This article proposes that for a number of reasons (quality of bachelors' degrees, demands from funding bodies), that the quality of PhDs today is not what it used to be. What do you think? His main argument seems to be that 3 years is nowhere near enough to learn how to be a researcher. I can sympathise with that, feel like I'm going to need forever,-)
I disagree. If you are going into research (or a research degree) then you should expect to design your experiments, chart the course of your study and formulate your own ideas. Subsequently you should be able to step back and tear them into little pieces and formulate something better; that is the nature of research. If a student expectrs to be told what to do and how to do it, you aren't training a researcher, just spoon-feeding them and that will get nobody anywhere.
======= Date Modified 30 Aug 2008 18:59:39 =======
This article pissed me off. I don't believe British PhD are 'distilled' or of a lower standard compared with the US or Europe - in fact I think British PhDs are generally better. The standard for a British PhD is 'a distinct contribution' and 'originality'. That seems fair to me. I don't see why it should be a 'significant and substantial contribution' as one's research may not turn out that way.
However, I do think the British PhD experience is blighted by poor research skills and training.
It annoys me when academics get on their soapbox about academic standards but fail to mention the practicalities - such as who funds a student to spend 6 years studying for a PhD?
The prof. also mentions that it's harder for British PhD holders to get jobs, but I think this is more to do with the open-door policy that UK universities operate. Now I don't have a problem with that in theory - it means the best person gets the job regardless of nationality/citizenship. However, this policy is not reciprocal. Most other countries will favour citizenship or permanent residents, which places British PhD applicants (or other foreign applicants) bottom of the list.
Wow, I bet the postgrads in his Department are happy. Could you imagine if he was your supervisor? I hope he doesn't supervise...
Swantje, I'm talking about academic jobs, not PhD positions.
I did say for 'most countries', maybe I should have 'some', but I certainly didn't say 'all'.
I know of lots of people who have had no problems getting academic jobs in other countries - especially European countries.
But try further a field, for instance the US or Canada.
The main thrust of the argument is more or less academic anyway (excuse the pun).
Whether a PhD was what it used to be or not is irrelevant. Academic employment is now mainly contingent on publication output in high impact journals. That is a yardstick that is not going to change any time soon, and Britain punches well above its own weight with regard to that. If any PhDer publishes their findings and develops a decent H index its an indicator that they DO have the skills and are as good as anyone else in their writing , critical analysis etc. Thats the basis on which people are hired on in my lab, and is the same at most universities.
If you are publishing your research and its cited THAT makes you a good researcher. The rest is just posturing.
And its not a case of "Well then it must be easier to now publish than before". There are far more submissions now then they ever were (I am a reviewer for several journals and have seen my work leap upwards). I assure you its very tough to be accepted.
Hypothesis, you are correct, but I'm not sure who you are disagreeing with; I don't think anyone would disgree with what you say there.
I didn't read his article as an insult to students; he seems to hold the funding bodies and universities responsible for the alleged drop in standards. Personally I think that now (and previously) there is a mixture of very able and not-so-able students getting PhDs (because of the highly variable standards of examiners, mainly). But I do think better quality research training takes place over a longer period: I have been told that in much of Europe, you are treated as a member of staff, paid a salary, and given up to 5 years to get your degree. There's often gossip amongst the students here that a small number of people faked at least part of their results just to get some data within three years. But that's just gossip...
Interesting to read your views, Badhaircut. I know a student who failed their PhD last year, despite having a good few publications, which amazed everyone including the supervisors. They've been told to re-submit for an MPhil. If papers published does not show you are a researcher, what does?
======= Date Modified 31 Aug 2008 16:15:25 =======
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