Doctoral Academic Studies:

Study programme - Biology

STANDARDS FOR ACCREDITATION

OF PhD STUDY PROGRAMME BIOLOGY

Introduction: Institution

Introduction: Study programme

standards

Special standard: Competence of higher education institution for doctoral studies

The higher education institution proves its readiness to carry out doctoral studies on the basis of indicators related to scientific research work.

Description (maximum 100 words):

The Faculty of Biology has a long tradition of training highly qualified investigators and is renowned in the region as a leading biological research institution.

The continually advancing research process at the Faculty of Biology is reflected in a large number of successfully defended doctoral dissertations, which have made a significant scientific contribution through numerous publications in top-flight international journals.

The framework for doctoral dissertations is provided by research projects realized at the faculty, as well as by numerous collaborations with other institutions in Serbia and abroad. The instructors are renowned investigators who, through research projects, have achieved outstanding results, as indicated by the quality and number of their publications. Moreover, doctoral studies participate significantly in the education of young scientists.

Standard 1: Structure of the study programme

Doctoral studies have at least 180 ECTS credits, with a previously completed volume of studies of at least 300 ECTS credits in undergraduate academic and master academic studies, i.e. completed integrated academic studies. The doctoral dissertation is the final part of the doctoral study programme.

Description (maximum 300 words):

Study programme Biology is organized and realized by the Faculty of Biology of the University of Belgrade in cooperation with instructors and scientists from 9 scientific institutes and four faculties in Serbia.

The study programme carries a total of 180 ECTS credits, lasts three years, and includes 15 modules: Algology, Biology of microorganisms, Cell and Tissue Biology, Developmental Biology of Animals, Cellular and Molecular Oncology, Experimental and Applied Botany, Entomology, Evolutionary Biology, Physiology and Molecular Biology of Plants, Genetics, Genotoxicology, Mycology, Fisheries Biology with Principles of Aquaculture, Systematic Botany, and Zoology.

Two required courses, linked with the doctoral dissertation, are the same for the whole study programme. The programme also includes five required seminars and work on the creation of the doctoral thesis. For each module, many elective subjects are organized into an elective block unique for the study programme, which enables modularity and a wider choice of subjects compatible with students' specific needs. For each module, one elective subject is defined as required for the given module. Every student in the course of his/her studies earns 45 ECTS credits from elective subjects.

The programme is realized through 1) active teaching, which includes lectures, other forms of interactive teaching, and research work; and 2) individual work of students. Monitoring the programme realization is the responsibility of the module's leader and the Committee on Doctoral Studies, which consists of the leaders of all of the modules. The chief instructor is responsible for organizing the teaching of his/her subject. As a rule, the chief instructor engages several invited lecturers, each of whom is responsible for the realization of that part of the subject's programme in which he/she is scientifically competent. Depending on circumstances, guest lecturers from Serbia and abroad are also engaged.

Progress of the doctoral dissertation is monitored by a mentor and a tutor from the Faculty. Their role is to monitor the student's progress continually, give advice on the choice of subjects, and assist in the realization of his/her research project.

Standard 2: Purpose of the study programme

The doctoral study programme has a clearly defined and published purpose and role in the education system.

Description (maximum 300 words):

