoral graduates

Universidade do Porto

Public

453

19.3%

Universidade de Lisboa

Public

447

19.1%

Universidade Nova de Lisboa

Public

283

12.1%

Universidade de Aveiro

Public

230

9.8%

Universidade de Coimbra

Public

210

9.0%

Universidade do Minho

Public

210

9.0%

ISCTE – Instituto Universitário de Lisboa

Public

91

3.9%

Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro

Public

83

3.5%

Universidade Católica Portuguesa

Private

79

3.4%

Universidade da Beira Interior

Public

62

2.6%

Universidade de Évora

Public

61

2.6%

Universidade do Algarve

Public

46

2.0%

Universidade Fernando Pessoa

Private

24

1.0%

Universidade Aberta (Open University)

Public

16

0.7%

Universidade dos Açores

Public

11

0.5%

Universidade Lusófona de Humanidades e Tecnologias

Private

11

0.5%

Universidade Autónoma de Lisboa Luís de Camões

Private

10

0.4%

Universidade da Madeira

Public

7

0.3%

Universidade Lusíada

Private

6

0.3%

ISPA-Instituto Universitário de Ciências Psicológicas

Private

3

0.1%

Universidade Europeia

Private

1

0.0%

 TOTAL

2344

Source: Extracted from DGEEC, 2017b: Table 1.

Doctoral training in Portugal is provided in the framework of three or four-year doctoral study programmes, which, like Bachelor and Master programmes, must be formally accredited by the ministry responsible for higher education, based on the recommendation of the Agency for Assessment and Accreditation of Higher Education (Agência de Avaliação e Acreditação do Ensino Superior) (A3ES). Accreditation decisions by the Agency – and thus permission to provide doctoral training in a given specific field – are based on an assessment of the staff qualifications and training capacity of the academic department or departments proposing to offer the doctoral programme, the proposed course structure, quality of public information about the programme and other factors.5 On the basis of the recommendations of A3ES, the Ministry accredits host departments to provide a maximum number of training places (vagas) each year.

Most programmes contain compulsory and optional taught modules in the first year, with the remaining (usually three) years dedicated to research and thesis-writing. Doctoral programmes are frequently provided jointly by departments or research units in different universities and sometimes in partnership with external research institutions or companies. This reflects, to some extent, the matrix organisation of research units in Portugal, with significant co-operation between researchers in different institutions. Tuition fees at doctoral level range between EUR 2 500 and 3 000 per year.

A student wishing to embark on a doctorate in Portugal must first apply to a doctoral programme in a host institution. The degree of latitude students have in defining their own research project varies between programmes, as do the mechanisms through which they can potentially receive funding for their PhD. The traditional route to access funding was for prospective doctoral candidates to apply for a scholarship once they had acceptance in principle from a host institution and a proposed research project, to either the government-funded Foundation for Science and Technology (Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia) (FCT) or to a private or foreign foundation or research council. This route remains common. More recently, however, through calls for proposals in 2012 and 2013, the FCT has also allocated some of its funding for doctoral training to academic departments – rather than individuals – to allow them to implement funded doctoral programmes for a period of four years. The co-ordinators of FCT-funded doctoral programmes are able to select candidates for funding directly, as part of the wider selection process.

FCT doctoral scholarships – whether awarded centrally through annual FCT calls or by institutions through FCT-funded doctoral programmes – are designed to cover tuition fees and living costs. In 2017, the monthly stipend for FCT doctoral scholarships was EUR 980 for doctorates based in Portugal and EUR 1 710 for doctorates based abroad. In the case of the centralised annual FCT call, scholarships are initially awarded for one year, with selection undertaken based on scientific merit by academic panels for specific scientific areas. Once awarded, individual scholarships can be renewed up to three times (providing four years of funding in total), dependent on adequate academic progress.6

The FCT has long been – and remains – the primary source of funding for doctoral candidates in Portugal. Comparison of the number of FCT scholarships awarded and graduation rates four years later suggests 70-75% of successful doctoral candidates in Portugal receive support from the FCT.7 The number of individual PhD scholarships awarded by the FCT each year rose steadily throughout the 1990s to reach over 2 000 in 2007. As illustrated in Table 6.2, in the wake of the crisis, funding for individual scholarships was cut drastically in 2012 and again in 2013 – in parallel with the introduction of FCT-funded doctoral programmes – before increasing again in 2016 and 2017. The FCT selected 96 doctoral programmes for funding for a four-year period in calls in 2012 and 2013. Contracts for all these programmes have been signed between the FCT and individual institutions. In total, the FCT funding for doctoral programmes provides scholarships for 2 758 doctoral candidates for a maximum of four years, with candidates selected at institutional level by each programme. By the end of 2016, 1 715 of these scholarships had been awarded.

Table 6.2. PhD scholarships awarded by the FCT

Year of Application

Individual doctoral scholarships

Doctoral places awarded through doctoral programmes

Other

Total

2006

1634

0

107

1741

2007

1808

0

222

2030

2008

1734

0

228

1962

2009

1726

0

200

1926

2010

1482

0

198

1680

2011

1406

0

225

1631

2012

1103

0

149

1252

2013

421

210

54

685

2014

464

401

10

875

2015

438

437

20

895

2016

785

577

18

1380

2017*

900

533

8

1441

Note: *provisional figure.

