Doctoral Academic Studies:

Study programme - Ecology

STANDARDS FOR ACCREDITATION

OF PhD STUDY PROGRAMME ECOLOGY

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):

The Ecology Programme of doctoral studies is organized and realized by the Faculty of Biology, University of Belgrade, in collaboration with experts from other relevant institutions. The study programme carries a total of 180 ECTS credits, lasts three years, and includes four modules: Plant Ecology and Phytogeography; Animal Ecology and Biogeography; Conservation Ecology and Environmental Protection; and Aquatic ecology. Required for the whole programme are two subjects, five seminars, and the development of a doctoral dissertation. For all modules, a number of elective subjects are available in a unique elective block. For each module, one elective subject is defined as a required subject for the given module. Every student in the course of his/her studies earns 45 ECTS credits from elective subjects.

With the approval of his/her mentor, the student can select elective subjects from other study programmes organized by the University of Belgrade. The elective part of the programme is planned in accordance with individual needs of the candidate depending on his/her previous education and experience.

The programme is realized through 1) active teaching that includes lectures, other forms of interactive theoretical instruction, and research work; and 2) individual work of the student.

The chief instructor of a subject is responsible for the organization of classes within the framework of the subject in question. As a rule, the instructor engages several lecturers, each of whom performs that part of the given subject´s programme in which they are scientifically competent. Depending on circumstances, guest lecturers are engaged from both Serbia and abroad.

The development of the doctoral dissertation of every student is monitored by a three-member committee that includes two persons apart from the mentor. The role of these committees is to monitor the progress of students and assist in the realization of their research programmes.

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 Ecology Programme of doctoral studies was developed in response to the growing need for competent teachers as well as investigators and practical workers in the fields of ecology, biogeography, and protection of biodiversity. Ecology is a very complex and multidisciplinary subject that, apart from a basic biological background, requires a wide range of knowledge from the fields of geography, hydrology, pedology, geology, climatology, technology, sociology, and other disciplines. The position of modern man as a specific ecological factor in the biosphere—with all of the negative and positive effects and consequences that he creates in the environment on the global, regional, and local levels—represents a complex and pressing problem. In response, various services, departments, or working units for environmental protection have been formed at all levels of the organization, from working organizations, municipal and city secretariats, ministries, and institutes to national parks and other protected regions. This situation enables ecologists working in multidisciplinary teams (together with experts from other fields—technologists, urbanists, architects, agronomists, sociologists, lawyers, economists, etc.) to contribute significantly to the advancement of social activity in the area of environmental protection. Given the need for education of local experts in dealing with relevant problems—individuals capable of successfully coping with the ever-greater number of urgent scientific tasks on the national as well as international levels—it was of vital importance to develop a programme of doctoral studies that would cover both theoretical and practical/applied aspects of analysis, monitoring, and conservation of the exceptionally rich living world of the Balkan Peninsula. Along with considerable enrichment of the candidate´s basic theoretical knowledge and a dynamic interdisciplinary approach, the programme is aimed at the acquisition of specialized practical skills and preparation of future experts for application of modern investigative techniques and scientific concepts in keeping with international standards. The programme offers possibilities for specialization and further academic work and research needed on different levels of the ecological hierarchy for the resolution of various taxon-specific problems and environmental questions related to different types of habitats.

Standard 3: Aims of the study programme

The doctoral study programme has defined goals.

Description (maximum 300 words):

The goal of the Ecology Programme of studies is to ensure a framework for the development of highly educated and creative young scientists. In the future, these scientists should assume leading positions in scientific research, university teaching, and activities involving the implementation of the principles of ecology, biogeography, environmental protection, and preservation of biodiversity. The programme provides students with high-quality theoretical knowledge and practical experience, as well as specific information and skills in the narrower area of their own research. Given the complexity and significance of the phenomena in question, the realization of the programme covers both fundamental and applied aspects of the investigation, monitoring, protection, conservation, and sustainable utilization of the rich and diverse living world of the Balkan Peninsula.

Particular goals of the Ecology Programme of doctoral studies are as follows. 1) Advancement and systematization of knowledge in the areas of ecology, biogeography, and environmental protection acquired at the previous levels of education. 2) Acquaintance with themes of burning interest to members of the contemporary scientific public, especially ones that were not treated or which were inadequately treated in the student´s basic and master studies. 3) Development of independent and critical thought through interactive forms of instruction such as round-tables, group analysis and interpretation of data from the literature or the students´ data, analysis of key scientific papers in certain areas of study, etc. 4) Stimulation of creativity, individuality, and personal affinities through activities such as the writing of essays on freely chosen themes, designing of proposals for research projects, etc. and 5) Mastering of academic skills such as the writing of scientific papers and project proposals, as well as the effective presentation by students of their research results.