The foundation of the Biology Programme of doctoral studies lies in scientific research within the framework of numerous domestic and international projects. The purpose of the programme is to enable students to study modern biology and develop genuine academic interest and competence. Apart from representing a continuation of their ongoing and complete education in the biological sciences, the programme helps students to enrich their knowledge in certain areas of biology and view scientific problems as a whole in the light of other relevant domains. Biology is a science with a long tradition that apart from its classical disciplines—zoology, botany, physiology, and genetics—has developed a large number of modern disciplines, such as cell biology, molecular biology, microbiology, neuroscience, etc. Recent achievements in different biological disciplines have found applications in many related sciences, including agriculture, medicine, forestry, and environmental protection, as well as in various industries (the food, pharmaceutical, chemical, etc., industries). Many generations of biologists who studied at the Faculty of Biology have found a place in research and academic institutions, in industrial development laboratories and institutes, in clinical laboratories, and on teams of physicians, where their knowledge contributes to the improvement of diagnostic, prognostic, and therapeutic protocols. Every developed society, and especially every society in the process of development, has an obvious need for highly educated biologists who are able through their knowledge and work to advance the development of their science and apply their acquired expertise in other activities. In our country, there is an evident need for the existence of higher levels of biological education and for biologists able to meet the high demands of the present day. The purpose of the Biology Programme of doctoral studies is precisely to develop such qualified persons. This programme was conceived in such a way as to enable future doctors of science (Ph.D. holders) to independently develop original theoretical and experimental approaches to the resolution of scientific problems; use the literature and information technology effectively; critically analyse and interpret the latest advances in biology, biotechnology, and bioinformatics; independently employ existing technologies and develop new ones in different branches of the economy, and independently implement existing scientific methods and develop new ones based on the discoveries of contemporary biology.

Standard 3: Aims of the study programme

The doctoral study programme has defined goals.

Description (maximum 300 words):

The main goal of the Biology Programme is to ensure an intellectual framework for the development of highly educated and creative young scientists. In the future, these scientists can be expected to assume leading positions in scientific research, university teaching, and disciplines and activities of applied biology (agriculture, medicine, the pharmaceutical, food, and chemical industries). The programme offers students high-quality theoretical knowledge and experience in conducting experiments in different areas of biology, as well as specific knowledge and skills in the narrower fields of their research.

Instructors present students with contemporary views on burning problems in many narrower areas of biology, in addition to which students are informed of the latest experimental approaches in the resolution of scientific problems and new technologies.

Particular goals of the Biology Programme of doctoral studies are as follows: enrichment and systematization of biological knowledge gained at the previous levels of education; acquaintance with themes of burning interest to the contemporary scientific public, especially ones which were not treated or were inadequately treated in bachelor and master studies; development of independent and critical thought through interactive forms of instruction such as round-tables, group analysis and interpretation of experimental data from the literature or the students´ experimental data; acquisition of the ability to analyse scientific papers of crucial importance in certain areas of study; development of creativity, individuality, and personal affinities through activities such as the writing of essays on freely selected themes, designing of research project proposals, etc.; and mastery by students of academic skills such as writing scientific papers, designing project proposals, and presenting the results of their own research.

Standard 4: Competencies of graduates

By mastering the doctoral study programme, the student acquires general and specific research skills that are subordinated to the quality of performing professional and scientific activities.

Description (maximum 300 words):

The concept, quality, goals, and organization of the Biology Programme of doctoral studies are such that students upon completing it will have acquired general and specific capabilities that qualify them for research work and represent a solid basis on which to build a scientific and/or university career. Together with the enrichment of their theoretical knowledge in a particular narrower field of science, students will have acquired the ability to approach and view the fundamental problems of biology in an integrated way. They will have developed the intellectual and experimental skills needed for creative and practical scientific work and further enrichment of their knowledge in both biology and other related areas (medicine, veterinary medicine, agriculture, pharmacy, etc.).

By mastering this study programme, students will acquire the latest knowledge in different areas of biology that will constitute a good foundation for conceptualizing the scientific problems of interest to them.

Different forms of interactive teaching represent an intellectual challenge and stimulate students to form and freely express their opinions, focus on the most important scientific problems in certain narrower areas of biology, and formulate questions linked with their resolution. They will also be able to express and effectively support their views, critically analyse and interpret their own experimental results and the results of other authors, evaluate hypotheses and theories encountered in the literature, and apply their knowledge and ideas in attempting to resolve theoretical and experimental problems arising in the course of their work.

Through writing and publically presenting essays, as well as by participating in seminars, students acquire valuable experience that helps them to master the skills of writing scientific papers and oral communication with an audience.