Source: FCT (2017a), Bolsas de doutoramento concedidas por domínio científico, 1994-2015, FCT, https://www.fct.pt/apoios/bolsas/estatisticas/index.phtml.pt (accessed 6 February 2018)

There are no pre-determined quotas for specific academic fields for FCT PhD scholarships. Figure 6.3 shows the proportion of scholarships awarded in each major field of study over time.8 The relative weight of different fields of study has remained broadly constant over time, albeit with a decline in the relative weight of natural science, mathematics and statistics and an increase in the weight of social sciences from the early 2000s onwards. In 2015, 28% of all FCT-supported scholarships went to natural science, mathematics and statistics (exact and natural sciences); 24% to engineering and technology; 19% to social sciences and 11% to humanities.

Figure 6.3. Number of FCT-supported PhD scholarships by field of study
picture

Note: Includes individual awards and places funded through doctoral programmes.

Source: FCT (2017a), Bolsas de doutoramento concedidas por domínio científico, 1994-2015, FCT, https://www.fct.pt/apoios/bolsas/estatisticas/index.phtml.pt (accessed 6 February 2018).

6.2.3. The destinations of doctoral holders in Portugal

The most recent survey on the Careers of Doctoral Holders (CDH), undertaken in 2016, provides the most comprehensive overview of the professional activities of the population of doctorate holders in Portugal (DGEEC, 2017). The survey results indicate that, as in other countries, the absolute employment rate of doctorate holders in Portugal is very high. Almost 93% of those responding to the survey reported that they were employed in 2015, with very little variation between those with doctorates in different fields of study. For the last quarter of 2015, European Labour Force Survey data9 show average employment rates in Portugal for those aged 25-64 of 72% (all levels of educational attainment) and 84% (population with a higher education qualification).10

The CDH survey results show that the vast majority of doctorate holders (83%) work in higher education, while 10% work in other parts of the public sector, 6% in the business sector and the remaining 2% in the non-profit sector. The survey also suggests that a gradual shift is taking place in this pattern of employment, with more recent PhD graduates more likely to work outside the academic sector. While 5% of those having obtained their PhD between 2000 and 2009 reported working in the business sector and 8% in the (non-academic) public sector, these proportions rose to 10% and 18% for those having graduated in 2014.

Table 6.3. Doctorate holders in Portugal: sector of employment based on CDH results

Year degree awarded

Sector of employment

TOTAL

Public Sector

Higher Education

Non-profit Sector

Business Sector

No

No

%

No

%

No

%

No

%

TOTAL

28609

2837

10

23636

83

517

2

1619

6

1970-1979

86

5

6

71

82

3

3

7

8

1980-1989

1126

28

2

1,068

95

13

1

16

1

1990-1999

4776

309

6

4,291

90

41

1

134

3

2000-2009

11277

877

8

9,654

86

175

2

570

5

2010

1656

170

10

1,352

82

29

2

105

6

2011

1975

222

11

1,594

81

35

2

125

6

2012

2071

251

12

1,668

81

43

2

107

5

2013

2164

301

14

1,652

76

64

3

147

7

2014

1843

339

18

1,260

68

53

3

191

10

2015

1637

335

20

1,026

63

61

4

216

13

Source: DGEEC (2017), Inquérito aos Doutorados (CDH – Careers of Doctorate Holders) – Sumários Estatísticos, http://www.dgeec.mec.pt/np4/208/ (accessed 6 February 2018).

More than one in ten doctorate holders in the population with a degree in ‘engineering and technology’ reports working in the business sector, compared to 3.4% of those with a degree in social sciences and less than 2% of those with a degree in humanities. Among doctorate holders working in higher education, most (76%) report teaching as their primary activity, while 17% report having the status of post-doc (bolseiro) and 6% research as their main focus. Of the much smaller number of doctorate holders reporting they work in the wider public sector, over 30% teach at primary or secondary level, over 20% indicate research as their primary activity and around 12% say they occupy senior technical positions. Of all those working in the business sector, the largest proportion (37%) report simply that they work as company employees,11 while only 8% indicate their primary activity is research.

A large share of the individuals who answered the CDH 2015 survey indicate that they believe their job is related to the area of their doctorate. On average, 80% of respondents say their job is ‘entirely related’ (totalmente relacionada) to the area of their degree (with little variation between fields of education), although this figure declines among the most recent doctoral graduates. Whereas 85% of those who gained their doctorate during the 1990s say their job is ‘entirely related’ to the field of their doctorate, this proportion falls to 75% for those who graduated between 2013 and 2015.

The median gross annual salary reported by doctorate holders responding to CDH 2015 was EUR 36 000. For comparison, the level of average annual gross earnings in Portugal in 2014 (the most recent year for which data are published) was EUR 17 208.12 Salaries among doctorate holders are highest for those employed in higher education (EUR 38 512) and lowest for those employed in the non-profit sector (EUR 20 540) and business sector (EUR 30 800). Those qualified in the natural sciences and the humanities earn the lowest salaries across sectors. Across all age categories, only 63% of those answering the survey say they have a permanent contract. This almost certainly reflects the widespread use of temporary contracts for more junior academic positions in the higher education sector.

When asked about their level of satisfaction with their current job, 80% of respondents to the CDH who were in work reported they were ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ with their jobs. While the vast majority of respondents indicated they were ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ with the level of autonomy and responsibility they enjoyed or the intellectual challenges their role offered, 56% indicated they were ‘unsatisfied’ or ‘very unsatisfied’ with their opportunities for promotion or advancement and over 40% were dissatisfied with their salaries and social benefits.

