Positions

Position of the TUM Graduate Council on the Participation of Doctoral Representatives

As is true for any representative body, the Graduate Council can only be what its members make of it. For that reason and more specificallyfor the Graduate Council’s capacity to act as well as for its legitimation, active participation by the elected doctoral representatives of the different Graduate Centers is crucial.

Hence, the Graduate Council has already introduced measures to incentivize active participation at its meetings and in its working groups, such as an official certificate over the voluntary involvement of its members as well as events like the annual summer festival and the Graduate Council retreat in Raitenhaslach.

With this position, the Graduate Council complements these measures by setting out a procedure on how to act concerning Graduate Centers with lacking participation at the Graduate Council meetings,as well as conditions to which the above benefits, in particularthe certificate, are tied. Finally, we also ask the Graduate Centers to encourage their respective doctoral representatives to be an active part of the Graduate Council and to install complementary incentives to this effect themselves.

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Academic Career Paths at TUM

Today’s doctoral candidates are the potential academic mid-level employees of tomorrow. However, due to a significant wage gap compared to jobs in the private sector and the prevalence of short-term contracts without further perspectives in academia, mid-level positions are currently less attractive for promising candidates.

As a core concept of the next Excellence Initiative at TUM, the program CareerDesign@TUM will offer employees at the academic mid-level opportunities to continue their career in designated expert tracks. The program outlines academic careers at TUM aside from a professorship and supports employees who want to focus on their strengths, be it in science management, teaching or research.

In our position on academic career paths, the TUM Graduate Council welcomes this initiative and suggests further measures to improve the situation for current as well as future employees at the academic mid-level. Our propositions include a compulsory leadership training for executive members of TUM as well as the expansion of childcare and other complementary services. Furthermore, we demand the implementation of a maximum number of doctoral candidates per supervisor as well as of scientific staff to administrative and technical employees to guarantee a high supervision quality and a fair distribution of tasks.

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Good Scientific Practice

In the two-page position paper, the Graduate Council picks up on the topic from the corresponding TUM guidelines and, among other things, calls for courses for both students and doctoral candidates: the goal being a raised awareness for good scientific practice as early and in step with actual practice as possible. While such courses are already being offered for example by the Department of Mechanical Engineering, many departments still have some catching up to do. In order to ensure that supervisors obey a consistent high standard in their own working groups, special courses for aspiring professors are also called for.

Furthermore, the Graduate Council demands an increased protection for those affected by the scientific misconduct of others. After all, doctoral candidates feeling morally impelled to inform the ombudsperson of misconduct by supervisors, should not have to fear for their own doctoral projects.

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Hospitality of doctoral representatives in the department councils

Many important decisions in university politics are made on department level, particularly during the regular meetings of the department councils. Even though doctoral candidates usually represent the largest fraction of employees at the department level, they are rarely and if, only indirectly via the elected representatives of the research associates (mostly post-docs or long-term academic staff), involved in the decision-making process. In addition, external doctoral candidates, who are not employed by the Technical University of Munich (e.g. because they  hold a scholarship), are not at all represented in the department councils, even though they are directly affected by their decisions.

For this reason, the TUM Graduate Council requests all department councils to grant a permanent right of hospitality in the meetings of the department council for the elected doctoral representatives of the associated graduate center(s).

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Supervision of doctoral candidates 

The introduction of the structured doctorate at the Technical University of Munich, which requires a supervision agreement to be signed at the beginning of the doctoral studies, marks a significant step towards providing doctoral candidates with better supervision and guidance.

However, feedback received by the doctoral representatives in the TUM Graduate Council from the doctoral candidates at their graduate centers shows that the supervision agreement can only be considered a first step towards more intense supervision.
In view of these issues, we highlight existing shortfalls in the supervision of doctoral candidates, to work on suggestions for improvement, to revise the current supervision agreement, and to make proposals for refinement of the Regulations for the Awarding of Doctoral Degrees (“Promotionsordnung”).

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Quality of the scientific education received by doctoral candidates

In the summer of 2014, the Graduate Council surveyed all TUM doctoral students with the goal of evaluating the quality of the scientific education they are receiving through TUM.

The Graduate Council agreed that the following issues represent the most important results of the survey. This decision enjoys the support of all graduate center doctoral representatives and is thus the official position of the Graduate Council regarding the scientific education being provided to doctoral students at TUM.

  1. Doctoral Student Supervision
  2. Academic Practice
  3. Job and Employment Contracts
  4. Workplace Safety
  5. Mentors

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