Industrial PhD Education – Exploring Doctoral Students Acting in the Intersection of Academia and Work-Life

Irene Bernhard, Anna Karin Olsson
InSITE 2022  •  2022  •  pp. 009
Aim/Purpose: The aim is to explore the benefits and challenges of industrial PhD education through the perspectives of industrial PhD students who are acting in the intersection of academia and work-life by applying a work-integrated learning (WIL) approach to highlight issues that academy and industry need to consider.

Background: Industrial PhD education is a vital part of collaboration between academia and society although still an under-researched field. This paper reveals the perspectives of the industrial PhD students who are at the same time involved in both academia and industry, with the same academic demands as traditionally enrolled academic PhD students combined with demands and expectations from their industrial employers.

Methodology: Qualitative methods were applied and 19 semi-structured interviews with industrial PhD students were conducted. The empirical context is a Swedish university profiling work-integrated learning offering PhD programs for industrial PhD students from both the private and public sectors.

Contribution: This explorative study contributes to advance the current knowledge of third cycle education to deepen the insights into benefits and challenges in industrial PhD education through the perspectives of industrial PhD students acting in the intersection of academia and work-life. By applying a WIL approach on third-cycle education, issues that academy and industry need to consider for successful collaboration within doctoral education are identified.

Findings: Findings indicate that industrial PhD students acting in the intersection of academia and work-life are developing practical and transferable skills requested by employers outside academia, hence increasing societal impact. Findings show that industrial PhD education generates several WIL benefits. Novel challenges identified include unclear financial agreements, conflicts of interest, administrative bureaucracy, work promotion opportunities, and lack of be-longing and identity, hence not exploiting the full potential of WIL. This has been further intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic with restricted travel and dependence solely on virtual connections.

Recommendations for Practitioners: It is vital to recognize that challenges do exist and need to be considered to strengthen industrial PhD education as well as collaboration between academia and society. Increased communication and continuous interactions between academia and industry during the entire industrial PhD education are needed.

Recommendations for Researchers: Future studies of WIL in industrial PhD education are encouraged.
Impact of society This study contributes insights into PhD education transforming along with societal needs based on successful university-society collaboration.

Future Research: Further research is encouraged to deepen and broaden the industry perspective of industrial PhD education.
industrial PhD student, industrial PhD education, work-integrated learning, WIL, PhD program, university-society collaboration
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