6.3. Assessment

Policy issue 6.1. Doctoral training capacity in Portugal

From a low base, Portugal has succeeded in greatly expanding its capacity to train doctoral candidates in the last two decades. This expansion has been largely driven by a significant increase in public support for doctoral education from 2004 onwards. As highlighted above, the number of PhD scholarships awarded by the FCT increased from fewer than 850 a year in the decade 1994-2003 to a peak of 2030 grants in the year 2007. Although the spending restraints associated with the fall-out from the financial crisis led to a significant reduction in state support for PhDs, particularly in the years 2013-2015, allocations from the European Social Fund (ESF)13 have allowed the FCT to start bringing funding back to pre-crisis levels (Table 6.2).

The 2016 graduation rate at doctoral level in Portugal equates to 2.2 new doctoral graduates per 10,000 inhabitants. This rate is similar to that seen in France, Spain or Belgium in the same year, but well below the level seen in Switzerland (4.7); the United Kingdom (4.1); Finland (3.7); and Germany (3.6). The PhD cohort graduating each year in Portugal is likely to fall in the next few years, as the effects of post-crisis cuts in PhD scholarships are felt, although the recent increases in scholarship funding will help redress this in the medium term.

It would be hazardous to make any general claims about how many doctoral graduates a country ‘needs’ or should aim to train. This will depend, in particular, on how the purpose of doctoral training is conceived in the first place. Is it about training specialists with knowledge that they can apply in the short-term to boost innovation in businesses and organisations, or about pushing the boundaries of knowledge in a wide range of fields in the long term, for example? It is easier – although still difficult – to assess short and medium-term high-level skills needs in business, the academic and public sectors than it is to make a judgement about how fundamental science can best be promoted through doctoral research.

Despite these fundamental questions, it is important to consider how many, in what fields and in what ways doctoral candidates are trained in Portugal for at least three reasons. First, as highlighted above, despite the crisis, Portugal is spending an increasing amount of public money on supporting doctoral training. Is this money being directed where it should be and well spent? Second, most analysts agree that the developing knowledge economy will call for more high-level specialists, analysts and researchers. Is the way Portugal organises and supports doctoral training able to respond to specific and changing skills needs? And third, an increasing number of PhD graduates, combined with limited opportunities for permanent academic careers (see Chapter 7), means doctoral graduates increasingly need skills and experience they can apply in non-academic settings. How well is doctoral training in Portugal performing in this respect?

In seeking to answer these questions, it is useful to consider the factors that affect a) the thematic focus of doctoral training in Portugal (the fields and specialisations in which doctoral candidates pursue their PhDs) and b) the experiences and learning opportunities doctoral training in Portugal provides doctoral candidates and the factors that affect this. An important aspect of the second point, particularly in a small country like Portugal, is the extent to which doctoral training offers international contacts and experience, either through the presence of international students and staff in Portugal, time spent abroad or engagement in international networks. For government, the key question is whether the instruments it uses to support doctoral training support a sensible thematic focus of training across the country and good quality training with an international dimension.

Thematic focus: diversified training capacity, but little strategic prioritisation

Portugal has a diversified system of doctoral training, with PhD programmes in wide range of institutions and a broad spectrum of scientific areas. When graduation patterns across scientific fields are compared to those in other European countries, as in Figure 6.4, two main features of the Portuguese situation stand out. First, in recent years, Portugal has trained an unusually large proportion of doctoral candidates in the field of education (8.5% of doctoral graduates in 2015, compared with 4% in Ireland, Spain or Sweden, for example). This may in part stem from the requirement, introduced in 2009 for teaching staff in polytechnics to acquire a PhD. Second, Portugal trains a lower proportion of doctoral students in the broad field of natural science, mathematics and statistic’ than comparator countries (15% of doctoral graduates in 2015, compared with 40% in France and Spain and almost 30% in Belgium, Germany, Ireland or the United Kingdom). As shown in Figure 6.4, this is the field that has seen the largest decline in its relative share of graduates since 2005.

Figure 6.4. Doctoral graduates by field of study 2015
picture

Source: Eurostat (2015), Graduates by education level, programme orientation, sex and field of education.

The graduation patterns for doctoral graduates in Portugal reflect to a large extent the historical allocation of PhD scholarships by the FCT. As noted earlier, scholarship places are distributed between fields primarily on the basis of historical trends, rather than any clear and deliberate prioritisation of fields or sub-fields. Moreover, applications for individual scholarships are evaluated exclusively on the basis of academic criteria, without systematic assessment of the relevance of individual research projects to national research priorities and the development of institutional profiles. Despite a number of strong points, the call for doctoral programmes funded by the FCT in 2012 and 2013 used selection criteria related primarily to the academic profile of the staff and partner organisations involved and the organisation of the programmes, with no direct consideration of the way the funded programmes would align with national skills needs and research objectives.

It seems likely, for example, that the decline in the relative share of PhDs graduates in natural science, mathematics and statistics is the result of falling demand from students, rather than any conscious decision to "de-prioritise" these sub-fields. There does not appear to have been any assessment in Portugal of whether this trend is desirable in light of Portugal’s top-level skills needs in bio-science, mathematics, information sciences and computing.