Experience gained by working in different laboratories enables students to visualize the complexity of experimental work, from planning and preparation of experiments through mastery of various methods and experimental approaches to presenting and analysing the obtained results using the most modern software packages.

By writing a proposal for their own research project, students, with the aid of their mentors and tutors, acquire the ability to clearly and precisely define their research goals and design appropriate experimental approaches that will ensure the obtainment of high-quality and biologically relevant results and make possible effective monitoring of the project´s realization.

Standard 5: Curriculum

The curriculum contains a list and structure of compulsory and elective courses and modules with their description and the doctoral dissertation as the concluding part of the programme of doctoral studies.

Description (maximum 300 words):

The study programme includes fifteen modules. By choosing a module, students opt for a narrower area of investigation and for a mentor who will help them select the subjects to be studied. Instruction in all 15 modules includes five elective subjects that are organized into a unified elective block, some of which offer necessary knowledge not acquired on the lower levels of study (subjects such as Academic Skills, Data Analysis in Biology, and Research Methods in Biology), whereas the majority of subjects offer content specific for certain areas of biology or specific multidisciplinary knowledge. During the first year, the student studies one elective course obligatory for the chosen module (9 ECTS) and two other elective subjects (carrying a total of 18 ECTS credits) and is engaged in acquiring the laboratory skills needed for production of his/her doctoral dissertation through the subjects Doctoral Dissertation 1 and Student Research 1 and 2 (carrying a total of 33 ECTS credits). During the second year of study, in addition to two elective subjects from the unified elective block (18 ECTS credits in all), the student through the subject Defense of the Doctoral Project Proposal (10 ECTS credits), in cooperation with his/her mentor and tutor, prepares a proposal for the doctoral project. The Doctoral project proposal is to be defended at the end of the winter semester and represents the foundation for the doctoral dissertation. The student in the second year of study is engaged in work on the doctoral dissertation and laboratory work (32 ECTS credits in all). In the sixth semester, in addition to work on the doctoral dissertation, the student through the subject Presentation of Student's Research Results prepares a presentation of published results of his/her research which he defends before an audience composed of the mentor(s), tutor, and members of the Expert Committee.

Students can also select courses from appropriate doctoral programmes offered by other faculties of the University of Belgrade

Instruction takes place during the first two years of study, while the third year is devoted to research work and finalization of the doctoral dissertation. The work on the doctoral dissertation carries a total of 100 ECTS credits, and subjects related to work on doctoral thesis carry 35 ECTS. All work on the dissertation transpires under the supervision of the student's mentor and tutor, whose role is to contribute to the quality and effectiveness of realization of the candidate's dissertation.

Standard 5 Tables:

Table 5.1. Course specification for the doctoral study program.

Standard 5 Annexes:

Annex 5.2. Course book (in the documentation and on the institution's website)

Standard 6: Quality, modernity and international compliance of the study programme

The study programme follows the contemporary world trends in the relevant educational and scientific field, it is aligned with the country's strategic priorities and is comparable to similar programmes at foreign higher education institutions within the European educational space.

Description (maximum 300 words):

In our efforts to create the most stimulating possible environment for ambitious and creative young scientists who want to develop into modern investigators and make a significant contribution to the advancement of contemporary biology, we conceived the programme of doctoral studies with a view toward the best schools in Europe in keeping with our own human and material resources. At all European universities, the doctoral programmes in biology are among the most competitive, and curricula that differ from university to university encompass a varying number of specific areas of research. Common to all universities is the emphasis on experimental laboratory investigations performed by students under the supervision of a mentor (a scientist or a professor) that makes a notable scientific contribution in the given area of research. Our programme also emphasises individual research work under the guidance of the mentor carefully balanced to ensure the effective progress of students and, at the same time, leave enough space for unimpeded development of the spirit of investigation.

