CORDIS - EU research results

Championing A Multi-Sectoral Education and Learning Experience to Open New Pathways for Doctoral Students

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - CHAMELEONS (Championing A Multi-Sectoral Education and Learning Experience to Open New Pathways for Doctoral Students)

Reporting period: 2020-12-01 to 2022-08-31

Typically, less than half of doctoral graduates will be employed in academia immediately after graduation. Current doctoral curricula are failing to foster big thinkers and creative problem-solvers, graduate attributes that society needs. It is becoming apparent that there is a growing need to re-imagine a PhD education that incentivises doctoral students to engage with research consumers, not only within their discipline, but also, across other disciplines and sectors to have real social impact for an improved society. At a professional and research level, international, interdisciplinary and inter-sectoral networks are on the increase with established researchers collaborating within and across disciplines to increase and improve innovation, creativity and knowledge. More recently, this is being mirrored by the establishment of interdisciplinary and inter-sectoral doctoral research networks, the intention of which is to train PhD graduates for careers both within-and outside academia and who are equipped to address societal challenges. CHAMELEONS offers opportunities for PhD/Post-Doctoral students to further develop their skills widening their opportunities by creating a bespoke education program tailored to their own and society’s needs. Broadening PhD curricula will produce multi-skilled individuals who will be highly competitive and sought after in the job market. CHAMELEONS integrates work-based learning and business-education partnerships into doctoral programme design.The objective of CHAMELEONS is to develop new and innovative educational interventions to improve the learning experience offered by higher education with the intention of shaping more adaptable, entrepreneurial and employable graduates, ready to meet the challenges of the future. Ten years from now, jobs will be more knowledge and skills-intensive than ever before.CHAMELEONS overall aim is: To design, deliver, and evaluate a range of interdisciplinary, intersectoral and international modules that broaden PhD graduates’ skills, improve their employability in both academic and non-academic environments, and equip them to solve grand societal challenges such as those in Connected Health.
CHAMELEONS was composed of the following work packages (WP)

WP1: A needs analysis was conducted to identify and discuss the educational requirements of PhD and Post-doctoral graduates going forward. It comprised the following elements:
1. A systematic review of publications that identified and discussed the educational requirements of PhD and Post-doctoral graduates with particular attention directed to skills required to enhance the possibilities of graduates gaining employment beyond the academic sector.
2. Two surveys were conducted, a survey of PhD and early postdoctoral students; and the second of those involved in developing and delivering PhD modules - ascertaining their attitudes towards, and requirements from, courses/modules that offer and prepare them for cross-sectoral perspectives.
3. A review was conducted of policy and industry reports relating to doctoral education including EU policy documents, wider policy contributions across the EU, and industry-led reports from international consulting firms.

WP2: A State-of-the Art (SotA) toolkit was developed and implemented using google classroom, it is accessible through the CHAMELEONS website ( Part of the SotA toolkit included modules offered across the consortium which may be of interest to the doctoral students. Three modules were co-designed with key stakeholders included representatives from the following: academia, industry, charities, health, patient representative organisations, expert patients, an education technologist, an expert in ethics, recent PhD graduates, and current PhD students.

WP3: 15 PhD students from across 5 European Universities were recruited. Students were drawn from a range of areas including business, health, engineering, computer science and sports science. ​All students were allocated an individual peer mentoring panel which was composed of one academic member and two individuals drawn from industry. In consultation with the career mentoring panel students had the opportunity to undertake modules offered across the consortium identified in the SotA toolkit. The 3 modules designed in WP2 were delivered in WP3. Module 1: 'Forging relationships: Building and Sustaining your Doctoral Network' took place from the 22nd to 28th of April 2021. Module 2: 'Managing the Project: Keeping on Track with an Eye to the Future' took place between 8th-14th September 2021. Module 3: Starting your Career: 'Future Proofing your Career and Getting a Job' took place from 21st-25th February 2022.

WP4: This work package concerned the evaluation of the various elements of the Chameleons project.

WP5. The CHAMELEONS project website is at Two CHAMELEONS social media accounts have been created in Twitter ( and Instagram ( Three conference papers were delivered in June 2021, one at the END conference and two at HEA'd conference. Four conference papers were delivered in 2022. Three book chapters have been accepted for publication in Education Applications & Developments VIII. Open access links to the papers and book chapters associated with this project are available on the Chameleons website.
CHAMELEONS is creating a new European model for PhD training combining interdisciplinary and inter-sectoral training in an end-to-end applied research spectrum. Modules are taking place in academic, industry and clinical/healthcare settings and have been co-designed and delivered by representatives and stakeholders of all three sectors. Graduates from the program will bring the latest knowledge and ideas to their employers and provide the necessary insider understanding, contacts and credibility to forge effective connections with academia. This model, once proven, will be transferable to other European training programs outside CHAMELEONS as described in the above section on closing the skills gap.
Quantitative and qualitative tracking will continue after CHAMELEONS is completed. CHAMELEONS module designs are can be accessed and downloaded from CHAMELEONS resource portal by actors from multiple sectors, disciplines and geographies
CHAMELEONS graduates and PIs are presenting the CHAMELEONS model at institutions/conferences internationally. CHAMELEONS graduates will remain connected and can continue to feedback.
CHAMELEONS aims to open up career paths for doctoral graduates outside academia. There may be a need for more effective communication of the value of employing doctoral graduates in certain roles and sectors in order to maximize both the opportunities available to doctoral graduates themselves and the benefits of their skills to employers and the economy. Career guidance will help them to navigate these wide-ranging opportunities to channel their focus on careers in and outside academia that best suit their career objectives and personal and research strengths and interests. CHAMELEONS will narrow the skills gap that exists between those needed by PhD graduates who stay in academia, and those who pursue a career outside academia.