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Unpacking the “black box” towards quality and quality assurance of Europe-China joint doctoral education

Tampere University
4.6.2020 9.00–13.00
Entrance feeFree of charge
Gaoming Zheng
The doctoral research of Gaoming Zheng aims to address the challenges for providing high-quality international joint doctoral education in Europe-China collaboration, by revealing the meta-mechanism — institutional logic — in the environment that contributes to the quality and quality assurance of the joint doctoral education.

The qualitative study includes abundant data from ninety interviews conducted in China and Finland involving 156 participants, three site observations in China, and rich documentary material, and analyses the data through a state-of-the-art theoretical lens of institutional theory, a lens of institutional logics.

In recent decade, cooperating with international partners to provide high-quality doctoral education jointly becomes a shared interest for actors in higher education worldwide, including actors from Europe and China. However, in cooperative practices, ensuring the quality of the international joint doctoral education faces many difficulties.

“The difficulties were related to our insufficient knowledge about the impacts of the research environment, constituted by environmental elements (both compatible and incompatible) from different doctoral education systems or cultures,” says Gaoming Zheng.  

Setting to address the difficulties, Zheng’s dissertation reveals how the research environment for doctoral education have influences on the transformation process of doctoral education inside, and thereby determine the quality of the doctoral education, with a specific empirical focus on Europe-China joint doctoral education.

Taking China Scholarship Council (CSC) funded doctoral students in Finnish universities as an example, Zheng found the environmental impacts brought changes to CSC students’ professional identity, their academic activities, and their relation with their supervisors. The environment also influenced actors’ perceptions of quality, and guided the set-up of an internal quality assurance system, as seen in another case study of a Portugal-China joint doctoral program in Zheng’s research.

“Actors (from Europe and China) often focus on the distinctions between system structures and hesitate to make decisions for further cooperation. This research shows that common logics (meta-mechanism) are an underlying factor of various system features”, Zheng’s research points out.

It implies that the forces driving the development of different doctoral education systems can be the same or compatible. This gives policymakers more confident about extending the cooperation between Europe and China in higher education (including doctoral education).

Her research also implies that actors in international doctoral education, particularly doctoral supervisor and doctoral students, should be aware of the impacts of cross-cultural and cross-system elements on the learning process of international doctoral students. Supervisors are recommended to proactively facilitate international doctoral students integrating into local scholarly community.

Gaoming Zheng, originally from China, is currently working at Higher Education Group (HEG) in Faculty of Management and Business. Her research area covers doctoral education, quality of higher education, internationalisation of higher education, Europe-China collaboration in higher education, academic profession, and institutional theory.

The doctoral dissertation of MSc. Gaoming Zheng in the field of administrative sciences titled Quality and Quality Assurance in Europe-China Joint Doctoral Education: An Institutional Logics Perspective will be publicly examined in the Faculty of Management and Business at Tampere University on Thursday 4 June 2020 at 12 o’clock. The Opponent will be Professor Dr. Rui Yang, The University of Hong Kong. The Custos will be Senior Lecturer and Adjunct Professor Dr. Yuzhuo Cai, Faculty of Management and Business, Tampere University.

Due to the coronavirus situation, public defences at Tampere University are organized via digital platform  

The dissertation is available online at the

Photo: Jonne Renvall