In creating the Biology Programme of doctoral studies, we used as models many programmes existing within the framework of the educational space of Europe, namely:

  1. Doctoral programmes of Freiburg University in Germany (http://www.bio.uni-freiburg.de), with which our programme is comparable in several aspects: 1) Students from the very start are involved in research projects within whose framework they develop their doctoral dissertations. 2) Students work in a creative environment that stimulates their personal affinities, creativity, curiosity, ambition, and propensity for collaboration; and 3) Together with research work, students receive necessary additional education and acquire skills that promote their further development.
  2. Doctoral programmes of the Faculty of Sciences, Charles University, Czech Republic (http://natur.cuni.cz/biology?set_language=en), Our research school rests on the same foundations and is characterized by a similar development of the scientific education received by doctoral candidates.
  3. The Biology Programme of doctoral studies offered by York University in England (http://www.york.ac.uk/biology/), This programme involves an exchange of equipment and other material resources between research groups, resulting in work under optimal technical conditions and with the informal assistance of a large number of scientists and instructors. Courses offered, apart from scientific themes, treat subjects from areas such as academic skills, management, etc.

Standard 7: Student enrollment

Higher education institution enrolls students in the doctoral study programme following social and scientific, educational and cultural development needs and with its resources.

Description (maximum 300 words):

Registration of candidates is based on an open competition announced by the University of Belgrade and conducted by the Faculty of Biology. For doctoral studies, candidates who fulfill the general conditions stipulated by the Law on Higher Education of the Republic of Serbia and relevant statutes of the faculty can apply. A maximum of 40 students will be enrolled in the first year of study each academic year.

For admission to doctoral studies can apply a person who has completed undergraduate academic and master academic studies, or integrated academic studies with at least 300 ECTS credits, or completed four-year studies under the regulations that were in force until the entry into force of the Serbian Law on Higher Education, and with the overall average grade of at least eight (8).

Also, those having a general average score of less than eight (8) and equal to or greater than 7.5 can apply if they published at least one research paper in the scientific field of the study program for which applying. These persons are ranked together with other candidates.

The doctoral academic study program requires completed undergraduate and master's academic studies, i.e., integrated academic studies in Biological sciences or related study programmes (in the fields of chemistry, physical chemistry, medicine, pharmacy, verterinary sciences, agriculture, forestry, environmental sciences) as a condition for enrollment in doctoral studies.

The candidates are ranked based on the achievements during their previous education. The accomplishment, which takes into account the number of years of study and the average grade during undergraduate and master or integrated academic studies, is expressed as points (up to 95). A maximum of 5 points can be achieved if the candidate has published scientific paper(s) in journals categorized by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development of the Republic of Serbia.

For enrolling in doctoral studies is eligible a person who knows the English language at the level of Independent B2 First according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

Standard 8: Student evaluation and progression

Evaluation and assessment of students progress are done by continuous monitoring of students' work and based on points earned by completing pre-examinations and passing exams. The doctoral dissertation is evaluated based on indicators of its scientific contribution.

Description (maximum 300 words):

Evaluation of students is carried out by monitoring their scientific and experimental work, as well as by continual monitoring of student progress through lectures, discussions, seminars, and finally, the exams. Examinations are taken in written and/or oral form. For each subject, the form of examination is defined by the course programme.

The overall success of students is judged on the basis of success demonstrated in satisfying pre-examination obligations and by passing the written and/or oral part of an examination organized after the completion of instruction in the given subject. Overall success is expressed by a final grade ranging from 5 (five) to 10 (ten), which is formed on the basis of points earned by the student in pre-examination work and on the final examination.

The work of students with their mentors continues after the completion of instruction. It lasts until the end of doctoral studies, that is, until the defence of the doctoral dissertation.

Successful passing of the seminar subject Defence of the Doctoral Project Proposal is a prerequisite for an announcement of the doctoral dissertation's theme. Publication of two papers in journals from the SCI list, at least one of which has the PhD candidate as the first author, and successful passing of the seminar Presentation of Student's Research Results are prerequisites for defending the doctoral dissertation.

Standard 9: Teaching staff

Teachers with the required scientific competence are engaged in the realization of the doctoral programme of studies.

