PhD School

PhD courses - State-of-the-art declaration

Wednesday, 25 November 2020

At the beginning of this new doctoral year, also on behalf of the Board of the Graduate Courses, I find it appropriate to publish a report on the results of the new selection for doctoral candidate and the performance of current PhD students.
I take this opportunity to wish a fruitful academic year to all students, with a warm welcome to our new 36th cycle PhD students!

Prof. Antonello Cannas

Applications and results of the 36th cycle selection procedure

The selection of the PhD candidates for the 36th doctoral cycle have been recently completed.

83 scholarships have been published (71 in 2019). 37 of them were financed by external funds (or funding from other institutions or research funds, agreements with institutions or companies). Zero-grant scholarships were not included (11 in 2019), since they had a negative impact on the financial indexes of the Italian Ministry of Education underpinning doctoral funds, and because they turned out to be quite troublesome for PhD students.

The number of submitted applications have significantly increased since last year (from 260 to 460; +85%), with a major increase in the total number of candidates having a valid entry qualification issued by UNISS (+57%) and, to an even greater extent, the number of candidates with Italian entry qualification issued by institutions other than UNISS (+132%, from 17 different Italian Regions) and foreign institutions (+72%, from 29 different countries) The results are likely to depend on whether the School and the Graduate Courses conducted an information campaign that was more effective than in the past, using social media in a ore effective way compared to the past (, using targeted information campaigns to potential candidates with an extensive coverage, both in Italy and abroad. Innovative initiatives were carried out by the PhD Course, e.g. innovative use of social media, videos, live events, etc. by the PhD Course in Veterinary Science. In addition, asa result of the partial shutdown of the US, UK and other international Universities on the Italian territory, more applications were submitted.
The major increase in applications made it possible to select more qualified candidates than ever before.
With regard to the selected candidates, there was a substantial proportion between candidates having a UNISS qualification (50%), a non-UNISS Italian qualification (29%; 10 Italian Regions) and a foreign qualification (21%; 7 different countries) compared to past, albeit with a high discrepancy among the PhD Courses for this parameter. The increase of graduate students (there is no need for them to be the majority of candidates) who have obtained their entry qualification at a university other than UNISS (Italian and foreign), results in major cultural benefits for the University and favors in indexes used by the Ministry of Education to calculate and finance doctoral courses (Postgraduate Fund) and the University Operational Fund (FFO).


In late October, the 2020 post-graduate funding memo was forwarded by the Italian Ministry of Education. The total scholarships financed this year by the Ministry of Education are the same as last year's (they used to increase). Our University has had remarkable results, having a positive impact on the funds we receive, that is, increasing them by 11.6% (UNISS ranks tenths our of 60 universities, 40 of which have suffered a funding reduction). However, as a result of safeguard clauses (max +/- 5% difference from one year to avoid excessive fluctuations in funding), our fund has grown by 16,700 Euros (+ 1.2%) only during the last year. Without such clauses, we would have increased our funding by € 150,400 more, and that amount would have supported the PhD courses which have shown a negative performance). Obviously, there have been years when we benefited from such clauses, but hadn't safeguard clauses been applied, since 2015 to date, our funds would have increased by 73%, instead of the 33.5% increase of the postgraduate funding awarded by the Italian Ministry of Education. In fact, due to the safeguard clauses, during the last 6 years, our funds have increased by 28.8% (things went quite in years such as the current one, when the Italian Ministry of Education did not increase the overall resources).  These results will make the PhD Courses of our university more appealing.


Another important result was achieved on the indexes which contribute to the 2020 FFO fund calculation (published last September 8, 2020). The value of our University in the "Responsible Autonomy" index has improved from .94 to 1.11. Two of the ten indicators linked to the "Responsible Autonomy" index apply to doctoral courses (lett. B.a and D.b, that is, the number of PhD scholarship beneficiaries compared to the total number of professors and the number of post-docs having spent at least three months abroad during their scholarship period) have shown the greatest increase. In addition, our indexes have also helped improve the Quality of Research index contributing to the FFO and the FFO budget iter called "Youth Fund and international mobility". FFO funds do not increase the University Fund for PhD scholarships, which only rely on the Postgraduate Fund. This means that the PhD program have contributed significantly to the overall University funding.


As reported on the University Graduate School official page (https: // /...), in recent years the training activities provided by the School and the PhD Courses have been very intense, but during the last six months, they have decreased as a result of the restrictions related to the pandemic. Several activities and innovations are being implemented this year. As always, all the activities will be published on the official page and all students will be informed about them via email (hopefully everyone will participate). Several training activities have been and will be conducted in collaboration with the University administration, particularly the "Research, Internationalization, Tech Transfer and Third Mission" Area, the Prevention and Protection Service, the Library System and the Communication Office.

In particular, activities may be developed in collaboration with the University Language Center CLA, e.g. dedicated and free English classes of different levels, (funded by the Graduate School) for all the students who request them. Last spring, over 70 doctoral students attended these courses; the new courses for the current academic year will soon start. 83 students have already applied, divided into 5 classes from A1-A2 to C1 level. All foreign students are attending the Italian courses offered by the CLA. I remind that, in order to be awarded the Doctor of Philosophy Qualification, all students must have a minimum proficiency in the English language equivalent to B2 and, limited to foreign students, also a minimum level of proficiency in the Italian language equivalent to A2.


Overall, I would say that in a very competitive environment at the national and international levels, the UNISS PhD School and Courses have proven their ability to compete in all performance indexes, to attract candidates from the rest of Italy and from all over the world, and to meet students' expectations in terms of educational quality. This is the result of the collaborative work of all the members of the School, the PhD courses, primarily their coordinators, but also and importantly, the University governance (the Rector, the Vice Rector, the Director General, the Delegates) and the many professionals working at the Central Administration and the Departments (and of course the Postgraduate Education Office, that is responsible for the management of PhD courses), who contributed with their work and their ideas and made us step forward to support our postgraduate students.

Prof. Antonello Cannas, M.Sc., Ph.D.

Director of the UNISS PhD school