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The Special Awards, Recognition of the Best Doctoral Theses


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A doctorate is the highest level of academic degree a university can award and involves learning and implementing research methods. Doctoral programmes, which are usually between three and five years’ long, culminate with the writing and presentation of a doctoral thesis, which gives a detailed account of an original research project. UPF offers nine doctoral programmes with the aim of training researchers and preparing research teams that can successfully rise to the challenges posed by new sciences, techniques and methodologies; promoting teacher training and furthering the professional, scientific, technical and artistic development of high-level degrees.

“UPF is a university which has always placed great importance on research; you could say it is one of its hallmarks. In this regard, the doctorate, as a doorway to research, is a key element”, asserts Núria Sebastian, director of UPF’s PhD School. Just under 1 in every 10 students at UPF is studying a PhD and there is practically the same number of master students as doctoral students. “That is an extremely high proportion”, she highlights.

Today, at UPF there are 1,245 doctoral students and the demand for accessing the programmes always exceeds what is on offer. 55% of these are international students, from outside of Spain, which is a highly significant figure and accounts for a 7 point rise with respect to the 2016-2017 academic year. Of the 225 theses that were presented in the 2018-2019 academic year, 73% were in English.

Furthermore, UPF has a high success rate in applications for the country’s biggest study grants and scholarships. “At UPF, unlike many other universities, we look to ensure our doctoral programmes are framed within the established structures of our scientific departments and areas”, points out Sebastian.

The importance of recognising research talent

The special doctorate awards are the highest academic distinction a thesis can be given in the University. “Each programme decides and agrees upon its own criteria for receiving the special award and refers its proposal to the PhD School Steering Committee. The committee members then listen to and vote on the proposal”, explains Sebastian. “In a word, our doctoral programmes produce the best of the best”, she adds.

In this latest edition of the special awards, eight have been given to the Doctorate in Biomedicine, six to the Doctorate in Communication and four to the Doctorate in Translation and Language Sciences. 

Among the winners, most are continuing their professional careers in academia. Some in Catalan universities and research centres, but others have gone abroad, to institutions like Columbia University, the University of California, San Diego or Harvard Medical School (United States); the Francis Crick Institute (United Kingdom), Uppsala University (Sweden) or the Free University of Amsterdam (Netherlands). Those continuing their careers outside of academia, are doing so, for example, in various multinationals, a biopharmaceutical company or a Catalan non-profit organisation. 

The winners of the special award have all expressed “great satisfaction for recognition of a job well done”. They also highlight that “it is not just recognition of individual effort”, but also for the work undertaken by their research group and thesis supervisors. After all, “teamwork is fundamental for making significant advances in the area of research”.

Each awarded thesis is outlined below:​





Translation and language sciences



SDG - Sustainable Development Goals:

Els ODS a la UPF


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