Description (maximum 300 words):

Teachers with the required scientific competence are engaged in the realization of the doctoral programme of studies.

An adequate number of instructors with appropriate scientific qualifications are engaged in the accomplishment of the Biology Programme of doctoral studies. Teaching in this study programme is carried out by instructors and associates selected on the basis of strict criteria that recognize competence in the area of scientific research and the ability to teach successfully. The instructors fully satisfy the study programme´s needs in the sense of both their competence and the workloads assigned to them..

Standard 9 Tables:

Table 9.1a. Book of lecturers on the doctoral study programme Biology

Table 9.1b. Book of mentors on the doctoral study programme Biology

Standard 10: Organizational and material resources

Adequate human, physical, technical and technological, and other resources are available for the realization of the study programme. These resources satisfy the needs of the doctoral programme and the number of students admitted.

Description (no more than 300 words):

The necessary number of teachers are engaged in the realization of the Biology Programme of doctoral studies. The Faculty of Biology has an appropriate number of modern and well-equipped laboratories, which are continuously being upgraded. Lecture halls are adequately maintained, a library is supplied with computers, books, textbooks, laboratory manuals, scientific journals etc. In ensuring material means for production of doctoral theses, scientific projects are financed by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development of the Republic of Serbia, the Science Fund of the Republic of Serbia, the Innovation Fund, and international sources of financing including the most competitive programmes of the European Commission.

Standard 11: Quality control

For the doctoral study programme, the higher education institution regularly and systematically conducts quality control through self-evaluation and external verification of quality.

Description (maximum 100 words):

In order to ensure continuous control of the quality of doctoral study programmes, the Faculty of Biology adheres to established standards and procedures. This is done through the evaluation of both the programmes offered and the competence of Ph.D. candidates. The purpose of monitoring is improving the curriculum, the content of instruction, the team of teachers, the research work of doctoral students, and the literature produced by them.

The faculty´s book of regulations governing doctoral studies pays special attention to monitoring the quality of doctoral dissertations and the prevention of plagiarism.

Control of the study programme´s quality is realized periodically through self-evaluation (every three years) and external quality control (every five years).

Students participate actively in control of the study programme quality through questionnaires that evaluate the quality of the programme and instructors.

Standard 12: Public accessibility

For the doctoral study programme, a higher education institution provides public access to the study program and doctoral dissertation as a final part of doctoral studies.

Description (maximum 100 words):

The study programme is publicly accessible at the website of the University of Belgrade—Faculty of Biology (https://www.bio.bg.ac.rs/studijski-program-biologija-doktorske). All doctoral dissertations are available to public scrutiny in electronic form at least 30 days before their defence at the following internet address: https://uvidok.rcub.bg.bio.ac.rs/handle/123456789/15. Also, doctoral dissertations defended at the Faculty of Biology are deposited in the digital repository of the “Svetozar Marković” University Library, and in the digital repository of the Faculty of Biology or BIORE (https://biore.bio.bg.ac.rs/cris/explore/theses). Data on the competence and previous mentorships of accredited mentors, as well as on the scientific papers of candidates, the publication of which was a prerequisite for defence of their dissertations are publicly available within the framework of documentation for accreditation of study programmes (https://www.bio.bg.ac.rs/akreditacija-studijskih-programa).

Standard 13: Studies at a world language

A higher education institution may organize a doctoral study programme in the world language for each field, and each educational and scientific field provided it has the human and material resources to accomplish the programme following the standards.

Description (maximum 300 words):

The study programme Biology is accredited in Serbian and English languages. Compulsory courses and seminars do not differ between the Serbian and English programs. Studies in English include fifteen modules, with a total of 56 elective courses whose curriculum corresponds to the curriculum in the Serbian language. All teachers who are engaged in the accomplishment of the study programme have the appropriate competencies to teach in English. Student service officials are trained to provide services in English. Students are obliged to submit a certificate of English language proficiency upon enrollment.