Should we abolish the PhD degree ?
14 May 2013 15:20
|[quote]Quote From ChuckPD:The degree should definitely be abolished, at least in all of the Humanities/Liberal Arts areas. No real important research that affects peoples' lives is done in this branch of higher education. >>>It's all just intellectual masturbation really<<<. I have been thinking of burning my PhD/doctorate degree. It is in music from University of Southern California. At one time it was one of the premiere music schools in the country. As soon as the outrageous, "overstuffed- shirt" professors and administrators realized the only way to sustain their cushy lifestyles and overbloated salaries was to sell the degree to almost anyone who paid for it ( especially foreign students) in the late 1990's and 2000's, henceforth, it basically became a worthless piece of garbage: completely devalued, almost like the German Mark after the First World War.[/quote]
:lol: :lol: :lol:|
14 May 2013 13:25
|The degree should definitely be abolished, at least in all of the Humanities/Liberal Arts areas. No real important research that affects peoples' lives is done in this branch of higher education. It's all just intellectual masturbation really. I have been thinking of burning my PhD/doctorate degree. It is in music from University of Southern California. At one time it was one of the premiere music schools in the country. As soon as the outrageous, "overstuffed- shirt" professors and administrators realized the only way to sustain their cushy lifestyles and overbloated salaries was to sell the degree to almost anyone who paid for it ( especially foreign students) in the late 1990's and 2000's, henceforth, it basically became a worthless piece of garbage: completely devalued, almost like the German Mark after the First World War.|
05 May 2012 12:39
|My PhD requires all candidates to complete a Graduate Certificate of Research concurrently with the PhD. Seems annoying but actually it is a way of enforcing certain milestones are met quite swiftly-at least in draft form. At one of the recent seminars that I had to attend, given by an emeritus professor in data management (or something similar) the topic of PhDs by publication was brought up. Her position was that these are really hard to achieve, require several papers that represent many years worth of work and she had only met one person who had ever received one. That was some expert in forensics (in some specialty or other) who had been publishing expert papers in his field for around 18 years or more. Her contention was that it was actually easier to get a PhD by writing a thesis than it was to achieve the PhD by publication.
But it is also a catch 22 situation in that- it is hard to get papers published without a university affilliation. People want to know who you are and what your scholarly or professional history is. Likewise the process and the type of writing involved in publishing in professional journals and academic journals is also a little different. You know what its like-once upon a time, reading an ethusiastic and passionate piece by a practitioner in a professional or popularist journal was great. Now after having gone through (even for a short time or so) the mentoring/supervisor/publishing mill) you know that unless the data is good and the methodology is rigorous and the analysis is clear, you don't quite buy what the person is saying, no matter how persuasive the language or passionate the stance. That is what a PhD does for you. (Hope this makes sense-am on to my second glass of wine after a long break from any-due to work, study and illness).|
01 May 2012 12:48
|A PhD by publication has its place, but I think it would be wrong to take this route for all PhDs. Some PhDs don't produce as much publishable material as others, or are not necessarily 'covered' by as many high impact journals as others. Impact factors can change, so publishing one year will produce a different result than another year even though the desirability of articles for a particular journal remain the same. I also think it would be wrong to start grading PhDs too. When doing a PhD, you business is learning the business of research - often getting to grips with extremely complex equipment/theories. They're all so different anyway.
A wide examiner panel bound by a rigid assessment and evaluation framework (standardised for broadly related subject areas) would be the best way forward. Examination of PhDs will never be perfect, very much like the peer review process.|
01 May 2012 12:26
|yes, I agree with that, but if it was a recognised system then journals could have 'fast track' PhD processes|
01 May 2012 12:05
|Whilst I like the idea of all PhDs being by publication (in certain fields at least), there are unfortunately quite a few problems that are outside of the student's control.
For example, a paper I recently had published was originally sumbitted to the journal in January last year; they then took nearly 10 months to peer review it. No particular reason, they were just really slow! Fortunately it still got published within the timeframe of my PhD, but only just. I have other papers in preparation, but these couldn't be submitted until the first one was published, as they kind of followed on from it, as many PhD student's papers probably will. So if every paper took this long to get published, my PhD would have taken me about 10 years to complete ;-)
I do think the idea has a lot of merit though, as essentially that is what a thesis should be - a series of chapters, each one a publishable piece of work (in the sciences at least, it may well differ in other fields). For my thesis in particular, each chapter developed upon the previous one, and so the papers would be sequential rather than standalone pieces of work.|
01 May 2012 11:51
|I have long thought that all PhDs should be by publication. You should spend 3 years producing 3-4 publications (in my field anyway), you then get a viva purely to check it was your own work.