Research funding systems have a duty to take into account the value of all disciplines and allow adequate space for creativity and individual initiative in the way they allocate public support to research. Nevertheless, government research funding schemes elsewhere in the OECD use different mechanisms to direct a proportion of public investment in PhD training to nationally agreed priorities. Two basic steering mechanisms are used, sometimes in the same national funding system:

  1. 1. In systems where many PhD scholarships or – in countries such as the Netherlands – employment contracts for PhD researchers are awarded directly by university departments or graduate schools (using institutional funds or competitive project funding), governments have sought to encourage institutions to identify clear priorities for their research efforts – including doctoral training efforts – and to specialise in specific areas to create critical mass and/or centres of research excellence that fit within national research strategies. Both Ireland and the Netherlands, for example, have used performance agreements between government and individual institutions to encourage institutions to develop differentiated profiles in research and to link research activities to national development needs.

  2. 2. In systems which, like Portugal, have a tradition of allocating funding for doctoral training centrally through research councils, alignment to specific thematic priorities has been achieved through including these priorities in general funding calls or creating specific calls and funding instruments to promote doctoral training in priority areas. The annual call for the Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholarship scheme,14 for example, includes priorities from strategic funding partners (which also contribute to the financing of the scheme). In the United Kingdom, the thematic Research Councils (which will be merged in 2018), allocate funding for doctoral training to doctoral programmes, in a similar way to the FCT calls for doctoral programmes in 2012 and 2013 (supported for four years). However, while the criteria for the main funding route – Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs) – are comparatively broad and "demand-driven", United Kingdom Research Councils also fund Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) specifically to develop research capacity in predefined priority fields (Box 6.2).

A hesitant shift towards greater structure and skills focus in doctoral training

When it comes to the organisation and delivery of doctoral training, there has been a shift in many European countries from individually supervised PhDs towards more structured doctoral programmes, sometimes organised in the framework of doctoral schools; this model is already well established in North America. This move has been motivated in part by the overall increase in the numbers of doctoral candidates and in part by a desire to ensure candidates are adequately supported to develop core research and communication skills and prepare their future careers. Training in many countries had traditionally focused almost exclusively on individual research and research-specific skills, with limited focus on helping candidates to develop their other skills sets (communication, teaching, management, etc.) for work inside or outside academia.

Box 6.2. United Kingdom government support for PhD training

In the United Kingdom, the majority of government support for PhD training is directed through the seven UK Research Councils. Funding – to be used for student stipends, coverage of tuition fees and allowances for research materials – is allocated by Research Councils through competitive calls or predefined algorithms to individual institutions (research organisations – ROs) or consortia of institutions. It is then the institutions – and not the Research Councils – which are then responsible for the recruitment of doctoral candidates. The Research Councils use harmonised funding mechanisms, with the three most commonly used funding routes being:

  1. 1. Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs): multi-annual grants to individual institutions or – more commonly – to consortia to provide innovative doctoral training that allows PhD students to undertake broader training or development opportunities. This route allows institutions and partnerships the most flexibility; in terms of the field of PhDs and modes used (some Research Councils have targets for the proportion of PhDs co-funded by non-academic partners).

  2. 2. Industrial Co-operative Awards in Science & Technology (CASE): grants provided by Research Councils in the natural sciences, engineering and technology for PhD scholarships, where businesses take the lead in arranging projects with a recognised academic partner and subsequently recruit PhD students to work on the defined project.

  3. 3. Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs): grants to consortia of institutions to deliver cohort-based doctoral training in emerging and multidisciplinary areas where there is demand to build capacity to address United Kingdom skills needs at the doctoral level. Research Councils provide 60 to 80% of the funding associated with the scholarships (the rest coming from institutional or business co-funding) and typically direct most funding to centres addressing predefined priority areas.

As highlighted earlier, doctoral training in Portugal is formally structured in doctoral programmes, which are accredited ex ante on the advice of the A3ES Quality Assurance agency. The process of accreditation focuses primarily on the qualifications and profile of the academic staff involved, the facilities available and a number of other factors related to information provision, etc. Accreditation provides a basic guarantee of the quality of the programmes, by ensuring favourable framework conditions are in place. However, the nature of PhD training is such that programme study plans (plano de estudos) are far less detailed than the equivalent documents for undergraduate and Master’s programmes, which means any paper-based accreditation process has less to work with and fewer guarantees of quality. A review of PhD programme outlines on the websites of a number of Portuguese universities shows that programmes typically – but not always – include a number of generic training modules in the first year (dealing with research methods or core subject content) with the remaining three years simply allocated to thesis-writing.

One of the motivations, in many countries, behind moving to more structured doctoral programmes and – in some cases – the creation of doctoral or graduate schools has been to give doctoral students better access to joint training opportunities. A defined cohort of doctoral candidates pursuing training at the same time not only makes it possible for universities to provide shared training modules or co-ordinate access to internships, it also gives members of the ‘cohort’ the opportunity to interact and learn from one another. A positive side effect of this is that it reduces the risk of isolation for those pursuing a PhD. Cohort training requires a ‘critical mass’ of doctoral candidates to make it viable. In Portugal, doctoral programmes appear to vary considerably in scale and in their likely ability to guarantee good quality cohort training. Many doctoral programmes are – nominally at least – operated in partnerships between research units in different universities, external laboratories or, in some cases, companies, which increases the potential for scale, shared training and interaction between candidates.

Creating critical mass in doctoral training through encouraging greater co-operation between Portuguese universities, research units and businesses and between Portuguese organisations and institutions abroad was an explicit objective of the FCT calls to support doctoral programmes in 2012 and 2013. The calls, which covered all scientific fields, distinguished between ‘national’ PhD programmes (involving at least one Portuguese HEI and one research institution); programmes ‘with industry’ (which had to involve at least one industrial R&D partner); and ‘international’ programmes (linking a Portuguese HEI and a Portuguese research unit with an overseas HEI or research unit). A review of the programmes selected through this call (FCT, 2014), shows it was successful in encouraging the creation or development of interesting national and international partnerships for doctoral training, in potentially strategic fields for Portugal (see examples in Box 6.3).

