at the Faculty of Law of the Masaryk University
What are doctoral studies?
According to the Higher Education Act, the doctoral degree program focuses on “scientific research and independent creative activities in the area of research or development“.
Its aim is to develop skills and knowledge necessary for scientific work in the field of law. The graduate (A) should have a deep knowledge of the chosen field of study above the level of the master's degree; (B) she/he should be able to research scientifically - to be able to come to the relevant and original scientific results through her/his own creative work, and moreover, she/he should be able to share them with others: in writing (professional or lay publications), and verbally (conference presentations and teaching (if applicable).
Deep knowledge and skills (A) are developed in the framework of doctoral studies by professional activities (especially participation in professional discussions, reading groups, lectures and courses, self-study, reading, processing the written tasks, etc.). They are verified also in the final doctoral state exam.
In the field of scientific research (B), activities focus primarily on the preparation and writing of dissertations. It is by writing and defending the doctoral thesis that the student verifies the acquisition of the majority of skills that should be acquired during studies (for a basic overview see here). The dissertation is the determinative element of the Doctoral study programme, the preparation of which accounts for the majority of time spent in the programme. Methodological courses and seminars help student with the preparation of the dissertation, but she/he especially relies on the guidance of the supervisor.
Doctoral studies are distinctly individualized. It is based on intensive cooperation with a supervisor who leads the doctoral student methodologically and professionally. A well-functioning student-supervisor relationship is one of the basic prerequisites for a successful course of study.
If applicable, part of the doctoral study is also the development of pedagogical competences. The graduate should be ready to participate in the academic environment in its teaching part (although the degree of participation is different for each student and depends on the individual study plan). During their studies students recognize the educational process in all its components (content preparation and organization of teaching, teaching itself, organization and implementation of testing) and actively participates in it.
What doctoral studies are not
Doctoral study is not a mere continuation of master's study. It is not just another acquisition of expertise; therefore, the primary focus of Doctoral studies is not a typical classroom-based teaching (lectures and seminars). Studying is much more independent, more individual and focused primarily on each own creative scientific activity.
Doctoral study is also not an easy way to get another degree while working. It requires a considerable amount of time and effort. Doctoral applicants must take into account the amount of reading and independent thinking necessary for the degree programme. It is not suitable for applicants who are not willing and able to perform a significant amount of independent reading, writing and research.
Parallel (part-time) employment is generally not an obstacle for Doctoral candidates, even those studying full-time. However, students must be mindful of the amount of time that is necessary in order to complete the Doctoral programme, as well as the fact that degree standards are not lowered depending on the students’ circumstances. Students should be ready and willing to dedicate the time necessary for the significant commitments that a Doctoral programme entails.
What can student expect from doctoral studies at the MUNI Faculty of Law?
Above all, students should expect the opportunity to develop and refine their legal expertise in their chosen field as well as grow professionally. By selecting a topic of interest, cooperating with a knowledgeable and inspirational supervisor who is able to offer professional guidance, and working hard, doctoral candidates have an opportunity to stand apart from graduates of Masters Programmes. However, much is up to how doctoral students use the time and opportunity that the programme offers.
The Doctoral Board (Committee) decides on the appointment of the supervisor on the proposal of the student. The supervisors are usually associate professors and professors, otherwise the approval of the Scientific Board is required. An associate professor / a professor can as a supervisor tutor 5 students at most; others can tutor 1 student. It is important to respect the limits set by the university rules. Therefore, is not always possible to be supervised by the person you would like most. It is advisable to inquire about possible fulfilment of the limits at the supervisor's suggestion. Equally this also applies when selecting a research focus. It is advisable to check the personal pages of the supervisors to get familiar with their professional interests and areas of teaching and publications: People.
Within the limits set by the rules of the particular programme, the student can expect the possibility of choosing specialized and/or methodological courses, based on their areas of interest and the skills necessary for the writing of their dissertation. All activities and study responsibilities depends on the individual study plan. While some courses may be mandatory, much will depend on the ISP that the students and supervisor create. Careful reflection should go into what skill and particular knowledge the student needs to develop in order to achieve their learning objectives, as well as what form and structure best suits the ISP (these may be different for different students). Only after careful reflection should the student and supervisor devise the content of the ISP.
In specialized subjects, students will acquire the appropriate knowledge and skills and receive feedback from relevant teachers - be it feedback on written submissions, discussion on assigned readings or other forms of study activities. These can vary in individual programs. However, as a general rule, in each field, best practices and efficiency maximizing forms of study are shared with students and followed.
What can a student expect from her/his supervisor?
- Professional and methodological guidance in the preparation and writing of the dissertation.
- Support for the development of the skills and knowledge needed to achieve the learning objectives.
- Respectful communication (assuming reciprocity).
- Feedback and methodological assistance in the preparation and execution of individualized activities (esp. for publications and conference presentations); a prerequisite, however, is respecting reasonable time limits.
- Quality preference over mere quantity of the publication and conference output.
- (If applicable) mentoring in the development of pedagogical skills, targeting the set responsibilities for developing specific skills; not exceeding the limits for a direct teaching (overall maximum 25 teaching blocks [100 min] per study) - this limit may only be exceeded after a mutual agreement and with a consent of the faculty.
- Difficulty, but fairness in setting study obligations (not burdening the student with obligations that are not related to his studies).
- Willingness to provide time outside of the announced office hours, if necessary.
An important principle for supervisors, as well as other teachers is also transparency - student should know in advance what is expected of her/him in each subject and activity and what the requirements for a successful completion are.
And what can supervisors expect from the students?
- Conscientious and timely fulfilment of study obligations.
- Interest in professional development and acquisition of new knowledge and skills; active approach.
- Actively seeking out appropriate opportunities to engage with their chosen area of study and develop their expertise.
- Seeking to realize her / his full potential in terms of output quality.
- Healthy assertiveness, but also humility in receiving and providing feedback.
- Adherence to set deadlines, continuous work on individual tasks in order to keep the standard length of study.
- Keeping the supervisor informed about progress in her / his professional activities.