2018 Keynote Speakers
The keynote speakers for 2018 will be announced shortly

2016 Key Note Speakers

 JA Dean Graduate Studies 2015Professor James Arvanitakis
Dean, Graduate Research School – Western Sydney University


Worth the paper it’s written on? Reframing the contemporary PhD
Wednesday 20  April, 9.30am

Listen to Professor Arvanitakis 



The PhD, once seen as the pinnacle in academic achievement, was developed in Germany in the 1880s. Some 150 years later, the broad model of the PhD has not significantly changed: it is often reliant on the ‘lone’ researcher working on a single project for three years and producing ‘new knowledge’ at the end of the process. While some students thrive in this environment, it is not only a false image of how knowledge is developed it also fails to prepare students for the realities and challenges of our contemporary society. Furthermore, the model fails to consider the 50 percent of higher degree research candidates who do not pursue an academic career. This presentation discusses both the need to reframe the PhD as well as presenting a case study on how to confront the changing career demands of higher degree research students.


Professor James Arvanitakis is the Dean of the Graduate Research School and founding Head of The Academy at the Western Sydney University and a member of the University’s Institute for Cultural and Society.  A regular media commentator, in 2012 James was named the Prime Minister’s University Teachers of the Year. Awarded  a prestigious Australian Discovery Grant in 2013 to research Australia’s changing citizenship, in 2015 he was named an Eminent Researcher by the Australian Indian Education Council.


Helene MarshHelene Marsh
Distinguished Professor of Environmental Science and Dean, Graduate Research at James Cook University


An Australian doctorate for the 21st century; insights from the ACOLA Review Process
Thursday 21 April, 9.15am

Listen to Professor Marsh 


In May 2015, the Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA) was commissioned by the then Minister of Education to conduct a comprehensive review of Higher Degree by Research (HDR) training in Australia, in close cooperation with the parallel Watt Review of Research Policy and Funding. The ACOLA Review consulted extensively with stakeholders in the higher education, government, non-profit and private sectors and analysed literature and program materials that elucidated international and national best practices. The ACOLA Review Process found that the Australian system of HDR training is well-respected from an academic perspective, but needs to further develop its entry pathways, supervisory practices and industry engagement to maximise its social, economic and environmental benefits. The sector will need to deliver the required improvements in collaboration with key government and industry stakeholders. Time and policy stability are required to develop the necessary reform initiatives and garner the evidence-base to assess their outcomes.


Helene Marsh FAA, FTSE is Dean, Graduate Research and Distinguished Professor of Environmental Science at James Cook University. Helene was Deputy Co-chair of the Expert Working Group that conducted the recent ACOLA Review of Research Training in Australia. Helene is Australia’s longest serving Graduate Dean and has served two terms as convenor of the Australian Council of Dean and Directors of Graduate Studies. She has served on the advisory committees of 55 completed PhD and 20 Masters candidates.

2014 Key Note Speakers

Gill ClarkeGill Clarke photo
Vice-Chair, UK Council for Graduate Education

Evolution of the doctorate: a UK perspective on an international qualification
Wednesday 9  April, 9.30am

This talk addresses several themes relevant to the quality of doctoral degrees. It raises the question of the PhD as a global brand, the impact of structured programmes on the doctoral experience and its outcomes, including consideration of different subjects and models, and also considers standards and outcomes. The session also touches on some of the policy and guidance frameworks for postgraduate degrees and the sustainability of doctoral education. In addition to these general topics, the presentation focuses on two separate UK research projects relating to postgraduate education, as follows:

  1. International comparisons in postgraduate provision, funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England and involving a survey of postgraduate education in eight countries, including Australia. The project focuses on three themes: Quality, Fair Access and Impact in Employment and is part of a suite of inter-related research initiatives funded by HEFCE.
  2. A study of how examiners judge the achievement of PhD candidates in the final examination: perspectives, process and outcomes , a PhD research project. This part of the presentation includes discussion of a related jointly authored paper about the concept of originality as interpreted by doctoral examiners.