Box 6.3. Co-operation with MIT in doctoral training

Through the 2012 and 2013 calls for doctoral programmes, the FCT provided funding to four doctoral programmes run by Portuguese institutions in co-operation with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as part of the MIT Portugal Program.1 Each programme involves a co-operation partnership between Portuguese universities and research units and a dedicated period for the doctoral candidate spent at MIT in the US. The FCT provides funding for 10 PhD ‘mixed’ scholarships on these programmes each year.

The four programmes, which all focus on fields of strategic importance for the further development of the Portuguese economy, are:

  1. 1. Bioengineering Systems –New University of Lisbon in co-operation with University of Lisbon and University of Minho

  2. 2. Leaders for Technical Industries – Instituto Superior Técnico (University of Lisbon), in co-operation with University of Porto and University of Minho

  3. 3. Sustainable Energy Systems – University of Porto in co-operation with University of Lisbon and University of Coimbra

  4. 4. Transportation Systems – Instituto Superior Técnico (University of Lisbon), in co-operation with University of Porto and University of Coimbra.

Source: MIT Portugal (2018), accessible at: www.mitportugal.org/about/history.

However, two main questions remain about the doctoral programmes supported in 2012 and 2013. First, to what extent have the calls led to the creation of genuine partnerships? Many of the programmes – in engineering, for example – specify a very large number of partner organisations, which raises the question of how intensive the co-operation links really are. Second, the calls supported a large number of programmes (96 in total), some of which proposed a nominal intake of only six doctoral candidates per year. As a direct comparison, in the two calls in 2012 and 2013, the FCT supported 10 doctoral programmes in the field of ‘Natural Sciences and the Environment’, together providing scholarships for a total of 80 students a year (eight per programme on average). In the United Kingdom, for the last four years, in broadly equivalent fields, the Natural Environment Research Council has funded 15 Doctoral Training Partnerships offering 240 scholarships a year (16 per programme on average).15 It is quite possible, therefore, that Portugal has been spreading its public funding for doctoral training too thinly, which risks undermining the desired scale effects of doctoral programmes.

Alongside promoting more structured training and critical mass, stimulating greater co-operation with non-academic partners – in particular with businesses – has been a priority for research funding agencies in many OECD countries. As noted, supporting PhD training in a business setting was a priority of the FCT calls for doctoral programmes. Seven of the 96 programmes funded are explicitly profiled as doctoral programmes in an ‘industry setting’, with industrial partners in the consortia. These programmes are focused primarily in engineering, health sciences and agronomy (FCT, 2014).

In the centralised FCT calls for individual PhD scholarships, it has also been possible to apply for a PhD in Industry (Doutoramento em empresas). However, relatively few such PhDs have been funded. In 2015, 16 such grants were awarded, compared to 447 ‘standard’ individual doctoral grants. This situation in part reflects the greater difficulty inherent to organising doctoral training in a co-operative partnership with business, compared to a purely ‘academic’ PhD. Moreover, in Portugal, as we discuss below, the capacity of the business sector to host PhD students and participate actively in PhD training is lower than in countries with more developed high-technology sectors in the economy. Finally, a number of interviewees consulted during the Review argued that the criteria used by the FCT panels to select industrial PhD candidates remained excessively academic and failed to take into account the specificities of PhDs in the business sector.

A strong tradition of internationalisation on which to build

Doctoral training in Portugal has long had a strong international dimension. Historically, the FCT allocated a significant proportion of its PhD scholarships to individuals pursuing their doctorate abroad. As shown in Table 6.4 this was the case for over 40% of scholarships awarded in 1995. Over time, this pattern has changed, with only 2% of scholarships awarded for PhDs abroad in 2015. In parallel, there has been an increase in the frequency of ‘mixed’ PhDs, based in Portugal, but with part of the study/research period spent in another country. Mixed PhDs accounted for almost a third of FCT PhD scholarships in 2015. ‘Mixed’ PhDs offer considerable potential for doctoral candidates to gain valuable international experience and to benefit from additional international input to their work. Co-operation in PhD supervision also strengthens international links between staff and institutions. Provided such PhDs are based on a genuine partnership between a Portuguese and foreign host institution, this model is a clear example of good practice.

Table 6.4. Location of PhDs supported by FCT scholarships

Year of application

Total

Portugal

Abroad

‘Mixed'

1995

554

268

237

49

2005

1 195

709

225

261

2010

1 680

1 041

207

432

2011

1 631

1 008

155

468

2012

1 252

851

92

309

2013

685

449

36

200

2014

877

556

28

293

2015

894

595

18

281

Source: Foundation for Science and Technology (Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia) (FCT).

In the years 2013-2015, around 15% of all FCT doctoral scholarships were awarded to non-Portuguese nationals, although available data does not indicate whether these individuals moved to Portugal for their PhD or where already in the country. OECD data for 2015 indicate that 21% of those enrolled at doctoral level in Portugal were international students, who had moved to Portugal to study (OECD, 2017b). This compares to 43% in the United Kingdom, 42% in Belgium, 36% in the Netherlands, 25% in Ireland and 20% in Finland. Over half of the international doctoral students in Portugal came from Brazil, with other major “ending countries” being Angola, Mozambique, Iran, the People’s Republic of China, and Italy. This demonstrates that Portugal already has the capacity to attract considerable numbers of international students.

