Participants of the International PhD Summer School: Scientists have to be great communicators

ECIU | 2018-09-13

The popularity of the International PhD Summer School organised by Kaunas University of Technology (KTU) together with partners from European Consortium of Innovative Universities (ECIU) – University of Stavanger and University of Aveiro – is growing. More and more doctoral students from different countries of Europe and the rest of the world are coming to the Summer School to a Lithuanian seaside resort Palanga in the end of August. This year the Summer School was organised for the 3rd time.

The focus of the International PhD Summer School is the development of transferable skills, such as social skills, networking, increasing of international visibility. The four-day programme included intensive courses on research ethics, presentation and communication skills, research project preparation, the lectures on entrepreneurship and innovation. The seminars and workshops were delivered by teachers from Lithuania, Norway and the Netherlands.

49 doctoral students coming from Belgian, Danish, French, Spanish, Italian, British, Lithuanian, Portuguese, German, Pakistani, Polish and Dutch universities and representing various science fields and branches participated in the Summer School organised by KTU in cooperation with ECIU.

The topics selected by the participants themselves

The common goal among the young researchers is expansion and development of general, transferable skills and networking.

“Usually in the Western Europe PhD studies are focusing on development of transferable skills – the students are learning how to prepare a presentation, how to apply for funding, how to manage audience, and other skills. However, in Central and Eastern Europe doctoral studies mainly focus on the speciality skills and knowledge; that’s why they may lack transferable, general skills”, says Leonas Balaševičius, KTU Vice-Rector for Research and Innovation.

The topics for the intensive courses of the Summer School are being selected according to the preferences of the participants. ECIU is organising a special survey, where European doctoral students are indicating the skills, which development would be the most essential to them.

Great environment for international networking

According to Vilma Sukackė, KTU PhD student, the International Summer School helps not only to improve transferable skills, but also is a great place for making new relationships with doctoral students from Lithuania and abroad.

“This is a perfect opportunity to look at things from a different perspective, from a point of view of somebody who is from other country, from other research environment. However, we are all united by the strong wish to increase knowledge, to solve the problems”, says Sukackė.

According to her, doctoral studies are providing great pleasure to those, who adore challenges and problem solving.

Zianaha Alyemni from Saudi Arabia, who is studying in France, says that although the participants of the Summer School are representing different cultures and science branches, and have various experiences, they can find common ground while working together.

“We all face similar challenges. When you are a starting researcher, you are never on holiday”, says Alyemni with a smile.

Scientists must be great communicators

Seminar, which was extremely popular among the students, was Martijn Wackers’ (Delft University of Technology, Netherlands) class on communicational skills. During the workshop the participants had 1 minute to introduce their research and to “sell” it to the board.

“When I found out that I will have only one minute for my research presentation, I was a little bit scared – where to start from and how to fit everything in? It was complicated, but in the end of the day we all became great speakers. It is very important to exchange ideas and knowledge with a wider circle of people, not only your team. We must talk “human” language, so as not only representatives of our science field, but also general public would understand the importance of our work”, says Columbian Zaida Natalia Uribe Wandurraga, currently studying in Spain.

The doctoral students are aware of the scientists’ responsibility to inform the society about their research.

“We understand that science is not valuable if it’s not responding to the needs of the society, if it doesn’t ensure democratic process, where the society is informed about and is acknowledging the research funded by public money. Researchers have to be more involved into being citizens of a society, and to popularise research”, says Oana Antonescu, from the University of Copenhagen.

This year the classes in the International Summer School were led by distinguished scientists and teachers from across Europe: Martijn Wackers from Delft University of Technology, Telma Esteves from Twente University, Roger Strand from the University of Bergen and Arminas Ragauskas from KTU.

It is being planned that in the future more ECIU members will join the current team of University of Stavanger, University of Aveiro and KTU in organising the International Summer School in Lithuania.


ECIU, founded in 1997, is a Consortium of universities set up to share information and knowledge about good practices and the challenges that each member faces with regard to university governance and cooperation with society. ECIU offers various mobility opportunities to the academic staff of its member universities for increasing their skills, knowledge and internationality.

The group of ECIU Doctoral Schools was founded in 2018; its main focus is the development of cooperation initiatives in the field of doctoral studies.

Also, this year ECIU has launched a Research Mobility Fund, aiming at increasing collaboration amongst its researchers. KTU researchers can apply for a travel grant for a stay at one of the 11 partner universities in Europe and in Mexico.

KTU is a member of the Consortium since January 2016. It is the only Lithuanian university among the ECIU members.