Reforming researcher training: Quality and impact through cooperation

Universities will develop joint approaches to strengthen the quality and impact of researcher training. The aim is to increase the attractiveness of researcher training and create more flexible pathways to training, strengthen its relevance to working life and employment opportunities, and speed up graduation.

Universities have published national recommendations for reforming researcher training. These recommendations were developed in close collaboration with the university community and external stakeholders. The shared recommendations signal universities’ strong commitment to reform and enhance the quality, impact, and attractiveness of researcher training.  

At the heart of the recommendations is the promotion of a culture of close collaboration and interaction in researcher training, both within universities and with stakeholders. National efforts to develop Finnish doctoral education and the political consensus to invest in highly skilled workforce support the reform. 

The recommendations cover a wide range of topics, from recruitment to degree requirements and cooperation with working life. They apply to Finnish researcher training in general, not only to doctoral education pilots funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture.  

”Researcher training has been developed over a long period of time. The recommendations are not intended to revolutionise Finnish researcher training, but rather to highlight good practice and suggest nationally unified approaches. These measures will ensure attractive, high-quality and effective doctoral education now and in the future,” says Annu Perttunen, Chair of Unifi Working Group on Doctoral Education Reform and Director of the Graduate School at the University of Oulu.  

Efficiency, well-being and diverse career opportunities 

Universities aim to provide doctoral researchers with a high-quality research and training environment, which enhances their well-being and promotes diverse career opportunities. At the same time, the aim is to make the knowledge generated at universities more accessible to society.  

The report particularly highlights the importance of flexible researcher training pathways, guidance and support, and partnerships with working life. The proposed measures will streamline the advancement of studies and aim to achieve faster graduation. The recommendations also address issues such as quality assurance, mobility, support for career development, well-being and the promotion of cooperation with business and public-sector stakeholders. ​  

While the recommendations aim to harmonise practices, they do not preclude the possibility of exceptions in how researcher training is conducted and delivered in different universities and research fields. The recommendations will also be reviewed when data and experiences on the implementation and new initiatives, such as the doctoral education pilot programmes during 2024–27, become available.  

”The work does not stop here – the effective implementation of the recommendations and the follow-up actions to be promoted in cooperation at national level will determine how the measures will ultimately improve the attractiveness of doctoral research, the satisfaction of doctoral researchers, speed up graduation and diversify employment opportunities. We hope that the recommendations will serve as a catalyst for discussion and lay the foundations for a culture of strong cooperation and interaction,” says Jari Hämäläinen, Vice Rector of LUT University and Chair of the Unifi Steering Group.   

Researcher training builds the future of research and society 

Researcher training plays a key role  in building new knowledge, innovation and the knowledge-based society. Doctoral researchers build the foundations for research and the future of universities and society.  

The development of researcher training faces dual pressures. On one hand, society and the labor market demand highly skilled individuals and doctoral researchers are expected to graduate more quickly and secure diverse employment across various sectors. On the other hand, simultaneously, maintaining the high quality of research and education remains a priority. 

The report stresses that these objectives are not contradictory, but can be used to create a more holistic approach to researcher training that meets the needs of society and research and serves the doctoral researcher.  


Read the full report here (in Finnish).  

Swedish and English translations of the report will be published in late August. Unifi will hold a stakeholder event in the autumn to further discuss the recommendations and the way forward.   

Further information:   
Jari Hämäläinen, Vice Rector, LUT University (Chair of the Doctoral Education Reform Steering Group), tel. +358 40 596 1999   

Annu Perttunen, Director of the Graduate School, University of Oulu (Chair of the Doctoral Education Reform Development Group), tel. +358 294 48 7463  

Background to the project

In December 2023, The Council of Rectors of Finnish Universities Unifi’s Board of Directors set up a steering group and working group for the reform of doctoral education. The aim of their work was to formulate universities’ national recommendations for the reform of doctoral education. 

The recommendations were approved by Unifi's rectors on 17 June 2024.

National cooperation on the implementation of the recommendations and further work on the proposed themes will continue between Unifi, the Finnish Doctoral Training Network and other key stakeholders.