Increased funding for doctoral candidates in the Czech Republic in 2018

The Czech Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports after a long 15 years increased the budget for Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) that provide doctoral degrees in accredited doctoral study programmes. This contribution to HEIs known as “Indicator C – scholarship for doctoral candidates” is intended for the students enrolled in the full time doctoral study programmes in the Czech language.

In addition, as of 2018, doctoral candidates older than 26 years, who are enrolled for the first time in full-time form of the doctorate (if they are not self-employed or employed) get their health insurance paid by the state.

The annual amount of money (per 1 doctoral candidate) at HEIs has increased from 90,000 CZK (3,460 EURO) to 135,000 CZK (5,190 EURO). It theoretically means, that  an average monthly scholarship for doctoral candidates increased from 290 EURO to 430 EURO per month. The state provides this budget to the total number of 10,637 doctoral candidates.

However, it should be mentioned that it is up to each HEI or each faculty to handle this budget. HEIs have to use this money for students, specifically for the scholarship of doctoral candidates. But the state does not determine the minimum or the fixed amount, the amount of money or their redistribution, is fully under the autonomy of HEIs or the individual faculties. This means that the income of doctoral candidates will vary across universities, individual faculties, years of degree and other variables.

In the Czech Republic, HEIs also provide support for specific university research through internal grants, which are designed to support student projects. Therefore, doctoral candidates have the possibility to receive an additional income in the form of an additional scholarship. Doctoral candidates can also be employed under projects (usually their supervisor´s), or have an employment contract at the institution, e.g. when a doctoral candidate is teaching more hours than suggested by the internal regulation.

However, such additional income is not guaranteed for all doctoral candidates. It is harder to achieve especially for those in humanities and social sciences. An involvement in the supervisor´s grants also depends on the capabilities and abilities of the individual supervisor and an employment contract at an institutional level is often a rare case.  

This implies that the increase of scholarships will not guarantee a reasonable financial reward or a certain minimum. Most of the doctoral candidates have to find a job alongside their doctorate. This fact then mirrors that nowadays only 8–9 % of them finish their doctorate in time.

Unfortunately, the current system of funding does not guarantee that HEIs will be able to handle this increased budget effectively. And from this point of view, the funding system is inoperable and structural changes are still needed. More detailed analyses mapping the situation of doctoral candidates and the cause of such large dropout during the doctorate could also be of help.

Eva Hnátková (vice-president of Eurodoc)

Mariana Hanková (Coordinator of the Doctoral Training Working Group within Eurodoc)