Vienna position paper

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





Convened in Vienna on April 8-10, 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 more than 200 participants, representing 114 institutions from 41 European countries discussed and reached following consensus:


Mobility of PhD students and supervisors is not only one of the core elements of the Bologna Process but the need of health research since diseases do not recognise national borders. Developing international cooperation and networking is necessary to enhance the quality of PhD education and research.


A large number of countries in Europe are still not adequately integrated within the European area of health research and not adequately visible in on-line data bases. In smaller universities critical mass that ensures quality can be obtained through wide cooperation and networking.


Medical and health sciences are nowadays so differentiated and ramified that not even the largest universities are able to adequately cover all areas of research. Therefore, international cooperation and networking between universities themselves and with other scientific institutions, international scientific associations, and industry are prerequisites for overcoming isolation.


International cooperation and networking are not only a political claim of united Europe but also a need and a requirement to increase competitiveness of Europe.



Article 1

Meaningful collaboration and networking is possible primarily 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 allow both the student and the host institution(s) credit for the work performed at the host institution(s).


While the conventional system of ECTS may be easily applied for taught courses, this credit is less appropriate to capture research work carried out. Thus, time spent at different laboratories or in practical training courses may rather be expressed as equivalents of full-time employment.


Collaborative programmes and projects should be closely supervised and independently monitored. A quality assurance scheme is required to develop a high standard of transferable skills for students.


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 in a memorandum of understanding to a contract between partner institutions.



ORPHEUS 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, and recommends that they only be set up in special situations, for example between institutions with a long-established collaboration.


Article 4

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 practice when appropriate. Support enabling students to spend time at a foreign laboratory should include support for returning to the home institution. Students who decide to stay abroad should where possible be involved in enhancing international collaboration.


Article 6

Neither financial nor administrative restrictions should prevent the most intelligent 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 support doctoral schools to better define financial support instruments to encourage mobility, and on a practical level, for example by providing cheap accommodation.

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.



Article 7

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


Article 8

ORPHEUS should encourage industry to support student mobility of PhD students by funding stipends. 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, ipr (patents and publications), confidentiality, supervision/mentoring, conflict handling, educational programme, mobility.





Joint degrees
Chair: Andrea Olschweski, Michael John Mulvany 3-6 lines on that topic please

National and international joint PhD programmes
Chair: Stefan Bˆhm, Michael Wolzt 3-6 lines on that topic please


Partnership academia and industry
Chair: Akos Heinemann, Chris von Schravendijk† 3-6 lines on that topic please


Partnership academia and scientific societies
Chair: Catherine Sautes-Fridman, Karl Kuchler 3-6 lines on that topic please

Brain drain/brain gain
Chair: Irene Lang, Zdravko Lackovic 3-6 lines on that topic please


Promotion of mobility of students from less developed European countries
Chair: Wilfried Ellmeier, Seppo Meri† 3-6 lines on that topic please




  • 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”) ï

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

  • Matching Ambition with Responsibilities and Resources. Bologna Seminar, Nice, 79, 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 (

  • 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 2007 Fifth European Conference in Vienna on April 10th, 2010, by over 200 participants representing 114 institutions from 41 European countries)


Task force responsible for preparing draft and final form of position paper

Zdravko Lackovic, chairman (Zagreb) ORPHEUS president

Hannes Stockinger (Vienna) ORPHEUS EC, Conference Chairman

Seppo Meri (Helsinki) ORPHEUS General Secretary

Michael Mulvany (Aarhus) ORPHEUS EC

Jadwiga Mirecka (Krakow) ORPHEUS EC

Jean Chambaz (Paris) Chair of EUA-CDE

Stefan Bˆhm (Medical University of Vienna)

Wilfried Ellmeier (Medical University of Vienna)

Irene Lang (Medical University of Vienna)

Akos Heinemann (Medical University of Graz)

Karl Kuchler (Medical University of Vienna)

Andrea Olschewski (Medical University of Graz)

Catherine Sautes-Fridman (Paris) EFIS President

Chris von Schravendijk†(Vrije Universiteit Brussels)

Michael Wolzt (Medical University of Vienna)