To PhD or not to PhD? It seem this is a question many students face. Perhaps the results of the first Eurodoc Survey can help some of them with their decision. Eurodoc, or the European Council of Doctoral Candidates and Junior Researchers, is an international federation of 34 national organizations of doctoral candidates, founded in Girona (Spain), and, since 2005, it has its seat in Brussels (Belgium).

From December 2008 until April 2009, Eurodoc concucted a survey among doctoral candidates in 12 European countries. The final report summarizes the answers of over 7500 respondents from Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.


Sample Profile


Germany and France provided the most respondents (1165 and 1126 respectively), Belgium and Slovenia the least (301 and 246 respectively). Most of the PhD candidates that answered the survey conducted research in science (up to 50% in Spain), second highest share came from social sciences, business and law (up to 28% in Belgium). Most respondents find themselves in the age group from 26 to 30 years (from 33.9% in Norway up to 67.4% in France). The gender distribution of participants fluctuated between a little over 40% women in Austria to a bit over 60% in Croatia and Portugal.


Career Path


Almost all participants obtained their entry qualification for higher education in their country of birth (from 89.1%F and 89.4%M in Norway to 94.4%F and 97%M in Slovenia) (Note: F and M indicate Female and Male). The respondents having full-time student status fluctuate greatly (from 26.8% in the Netherlands to 89.1% in France). The unawareness of the European Charter for  Researchers and Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers is great (86.4% in France to 97% in Finland). The majority of PhD students would like to pursue a career in the academic research sector (68.4% in Germany to 83.2% in Croatia).




Over half of all PhD students receive some funding during their PhD’s (from 54.2%F and 60.2%M in Austria to 97.5%F and 96.1%M in Norway). This funding covers living costs for 7.2% of students in Portugal to 45.8% in the Netherlands.


Training and Supervision


Most respondents received training at their university during their studies (a bit over 40% in Portugal up to over 90% in France, Norway and Sweden). Most of this training was mandatory (19.1% in Belgium up to 69.6% in Spain). The share of students that find their supervisor very supportive ranges from about 15% in Germany to over 30% in Norway, Slovenia and Portugal (Note: this is judged on a scale from 1 to 5 and these percentages refer to the 5 (very supportive)). Most students think their supervisor is an expert in his/her field (from 25% in Belgium to 38% in Austria). The amount of students supervised by a single faculty member is mostly 3-4 (24.4% in France to 39% in Sweden).


Working Conditions


The share of students with a strict maximum duration for their PhD (meaning no extension possible at all) ranges from 2% in Finland to 85% in Croatia. Unexpectedly, male students feel consistently much more disadvantaged because of their gender in all countries (from 76.6% in Austria up to a 91% in Croatia, compared to 36.9% in Finland up to 61.2% in Portugal for women). Many students feel pressured to postpone having children. Unexpectedly, this again applies mostly to males (44.2% in Germany up to 77.2% in Norway, compared with 26% in France up to 65.5% in Norway for women).


Academic Work


Most students do not produce articles in international journals with peer review (35.8% in Croatia up to 67.4% in Germany). The same applies to articles in proceedings (40.2% in Portugal up to 58.2 in the Netherlands), scientific monographs (84.7% in Portugal up to 95.3% in the Netherlands), book editions (84.5% in Croatia up to 95.1% in Norway), reviews (73.1% in Croatia up to 88.4% in Norway), online articles (73.3% in France up to 87.2% in Norway), and patent applications (92.3% in Slovenia up to 98.1% in Norway). The majority of students would describe their research as experimental (44.9% in Germany up to 68% in Slovenia). Most respondents also indicate that they are not involved in determining authorship (52.3% in Sweden up to 81.9% in Portugal).




The amount of students that spend some time abroad during their doctorate ranges from a bit over 30% in Belgium, Croatia, Portugal and Slovenia up to over 50% in Germany and the Netherlands. The amount that pursues their entire doctorate abroad is considerably less, from a little over 10% from Croatia and Slovenia up to a little over 30% from Spain. Of the students that do their PhD abroad, the share that gets additional funding (both complete and partial funding included) ranges from a bit over 40% for those originating from Belgium to a little over 80% for those from Portugal. The most important source of this additional funding are scholarships (a bit below 50% in Austria and the Netherlands, up to over 80% in Portugal). After finishing their doctorate, the students that are certain to stay abroad comprise a bit over 20% originating from Belgium, Croatia, Norway and Slovenia up to over 40% of students originally from Spain and France.


Of course, these are just the findings of a part of all European students, and some important countries for higher education are not included (such as the UK). So, generalizing these findings should be done with care. It is also important to keep in mind that any individual's situation needn’t be a reflection of these numbers.

The findings mentioned here are only some of the ones investigated. For the complete report, click here.




Eurodoc Survey I. The First Eurodoc Survey on Doctoral Candidates in Twelve European Countries. Descriptive Report.