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 Ecology Programme of studies is oriented toward the enrichment of the basic theoretical knowledge of students, expansion of their practical experience, and improvement of their competence in the areas of ecology, biogeography, and protection of the biodiversity of terrestrial and aquatic habitats. The programme enables future experts to apply the latest research technology and scientific concepts while honouring relevant standards with a view toward political considerations and the practice of appropriate management of a kind that will ensure high-quality international cooperation. The focus of the programme is on research methodologies and standards that are internationally recognized and applicable to the national and regional levels. Given the complexity of the phenomena in question, the programme also treats practical/applied aspects along with providing a broad and modern theoretical base. The programme offers qualifications for academic work and scientific research, in addition to providing opportunities for application of knowledge and skills in analysis, monitoring, management, and protection of the Balkan Peninsula´s biodiversity. It enables the student to concentrate on different levels of ecological organization (the species, population, and regional-ecosystem levels), as well as on different types of environments (terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and habitats).

Different forms of interactive instruction stimulate students to independently form and freely express their opinion, to focus on the most important scientific problems in certain narrower areas of ecology, biogeography, and biodiversity protection. Students are encouraged to formulate questions leading to the resolution of those problems; to present their views with substantiation; to critically analyse and interpret their results and the results of other authors, as well as hypotheses and theories they come across in studying the literature. Students are also encouraged to apply their knowledge and ideas in resolving problems they encounter in working on their research projects.

Through writing and public presentation of essays and participation in seminars, students gain valuable experience that helps them to master the skills of authoring scientific papers and speaking before an audience. By writing proposals for their research projects, students, with the help of their mentors and other committee members, learn to clearly and precisely define their research goals and design appropriate experimental approaches in a way that ensures the obtaining of high-quality and biologically relevant results and successful realization of the project.

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 consists of four modules. By choosing a module, the student opts for a narrower field of research and a mentor with whose assistance he/she will select the subjects to be studied. 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 experimental 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 elective subjects from the unified elective block (carrying a total of 18 ECTS credits), the student through the subject Defence of the Doctoral Project Proposal (10 ECTS credits)—in collaboration with his/her mentor and tutor—prepares a proposal for a doctoral project to be defended at the end of the winter semester. This proposal represents the basis of the doctoral dissertation. The student in the second year of study is engaged in developing his/her doctoral dissertation and in laboratory and field work (carrying a total of 32 ECTS credits ). Instruction takes place during the first and second years of study, while the third year proposes research work and development of the doctoral dissertation. The research work includes both laboratory and/or field work within the context of various investigative or applied projects in the areas of ecology, biogeography, and biodiversity protection selected by the student with the mentor's approval. In the sixth semester, in addition to the development of the doctoral dissertation, through the subject Presentation of Students' Research Results student prepares a presentation of published results of his/her research which he defends before an audience composed of the mentor(s), tutor, and expert committee.

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

The work on the doctoral dissertation carries a total of 100 ECTS credits, and subjects related to work on doctoral thesis carry 35 ECTS credits. All work on the doctoral dissertation is carried out under the supervision of a mentor and a tutor, whose role is to contribute to the quality and effectiveness of realization of the candidate's doctoral 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):

The study programme Ecology was conceived with a view toward similar programmes at European and American universities in keeping with our own human and material resources. With different numbers of specific areas of research, many universities throughout the world offer doctoral studies in the field of ecology and environmental and biodiversity protection. Common to these programmes is the accent on a sound theoretical ground with practical laboratory and field work.

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

  1. The Ecology Programme of doctoral studies at the Institute of Environmental Studies of Zurich University (http://www.ieu.uzh.ch/teaching/phd/graduate.html) has as its goals improvement of the competence of students and mastery of skills needed for a successful career in academic or other institutions. As in our programme, a large number of courses are offered that cover specific material and methods directly related to the students´ doctoral project. The institute also organizes a required seminar where candidates present their doctoral project before an audience, which promotes the exchange of experience among students.
  2. The doctoral programme of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation of Exeter University (http://biosciences.exeter.ac.uk/cec/) is similar to our programme in that it offers a broad spectrum of theoretical knowledge in the area of ecology together with sound laboratory practice and field work, while at the same time making students competent in the performance of various tasks of importance to them, from quantitative data analysis to application for financial aid. Apart from laboratory practice and field work, both programmes provide training in the use of mathematical modeling in efforts to conserve and protect threatened species and habitats. Students are acquainted with specific forms of conservation politics, including legal and economic aspects of environmental protection.
  3. The School of Environmental Studies of East Anglia University (http://www.uea.ac.uk/environmental-sciences) represents one of the best institutions of research and education in the world as far as interdisciplinary treatment of environmental science is concerned. With this programme our programme shares a holistic approach to environmental studies, with the integration of the methodologies of different sciences. Both programmes offer sound applied and practical knowledge.

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 10 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, which is a mandatory requirement for applications but is not separately scored. These persons are ranked together with other candidates.

The doctoral academic study programme 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):

The Faculty of Biology has an adequate number of instructors with appropriate scientific qualifications for the realization of the Ecology Programme of doctoral studies. Teaching in this study programme is carried out by instructors and associates selected based on strict criteria that ensure a high level of competence in research work and successful performance of teaching. 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 Ecology

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

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 Ecology 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, library is supplied with computers, books, textbooks, laboratory manuals, scientific journals etc. In ensuring material means for production of doctoral theses, Faculty relies on scientific projects 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-ekologija-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 Ecology is accredited in Serbian and English languages. Compulsory courses and seminars do not differ between the Serbian and English programs. Studies in English include four modules, with a total of 18 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.