Then you get awarded a PhD 'grade' based on the quality of your publications. In my field, we are * rated on journals, so you'd get a 3* or 4* PhD. Or perhaps an 'impact factor of 2.3 PhD' or similar.
That was your work is peer reviewed by a range of people AND the viva examiners and should you have 4 publications going into viva, it should be impossible to fail unless they can prove it was someone elses work.|
01 May 2012 11:13
|In Europe at least, the Bologna Process is supposed to bring about standardisation of qualifications in higher education such that they have equal weight no matter where in Europe they are attained. I will repeat I would like to see a panel of five (US style) replace the two examiner system for PhDs.
As regards the hidden attrition rates, I agree this is higher. Whilst actual failure rates for some institutions may appear low, they do not include peple who do not complete and drop out. I wonder how the statistics would read if these were included.
01 May 2012 00:10
|It's really late, I'm knackered, so here's my somewhat lazy response.
Here are some answers to justify that it is NOT time to put an end to the existence of this degree:
1. The world is producing too many PhDs,
The world is producing too much of many, many different things aside from PhDs. There's no point even starting a counter debate here. Too many graduates full stop!
2. The future of the PhD labor market is disturbing. What is a PhD worth anyway ?
The future of the graduate market is disturbing. What are any academic qualifications worth when you don't have the necessary contacts (or experience...)?
3. Jobs in academia have become elusive and some industries are shying away from PhDs.
Too true, but industries are shying away from recruitment in general at the moment.
4. A number of countries do not know what to do with all their PhDs (ex. Japan, USA).
The same applies to people qualified in lots of different disciplines in different countries. Plumbers in Poland and too many actors in America! Look at the UK and PGCEs.
4. The nature and quality of some PhD programs have become questionable (I am not naming any country),
T'was ever thus for lots of different disciplines...even medicine.
5. Statistics show that earning a PhD does not make a person happier in life than others,
And what else do statistics show I wonder...there's even something about millionaires not being happier...
6. The hidden completion|Attrition rates of PhDs in many institutions tell a story about life in PhD.
Yes, it's sodding hard and isolating in most cases, which is just the way it should be. Although examination procedures should be more standardised.
7. Since the first PhD degree was awarded in Paris, France in the year 1150, did its purpose and
methods evolve with our needs and expectations ?
It's not perfect, has its faults (just like most academic qualifications) and I'm sure it will evolve. It already is with equivalents like professional doctorates...
It's not perfect, but to say the PhD has had it's day - I doubt that.|
30 April 2012 15:37
|The PhD system is far from perfect, but I don't think that warrants it being abolished altogether. I agree with the majority of tweaks suggested by Mackem_Beefy, particularly surrounding the viva process. It does seem pretty unfair that your academic fate rests on the opinions of just two people, and the suggestion that you should meet with the panel during your PhD is a really good idea.
Generally, I see the PhD as an opportunity to immerse yourself entirely in your own research, and to make a contribution to knowledge. Anyone who enters into it as a career move is probably going to be disappointed. However, I don't see this as a bad thing, and I also find it hard to believe that employers are actively shying away from PhDs. In some fields, relevant experience will always be more important than academic success, but in other cases the transferable skills gained during a PhD are just as relevant. Perhaps students should be given more guidance on how to really 'sell' their skills to future employers, and as mentioned before, more career and CV advice in general should be made available. My only worry is that too many compulsory courses, career guidance, meetings with a panel etc. may make the PhD too structured, and therefore it becomes less about independent research and more like a formal structured course, and so a balance needs to be reached that takes that into account.
Finally, I didn't expect my PhD to make me happier than other people; what I did expect is that it would give me a variety of skills, increase my confidence at working independently and trusting my own ideas, improve my communications skills and leave me feeling academically fulfiiled. It did all of these things and more, and I don't regret it for one minute, even though it hasn't given me the amazing boost up the career ladder that some people still seem to think it will.|
30 April 2012 14:03
|I gather you're based in North America from the way you talk about the PhD. In Europe, as said by others, it's meant to be a 3 year intensive research project with the specific aim of adding to the knowledgebase of a given subject. My opinions are thus from that perspective.
I agree that the PhD as it is, isn't a perfect qualification. However, anyone who attempts a PhD will go into it aware that it's not something that will improve employability in the real world except in a few specialised technical fields (Pharmacy seems to do okay in this respect from what else I've been told). I was no exception and went into my PhD for the challenge of doing one, to test myself to the limit and find out what I was capable of as a person.