Undiversified and unstable public funding for doctoral training

The design of Portugal’s funding for doctoral training has strengths and weaknesses, notably in relation to directing money to priority areas and promoting high quality doctoral training experiences. Broader concerns are the considerable instability and unpredictability in the flow of public resources for doctoral training – in volume and the type of instruments used to allocate funding – and the concentration of public funding and decision-making responsibility in the FCT.

The number of doctorates supported by the FCT fell from over 2 000 in the year 2007 to below 700 in 2013, before recovering. In parallel, the FCT ‘experimented’ with directing funding through doctoral programmes in 2012 and 2013 (while maintaining a smaller centralised call for individual scholarships), before progressively reverting back to the award of individual scholarships from 2016 onwards. As discussed, the FCT account for the vast majority of funding for PhDs in Portugal. Although some private or non-profit organisations, such as the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, fund scholarships for doctoral training, these remain limited, while there appears to be no tradition in Portugal – in contrast to many other OECD countries – of universities awarding scholarships using their own funds or funds raised through external business or non-profit partners.

The instability in the volume of funding has created difficulties for prospective students and institutions, with success rates for applications falling considerably over time. The changes in funding instruments (doctoral programmes vs. centralised calls) appear to reflect concerns on the part of government and the FCT about how much discretion should be devolved to universities in attributing funds. While doctoral programmes give institutions more flexibility, some interviewees expressed concern that selection at programme level may be less rigorous and that centralised calls based on excellence are ‘fairer’. Experience from other OECD countries suggests that Portugal is not alone in facing this question, but that most governments have opted to devolve greater discretion to institutions, even when Research Councils maintain national competitions for individual scholarships.

Policy issue 6.2. Employment opportunities for doctoral graduates in Portugal

The results of the latest survey on the Careers of Doctoral Holders (CDH) in Portugal presented above have limitations. In particular, they are likely to under-estimate the numbers of doctoral graduates working in the business sector and do not provide information about the numbers and activities of doctoral graduates qualified in Portugal who work abroad. It is harder for surveys such as CDH to identify and reach doctoral graduates working in the business sector as they are more dispersed and less readily identifiable and contactable. Nevertheless, the CDH results provide the best available information about the employment of doctoral graduates and correspond to a large extent to observed patterns and trends reported to the Review Team by stakeholders in Portugal.

Few opportunities for doctoral graduates in the academic sector

The results of the CDH 2015 survey show that the recent doctoral graduates are far less likely to work in the academic sector than those who graduated in previous years (Table 6.3). Recruitment freezes, resulting from decreased or stagnating funding, and delayed retirement have meant most PhD graduates have, at best, only been able to work in the academic sector by accessing precarious, grant-based post-doctoral positions (also funded by the FCT), the impacts of which are discussed in the next chapter. The government is in the process of creating contractual positions for post-docs (ending the previous grants-based system). However, notwithstanding this development and a likely increase in recruitment by universities, polytechnics and research centres as funding levels are increased, the academic sector will only ever be able to absorb a small proportion of those graduating with doctorates each year.

The new individual competition for post-doctoral contracts run by the FCT aims to support 500 post-doctoral positions in its first year. If the number of individuals graduating with a PhD remains stable, at around 2 300 per year, and assuming that post-doctoral positions are the main route through which new PhD graduates can enter academia and the number of junior post-doctoral contracts offered each year remains stable, this leaves at least 1 800 PhD graduates a year who will need to find work in other parts of the Portuguese economy or abroad. This calculation ignores the fact that existing Portuguese and international PhD graduates will be competing for the 500 junior post-doctoral positions and the possibility that some new PhD graduates might transition directly into an academic post.16 Given the comparatively low probability of the latter scenario, these two factors might be assumed to cancel each other out. The question is therefore: what should the roughly 1 800 new PhD graduates a year do instead of pursuing a career in academia?

Limited absorption capacity of PhDs in the wider economy

Hitherto, PhD graduates in Portugal have found it relatively difficult to find relevant employment in the private sector and public sector outside higher education and research. This situation is primarily a reflection of the structure of the Portuguese economy, which is dominated by micro-businesses and specialised in low and medium-technology sectors. Discussions with stakeholders also suggest it reflects a tradition of limited co-operation between academic research and productive sectors and public services, which means that many business leaders are unaware or unconvinced of the need for highly qualified research staff. Poor management skills and limited awareness of opportunities for innovation and productivity gains in the Portuguese business sector are a key issue highlighted in the most recent OECD Economic Survey of Portugal (OECD, 2017c)

In addition to these core issues, as discussed in the preceding sections, there is in many cases limited direct alignment between the thematic focus of PhDs and possible applications of this knowledge, and associated skills acquired by PhD holders, in the wider economy. Although, as noted above, any strategic prioritisation of thematic areas for doctoral training must adequately safeguard study fields without direct links to the economy (a core aspect of basic research), there is clearly scope to increase the focus on PhD training with direct application in the wider economy.

A lack of strategic focus on brain drain and its impacts

Reliable data on the level of out-migration from Portugal by highly educated individuals is not available. Data on inward migration in selected countries in Northern Europe, as well as anecdotal evidence from stakeholders in Portugal, suggest that significant numbers of highly qualified Portuguese graduates do leave the country to work in the private sector and academia elsewhere in the world.

