Vienna Consensus Paper



ORPHEUS (Organisation for PhD Education in Biomedicine and Health Sciences in the European System)





Convened in Vienna on 8-10 April 2010


(hereafter referred to as the “ORPHEUS Vienna Consensus”)

1. Foreword

ÑMobility is an integral part of doctoral education at many universities. Higher education institutions should support enhanced mobility at doctoral level within the framework of inter-institutional collaboration as an element of their broader international strategy. (Bologna Seminar 2006).

The 5th ORPHEUS 2010 Conference in Vienna, with 196 participants, representing 114 institutions from 39 countries discussed and reached the following consensus:

Mobility of PhD students and young researchers is one of the core elements of the Bologna Process. Developing international cooperation and networking is necessary to enhance the quality of PhD education and research, and to increase competitiveness of PhD education in Europe.

Many countries in Europe are still not adequately integrated within the European area of health research and are not adequately visible in on-line data bases. In smaller universities critical mass that ensures quality can be obtained through wider cooperation and networking. International cooperation and networking between universities and with other scientific institutions, international scientific associations, and industry are prerequisites for overcoming isolation.

Article 1

Meaningful collaboration and networking is easier among institutions with comparable standards. Institutions in Europe with PhD programmes in biomedicine and health sciences are urged to adopt ORPHEUS standards. †

Article 2

International PhD programmes are a means to increasing international collaboration and excellence. ORPHEUS supports in particular collaborative PhD programmes established on the basis of existing research collaboration. Methods should be established to acknowledge both achievements of the student at the host institution and the contribution of the host institution.

While the conventional system of ECTS may be easily applied for taught courses, this system is less appropriate for research work. Thus, time spent at different laboratories may rather be expressed as equivalents of full-time employment.

Article 3

Joint PhD programmes are based on collaborations between partners. This co-operation can be initiated as interaction at the level of different laboratories (“bottom-up”) or through implementation by the administrative heads of universities (“top-down”). The interaction between partners of joint PhD programmes should be formalized. This can range from an acknowledgment of the programme or of individual projects, to a memorandum of understanding or contract between partner institutions.

RPHEUS recognizes that funding is currently being given for support of joint PhD programmes. However, it is also recognized that such programmes are difficult to arrange. Therefore, ORPHEUS recommends that funding for collaborative PhD studies might be in general a better way of supporting internationalization of PhD studies.

Article 4

Neither financial nor administrative restrictions should prevent the most talented European young scientists from entering an appropriate European PhD programme. The access to participate in them should be based on qualifications of the applying students.

PhD programmes should seek to limit the financial barriers that prevent international students from participating in their courses and research work. Thus, ORPHEUS should encourage doctoral schools to better define financial support instruments to encourage mobility.

Availability of PhD programs in Europe and access criteria to them should be transparent (published in the Internet in English). The access to participate in them should be based primarily on the skills and qualifications of the applying students. Enrolment of students in PhD programmes should also be transparent.Lists of potential supervisors, available projects etc should be publicly available in English language on the programmes’ home page.

Article 5

All institutions should allow and stimulate their PhD students to spend some time in foreign institutions through courses or research projects as appropriate.

Article 6

In order to avoid one-way brain drain and encourage brain circulation (in particular for less developed countries) measures should be implemented to facilitate the return of young researchers to their home countries (e.g. with the help of collaborative projects and special funds). Also the research environment in the home institute should meet the needs of the returning PhD. In further career development into academic positions one should have transparent selection processes based on qualification. Students who decide to stay abroad should where possible be involved in enhancing international collaboration. †

Article 7

Scientific societies should be involved in establishing networks to encourage international PhD programmes.

Article 8

ORPHEUS should encourage the drafting of a general/ simple blueprint contract as a basis for good working practices between academia and industry.

Quality control criteria for PhD studies based on partnership between academia and industry should be consistent with general academic standards. These should include peer review of project, and contract-based partnership dealing with: funding, definition of the objectives of the partners, duties/rights, pr (patents and publications), confidentiality, supervision/mentoring, conflict handling, educational programme, and mobility.



Contribution from following workshops is acknowledged:


Joint degrees
Chair: Andrea Olschweski, Michael John Mulvany


National and international joint PhD programmes
Chair: Stefan Bˆhm, Michael Wolzt


Partnership academia and industry
Chair: Akos Heinemann, Chris von Schravendijk


Partnership academia and scientific societies
Chair: Catherine Sautes-Fridman, Karl Kuchler


Brain drain/brain gain
Chair: Irene Lang, Zdravko Lackovic


Promotion of mobility of students from less developed European countries
Chair: Wilfried Ellmeier, Seppo Meri




?††††††††† UNESCO / OECD 2005 guidelines for quality provision in cross-border higher education, 2005,


?††††††††† Nerad M, Heggelund M (eds): Toward a Global PhD, Univ Washington Press 2008


?††††††††† ORPHEUS consensus documents 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009 ( click on “documents”)


?††††††††† Doctoral Programmes for the European Knowledge Society, Bologna Seminar, Salzburg, 3-5 February 2005, see


?††††††††† Matching Ambition with Responsibilities and Resources. Bologna Seminar, Nice, 7-9, December 2006, see


?††††††††† Realising the European Higher Education Area. CommuniquÈ of the Conference of Ministers responsible for Higher Education in Berlin on 19 September 2003 (see


?††††††††† Towards the European Higher Education Area: responding to challenges in a globalised world, CommuniquÈ of the Conference of Ministers responsible for Higher Education in London, 18 May 2007


?††††††††† The European Higher Education Area -Achieving the Goals. CommuniquÈ of the Conference of European Ministers Responsible for Higher Education, Bergen, 19-20 May 2005


(The ´ORPHEUS Vienna Position Paper ª was adopted at ORPHEUS 2010 Fifth European Conference in Vienna 8th-10th April 2010, by 196 participants representing 114 institutions from 39 European countries)

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