With my own experience in mind, making significant changes might mean it ceases to be that challenge. The core function is to produce that original data that furthers knowledge in a given field and that has to remain so or a PhD is no longer a PhD. Is it an academic award for original research or an employment training programme?
That said, I've no objections to people taking time out to take up placements with companies or to do training that will give researchers real skills that will be of use in the workplace. Such ideas would be a big help. However, those of us that have come through a PhD will know just how hard it is to complete. As such, any extras should be options and not mandatory as once well into the PhD process, there is the tendency to want to push on and complete it without distraction. Once into the write-up period, people really do just want to get it out the way.
The changes I would want to see are more subtle. For example:
1) New starters given seminars as to what's expected in a PhD, in order to help them plan a structure to their research programmes.
2) New starters given the option of a mentor (possibly a recent post-doc) who they can approach whilst they are getting going, to give more specific hands on guidance in their given subject area that is not part of the supervision team. The mentor should be able to take more of a back seat once the candidate has the project properly underway.
30 April 2012 14:03
|3) At the end of the second year and shortly before write-up begins, candidates to have access to seminars in writing skills and the form of language to be used in their thesis / dissertation.
4) Many funded PhDs in the UK have a week away from their Uni. where candidates are given guidance in CV writing and interview techniques for when they finish their PhDs and start looking for work. This should be made available to all candidates (this could be done on campus if necessary).
5) PhD candidates are referred to as students. I find this has negative connotations in the eyes of employers, many of whom may perceive the candidate as a 'professional' or 'continuous student'. How about calling candidates 'Junior Research Associates' with a proper 3 year employment contract (though retaining tax exemptions with it being a PhD)? If the candidate does not complete or fails their PhD, such a label is much easier to sell to an employer than being a student for a further 3 to 5 years and nothing to show for it. Such a label would be more saleable for a passing candidate also. We are doing a research job whilst we are doing a PhD anyway.
30 April 2012 14:02
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6) My main gripe is the actual examination of the thesis, in that there are only two examiners in Europe. I prefer the idea of a panel as in the US, with a chair and four other examiners. Having only two examiners means only two opinions on a piece of work. A negative opinion of just one examiner can make or break a candidate's future, especially if there are known differences between the examiner and the supervisor or there are massively differing opinions in how a project should or should have been approached. A panel means if one person takes exception to the work or the candidate, it isn't necessarily as make or break. Similarly, supervisors can't necessarily rely on favoured people to act as an examiner and thus allow poorer work to be awarded a PhD.
The same panel should also interview the candidate at the mid-point, with the ability to address weaknesses it sees in the work conducted to date so the candidate is less likely to veer off course as write-up and final viva approaches.
7) In relation to the examination, once the viva is complete and the examiner's reports are written, I see no harm in a face-to-face meeting between candidate, supervisor and internal examiner (or the chair for a panel) to clarify the points made before corrections begin. I've read too many instances where people have commented of being unsure of what the examiners actually want.
Anyway, that's my penny’s worth.
30 April 2012 12:40
|not sure you can really compare us with the U.S. model. Their professions are more likely to require PhDs anyway e.g. in my field you can become a practitioner with just a masters, but over there they require you to have a PhD.
I also think that the high rate of attrition demonstrates that it is a worthwhile and difficult qualification to get and therefore has value and it will put you ahead of the crowd, you might need experience as well and shouldn't consider doing a PhD means you don't need as much experience, but I think it does provide you with skills and a level of analysis that is hard to come by in any other position.
I don't think you can really say one country is better/worse than another. Each institution, or even school, department or group has different methods/norms of what PhD is and how one goes about getting one, so I don't think you can say Germany PhDs are better/worse than UK ones for example. It isn't really a standardised qualification like that, its an apprenticeship and the quality comes from the people who train you and the circles you move in as a result.|
30 April 2012 10:56
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In Europe (well in the UK at any rate) you only require 3 years (most take 3.5) to complete your PhD after a masters. I think perhaps you are considering just the American model, which I find rather bizarre myself.
To do a PhD in 3 years requires a focussed bachelors and Masters. It is my understanding that American degrees (bachelor level) are far more general than those in the UK. The PhD therefore takes longer because they need to specialise before they even start doing their research. Over here we just get stuck straight into the research from the off.
Edit: Just to also add - It was far easier to know many different fields in the past because there was not anywhere near as much to know. On top of this, I'm sure there are a few polymaths around now but they have never been the norm for PhDs, they just stick out in history because they tend to have been ridiculously smart!