Gill Clarke has had extensive involvement in doctoral education and related policy development: at a practical level in a research-intensive UK University and at policy level nationally and internationally. During a part-time secondment to the QAA’s development and enhancement group from 2003 – 2008, she chaired the working group responsible for revising section 1 of the QAA Code of Practice: Research degree programmes (2004). This publication helped to bring about significant changes to the delivery and management of research degrees throughout the sector and has now been subsumed into Chapter B11 of the UK Quality Code about research degrees.

Gill is currently involved in the work of other sector-wide organisations, including the UK Council for Graduate Education (vice-chair), QAA, Research Councils UK, and Vitae’s Impact and Evaluation Group). She has previously contributed to European and Bologna-related doctoral (third cycle) events, including EUA and EuroDoc conferences and seminars. Other professional interests include the assessment of students and quality assurance in higher education.

Gill is currently a DPhil student in the Department of Education at the University of Oxford. The working title of her research project is: The final examination of the doctorate: a study of how examiners assess the PhD.


Dr Thomas Jørgensen
Head of Unit, European University Association-Council for Doctoral Education

European doctoral education, a silent revolution
Thursday 10 April

During the last 15 years, European universities have invested heavily in modernising doctoral education. The traditional master-apprentice model with little or no institutional backing is being replaced by a system of procedures and structures to embed doctoral education in a more formal framework to ensure the quality of research as well as the efficiency and relevance of programmes. The main vehicle for this development has been the establishment of doctoral schools as strategic management units. Such units have enabled universities to identify problems and meet them in a systematic manner at the institutional level. This trend towards professional management has ensured that European countries have been able to manage a steep increase in doctoral candidates while at the same time keeping completion rates and time to degree at reasonable levels.

The presentation summarises this development and looks at the types of procedures and structures in place as well as outlining the challenges ahead in terms of developing a specific quality culture for doctoral education, and what that means for a culturally and economically diverse region like Europe.

Thomas Ekman Jørgensen is responsible for the European University Association’s Council for Doctoral Education. His specific work areas are the training of researchers, development of doctoral schools, doctoral programmes and researcher careers. He has also worked on global trends in doctoral education including issues such as capacity building and global research collaborations.

Dr Jørgensen studied History and German Studies at the University of Copenhagen and the Free University Berlin. He received his PhD in History and Civilisation from the European University Institute in Florence in 2004 and worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Copenhagen and at the Université libre de Bruxelles before coming to EUA. As an historian, he has worked on student and left-wing movements around 1968. He has also published on youth movements during World War I.



Professor Joe Luca
Dean of the Graduate Research School, Edith Cowan University

Research training excellence in Australia: a good practice framework for Higher Degrees by Research
Friday 11 April

Over the last decade, the Australian Government has tabled a number of reports targeting improved doctoral education in Australia. They are keen to promote world-class research training and also ensure that our doctoral candidates are supported and fulfilled in their careers. This is placing Australian universities under increased pressure to review and assess their approach to research training, as well as promoting quality and timely research training outputs.

Developments in this area are being informed by a greater role for common reference points in defining and evaluating quality, with a move toward a standards-based approach to regulation and quality assurance. Among recent initiatives in this area is the development of a Good Practice Framework for research higher degrees. Its aim is to inform and guide excellence in research training by identifying a set of consistent Dimensions, Components, quality assurance processes and guidelines that can be used by any institution to help review, evaluate and benchmark their research training activities.

This plenary presentation provides an overview of the development and use of the Good Practice Framework and its role as a resource for institutions in assuring and enhancing the quality of doctoral education.

Professor Joe Luca is the Dean of the Graduate Research School at Edith Cowan University in West Australia. His professional and research interests are focused on promoting the quality of research and research training, supervisory practice, online learning, graduate attributes and project management. In these fields he has written over 100 refereed journal, book chapter, book and conference publications.

In 2011, Joe was awarded a grant from the Australian Government to develop a Good Practice Framework for HDR Training Excellence in Australia; he is also part of an inter-university team to win a grant to Develop a Toolkit and Framework to support new postgraduate research supervisors in emerging research areas.

Joe has been recognised for his work in teaching and learning and was awarded a national award for Teaching Excellence in 2008 (Australian Awards for University Teaching), an Australian CAAUT Citation Award in 2007 and Vice Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2006 & 2001.

→ Edith Cowan University: Good Practice Framework for Research Training