A Comparative Study of Doctoral Assessments: the United States, Germany, the Netherlands and Macau

Gill Houston

Past Chair, UK Council for Graduate Education

Carolyn Wynne

Director — Doctoral College & Centre for Research Capability and Development. Coventry University

International higher education is a rapidly changing environment and is affecting many aspects of doctoral education, especially training structures (UKCGE, 2015) and thesis models (Jump, 2015, Council of Graduate Schools, 2016). Given the role played by assessment in assuring quality and the current good reputation of UK doctorates (Clarke and Lunt, 2014), it was timely for the Council to focus on making some cross-country comparisons of doctoral assessment as a first step in documenting consistent and divergent practice, in parallel evaluating the strengths and challenges of current assessment processes, in the UK and internationally.

In 2015, UKCGE’s Quality and Reputation Working Group’s sub-group on Doctoral Assessment therefore undertook three case studies linked to the biennial International Conference on Developments in Doctoral Education and Training (ICDDET), in 2015 held in Oxford. The group developed some general questions to inform semi-structured interviews with three colleagues who were able to provide an overview of the summative examination of the doctorate in their respective countries. Another colleague who attended the Oxford conference later provided a written response to the interview questions. The Council intends to build on these preliminary case studies by gathering more evidence about doctoral assessment practices in countries other than the UK, if possible exploring further the themes generated in this small-scale project, the aim of which is a publication available to UKCGE members. This brief report is intended as an interim publication that raises some themes and questions.