9/14/23 · Research

The number of UOC PhD students has gone up by nearly 100 in the last five years

Currently, more than 400 people are enrolled at the UOC's Doctoral School
Photo: Moritz Kindler / Unsplash

Photo: Moritz Kindler / Unsplash

"Academic curiosity and the desire to push the frontiers of knowledge" are what the 407 students currently enrolled in the UOC's Doctoral School have in common. That's how its director, David Masip, sees it. Never before has the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) had such a high number of people enrolled in its doctoral programmes. Masip attributes this to the increase in the number of PhD programmes available, which "has gone from three to nine in five years", and "the adaptation of these programmes to the faculties' research areas".

These 400 students are fairly balanced in gender (48% are women and 52% men) but their origin is very diverse, with people of up to 55 different nationalities. Some 79% are studying for their doctoral degree online and part-time, and the remaining 21% are doing so on-site and full-time.

Reasons for pursuing a doctoral degree

"Doing a PhD gives you access to the highest-level training offered by the university system, to become an independent researcher able to solve the complex problems we face as a society," explained Masip. And the reasons why students decide to pursue a doctoral degree are varied. For example, Zarina Kulaeva from Russia explained that the socio-political and cultural context around her has always been behind her choice of subject for her doctoral degree: "My life has been marked by the country where I was born and by the events that have taken place over many years". Zarina is a student of the doctoral programme in Law, Politics and Economics.

Adrià Torralba, a student of the doctoral programme in Network and Information Technologies, and Alex García, a student of the doctoral programme in Health and Psychology, on the other hand, explained that they chose to do a doctoral degree in order to enter the world of research. Adrià said that he has always had a "special interest in the scientific method and scientific rigour". In addition, he said that "by doing a doctoral degree, you make a significant contribution to the scientific community and are therefore contributing a little to improving society and the world we live in". Alex, for his part, said that he started his doctoral degree "as a natural next step in my professional and academic career, to enter the world of research, and perhaps also to go further in the world of teaching".

There are also cases such as that of Jorge Bronet, a student of the doctoral programme in Society, Technology and Culture, who considered very carefully the number of hours of dedication it would entail: "It's a decision that I thought about a lot, especially because of the effort of doing a doctoral degree while working and with small children, but at this stage of my life my mind was asking for – or rather demanding – intellectual stimulus".

How do they combine their doctoral degrees with their personal and professional lives?

Regardless of your reasons for doing a doctoral degree, the main thing in order to maintain good mental health is not to neglect your personal life. Zarina, Adrià, Alex and Jorge all agreed that it is key to "devote time to family and friends, as well as having personal hobbies apart from constantly working", they said.

Zarina explained that "you need discipline, with mental health taking precedence". In her case, "sport has always been my way of escaping" – she has been doing judo since she was six years old – but she admitted that her dedication and commitment to the doctoral degree made her "greatly tone down the amount of sport" she does.

For his part, Alex expressed his gratitude for "the option to pursue the doctoral degree offered by the UOC part-time", as he would otherwise have found it "impossible to carry out a project like this with a stable job and a family".

Adrià added that "intellectual work is very difficult to measure", which is why he finds it "difficult to stop working". He believes that you must find incentives and break down tasks so "you can find a way to feel good even if you don't see immediate progress".

However, sometimes it's difficult to find a balance since, as noted by Jorge, "during the week I usually start on my thesis once the children are in bed, after 10 p.m. It's hard because at that time I'm already tired". Similarly, your dedication to a doctoral degree is never stable, as he mentioned, since "for various reasons you combine times of almost no activity with moments of high intensity. And those are the ones that are really hard to deal with".

Doctoral degrees, the embryo of research

These four students all agreed that doctoral programmes are closely linked to the concept of progress.

According to Alex, "asking yourself questions, solving problems and formulating hypotheses or finding solutions makes us move forward, not just technologically but also as human beings". Adrià also said that "research allows us to advance and improve as a society, enabling us to grow towards a better, fairer and more sustainable world". Jorge added that "progress and well-being are now inconceivable without science".

In this regard, the director of the Doctoral School insisted that "Spanish society values research more than we think, although the general context of misinformation isn't helping. There are probably countries where research is better funded, countries where research is more applied and has a greater social impact, but society values research activity and collaborates when necessary. There are many examples of this, of which the Marató de TV3 is a very successful one".

Do you know what the UOC's doctoral programmes are?

The Doctoral School offers these nine doctoral programmes:

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