There is a line of argument that highly skilled individuals who move abroad still benefit their home country (or the country of their education) through financial remittances and the creation of international networks which benefit the home country in the longer term. While there is some truth in this, the emigration of large numbers of highly skilled people is fundamentally problematic for countries, as skills are lost to the domestic economy and national investment in skills development by the country of origin primarily benefits the destination country.

Although the current economic recovery in Portugal is likely to increase employment opportunities in the country, the risks associated with ‘brain drain’ should not be ignored in planning research and innovation policy. Improving the availability and attractiveness of career opportunities in Portugal in the academic and private sectors must be a core element in any national response to brain drain. In addition, however, the domestic absorptive capacity for doctoral graduates should be taken into account to a greater extent in determining the numbers of PhD places to fund.

6.4. Recommendations

Recommendations on aligning PhD capacity and needs

6.1. Ensure closer alignment between allocation of PhD funding and national research priorities and skills development needs

Portugal has hitherto awarded funding for PhD training based on an assessment of the scientific excellence of applications for individual scholarships or doctoral programmes, with funding allocation between scientific fields based on historical allocations and an aspiration for balance between disciplines. Although it is important to maintain some demand-driven public support for doctoral research across fields, the current system limits the scope for the FCT to direct funding to develop Portugal’s high-level skills in priority areas. Funding PhDs in areas where there is little demand for graduates is not only a poor use of public money, but encourages individuals to pursue a training and career path that diverts them from more productive options and may ultimately lead to frustration and disappointment.

It is challenging to predict the number of PhD graduates Portugal requires each year to develop research capacity further and meet the requirements of the country’s science base and economy. Given available evidence on the employment outcomes of PhD graduates from Portugal, the number of graduates per capita in international comparison and the level of public funds available, it appears reasonable to continue to maintain the number of publicly funded PhD fellowships at around the current level (i.e. around 1 500 a year). There is no compelling evidence that would justify an increase in the number of grants beyond this, particularly in light of the overall constraints on public spending.

Within this overall level of public support, Portugal should ensure PhD funding is reserved for the ‘brightest and the best’ and target its public support for doctoral training more rigorously on fields of knowledge that have been identified as national priorities. Prioritisation of some fields will inevitably mean other fields are deprioritised. As part of a wider reform of FCT funding for PhD training (see also next recommendation), the FCT should reserve a greater proportion of its training budget for PhDs in fields which the country has identified as specific priorities or where there is an identified need to develop high-level specialists. This prioritisation should be identified in the national strategic frameworks discussed above. Priority fields could be promoted either through dedicated priorities in centralised calls for individual scholarships, or dedicated resources for doctoral programmes in priority fields (the UK’s Centres for Doctoral Training (CDT) could be a useful reference model in this respect).

6.2. Direct more public funding for PhDs to higher education institutions through reformed support for doctoral programmes

Decision-making responsibility for selecting PhD candidates for public funding has historically been concentrated in the FCT. This leads to a situation where the FCT has prime responsibility for ‘picking winners’ by selecting the individuals best suited to pursue a doctoral degree. Other OECD countries tend to distribute responsibility for selecting doctoral candidates for funding more widely, notably by giving individual doctoral schools and departments freedom to select candidates for some or all publicly funding doctoral training places.

Portugal has experimented with providing funding to institutions through contracts for doctoral programmes, with selection of candidates devolved to institutions. This model appears to have been effective in creating innovative doctoral partnerships in areas of strategic importance to the country. Hitherto, however, these doctoral programmes have not used to support wider institutional strategies and strengthen differentiated institutional research profiles. Moreover, the calls for doctoral programmes in 2012 and 2013 almost certainly supported too many programmes, with too few students in each programme to achieve the real benefits of cohort training.

As part of the wider reform of support for doctoral training, the FCT should allocate at least half of the resources it has available to institutions to operate doctoral programmes. Funded programmes should have certain shared characteristics:

  1. a. They involve partnerships between universities (and potentially polytechnics) and relevant research centres with developed profiles in the fields in question, allowing expertise to be pooled and critical mass to be created.

  2. b. They have an annual entry cohort of at least 10 doctoral students (with exceptions allowed for specific niche fields where this would be unrealistic) to allow efficient delivery of common training elements and cohort benefits for candidates to be realised.

  3. c. They include a set of relevant common training components, including a focus on transferable skills sets relevant to careers outside academia.

  4. d. They have in place well-developed mechanisms to provide mentoring and career guidance to doctoral candidates.

Devolution of responsibility to institutions for selecting candidates for PhD funding should be accompanied by strengthened mechanisms of external quality control to ensure high standards are delivered in practice. As part of the new system of institutional accreditation, A3ES should require all higher institutions wishing to offer PhD programmes to demonstrate that they meet high quality standards for doctoral training. The standards to guide this aspect of accreditation should be devised by A3ES in consultation with FCT and institutions. The standards should accommodate different forms of doctoral training to promote diversity of provision and take into account factors including:

  1. a. the alignment of the doctoral programme to the institution’s institutional profile

  2. b. the extent to which staff running the programme are performing with success as researchers/innovation partners, as evidenced by relevant publications, collaboration with business, etc.

  3. c. opportunities for doctoral candidates to collaborate with researchers and research groups in other countries

  4. d. past performance on rates of attrition and time to completion in existing or similar programmes in the institution

  5. e. evidence of the employment outcomes of past doctoral graduates from the programmes / departments in question, including in the non-academic sector.

