PhD students in social sciences and humanities are facing numerous challenges, such as limited access to literature, poor support by their mentors, poor quality of methodological courses, lack of practical research skills, and lack of funds for field research. Consequently, this leads to poor quality research in social sciences and humanities, so young researchers are not competitive with their European peers and have difficulties in finding their place on labour market.
These are key findings of the Study on the Quality of PhD Studies in Social Sciences and Humanities in Serbia, done by the Group for Analysis of Public Policies (GAJP), with the support of PERFORM. The Study was conducted with PhD students from four state-funded universities: Belgrade, Novi Sad, Nis and Kragujevac, from November 2017 to April 2018. The study analyses the whole cycle of PhD studies (from enrolment to PhD thesis defence) and identifies a number of problems in each stage.
PhD students stressed that a much higher quality methodological and research curricula are needed.
“Many curricula during PhD studies are a repetition of what they have already learned in graduate and MA courses, which is in clear contradiction with the main purpose of PhD studies. A much better balance between theoretical and practical knowledge is needed, so that PhDs are eventually equipped with sound practical research skills”, said Tamara Vukov, GAJP President and researcher.
The Study also emphasises that the enrolment criteria for PhD studies should be more rigid. Faculties receive substantial funds from PhD tuition fees, so they often enrol candidates who do not meet the requirements or candidates who have no knowledge of the subject area and have completed their graduate and master studies in other areas.
Many PhD students have limited (or no) access to foreign journals, which is preventing them from keeping up with the latest developments in their areas of interest. Funds for field research or participation in international conferences are also very limited, so PhD students rarely have the opportunity to share their work with their peers from Europe and advance their knowledge and skills through international exchange.
GAJP will continue working on this topic in the future and will advocate for adoption of some of the recommendations from this study.