Higher Education

, Volume 62, Issue 1, pp 113–127 | Cite as

Contradictory values in doctoral education: a study of gender composition in disciplines in Swedish academia

  • Ulrika Haake


Contradictory values in the Swedish doctoral education system are analysed through an interview and survey study of different academic disciplines: female-dominated, mixed and male-dominated. The focus is directed towards how the selected disciplines conduct application and selection processes in doctoral education and special attention is given to values regarding doctoral ideals, what a successful thesis should be like, how gender balance or imbalance is explained, and how activities aiming at gender equality are carried out. In the findings of this study, some specific patterns that show gendered discipline cultures in relation to doctoral education are apparent. The analysis shows an unclear or ambivalent view on gender and gender equality work in doctoral educations. In many of the issues investigated, essentialist views on gender emerge and a focus on gender differences is evident. The implicit assumption is that men and women are different and contribute to the discipline in disparate ways. The effectiveness of gender-specific doctoral strategies and to what extent gender equality work is viewed as a support strategy for women only, is discussed.


Higher education Doctoral education Values Gender equality Academic discipline 



The author wishes to thank the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research which is financing the research project entitled “Gender Equality and the Academy: When Desires and Choice Face Hindrance, Opportunities and Resistance”, which this study is a part of. Thank you also to all informants who have put time and effort into participating in this study and to Dr. Kent Löfgren for assistance in the statistical processing.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EducationUmeå universityUmeåSweden

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