Recommendations on developing employment opportunities for doctoral graduates

6.3. Develop tailored selection and quality criteria for doctoral training programmes in the business or wider public sectors

Through its support to individual PhD candidates and doctoral programmes, the FCT should seek to increase the number of doctoral candidates undertaking their PhD in a business or other non-academic setting. The selection criteria and general requirements for FCT-supported doctorates appear not to be adequately tailored to the needs to PhDs that are not based in universities and research centres. As such, the FCT should review the relevant selection criteria and conditions in consultation with representatives of businesses and public sector organisations that would be susceptible to hosting PhD candidates. The CASE scholarships used by UK Research Councils could be a useful reference point.

Given the composition of the Portuguese economy and the limited number of businesses likely to be able to host PhD candidates in the short to medium-term, it is also important that adequate opportunities are given to undertake PhDs in public sector organisations (hospitals, public service organisations and ministries) which potentially have considerable capacity to provide appropriate environments for PhDs researchers.

6.4. Maintain and expand the practice of supporting ‘mixed’ PhD scholarships

The Review Team considers that the model of ‘mixed’ PhD scholarships, whereby the doctoral candidate spends part of their PhD training period abroad is an example of good practice that should be maintained and strengthened. Mixed PhDs provide individuals the opportunity to gain valuable international experience and exposure to expertise and experience that are not necessarily available in Portugal. As such, the ‘mixed’ model should be retained in the reformed system of FCT support, both for individual scholarships and scholarships awarded through doctoral programmes.

6.5. Improve data collection about the career paths of doctoral candidates and graduates, including those who move abroad.

The quality of date available on the academic career paths and subsequent professional development of doctoral candidates and graduates is inadequate to support effective policy making by government and strategy setting by higher education institutions. Improved information is also of vital importance to career guidance services and those considering embarking on a doctoral degree. The absence of information on out-migration by doctoral graduates from Portugal is particularly problematic.

As a first step, the Portuguese authorities should require any doctoral candidate supported by the FCT to provide regular updates on their careers as a condition of funding. A suitably simple questionnaire system, respecting relevant privacy legislation, should be developed. The system could be open to students and graduates not supported by the FCT on a voluntary basis. Data collected should be used to undertake regular assessment of the results and impact of FCT funding for doctoral training.

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Notes

← 1. Basic research is the component of R&D – alongside applied research and experimental development – comprising experimental or theoretical work undertaken primarily to acquire new knowledge of the underlying foundations of phenomena and observable facts, without any particular application or use in view. In 2015, over 60% of basic research (measured in terms of domestic research expenditures) was performed in the higher education or government sectors in all OECD countries for which data is available, with the exceptions of Chile, Switzerland, Japan and Korea.

← 2. Internationally comparable data on the level of qualification of researchers and R&D personnel are available for only a limited number of OECD countries. These data nevertheless highlight wide variation between countries in the proportion of researchers with a PhD. While in Poland and Slovakia over half of researchers had a PhD in 2015, the proportion in Austria was 27%. The equivalent figures for Spain and Portugal in the same year were 43% and 38%.]

← 3. This estimate is based on the Survey of the Careers of Doctorate Holders (CDH) undertaken in Portugal in 2016, with the reference date of 31 December 2015. Owing to the difficulty of identifying doctoral holders, the survey is likely to under-estimate the number of doctoral holders working outside the academic and public research sectors.

← 4. The Technical University of Lisbon merged with the University of Lisbon in 2013.

← 5. Accreditation decisions are published on the A3ES website: http://www.a3es.pt/en/accreditation-and-audit/accreditation-process-results/accreditation-study-programmes

← 6. Doctoral candidates in receipt of a scholarship are required to submit an application for renewal a minimum of 60 days before the beginning of the new academic year.

← 7. In the absence of data on the funding status of each PhD student and graduate, it is not possible to calculate an exact figure. Comparing scholarships and graduates is problematic, as it fails to take into account a) students with FCT funding who extend their PhD (possible in exceptional circumstances) and b) students without FCT scholarships who did not complete their PhD and thus do not appear in the graduation figures.

← 8. The classification of fields of education is that used by the FCT, which differs from the standard ISCED classification.

← 9. Eurostat – Employment rates by sex, age and educational attainment level (%), . https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/web/products-datasets/product?code=lfsq_ergaed

← 10. Separate LFS data for doctorate holders is not available due to the small number of doctorate holders in the LFS sample.

← 11. Integrado em empresa/prestação de serviços’ – ‘integrated into business/service delivery’.

← 12. Statistics Portugal. Average annual gross earnings (Remunerations for the entire year €) by occupation; Quadrennial – MTSSS/GEP, Complementary survey on earnings structure.

← 13. A total of EUR 61 498 324.34 have been allocated to the FCT for doctoral and post-doctoral grants from the ESF Human Capital Operational Programme, corresponding to 85% of a total planned investment of EUR 72 350 969.81 (Autoridade de Gestão do Programa Operacional Capital Humano, 2017).

← 14. Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholarship Programme 2019, Irish Research Council, http://research.ie/funding/goipg/

← 15. http://www.nerc.ac.uk/funding/available/postgrad/responsive/dtp/

← 16. Analysis of the age profile of core academic staff in public and private universities (DGEEC, 2017 shows around 3 100 career academics are over 60 and thus certain to retire at some point in the next 10 years. This should free up around 300 positions in more junior posts each year, provided employment levels remain broadly stable.

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