I have my PhD, but what is the value of a university education?

Posted in Teaching on September 12th, 2018 by steve

Ireland“Four years ago in this newspaper, I wrote an article about falling in love with a man; a man who died in 1677. In March of this year, I wrote another piece about that man, the philosopher Baruch Spinoza. At that point, I was a month away from submitting my doctoral thesis in philosophy, which was heavily influenced by and including Spinoza, and I had fallen out of love with him …” (more)

[Laura Kennedy, Irish Times, 12 September]


Barnacle, Schmidt and Cuthbert, ‘Expertise and the PhD: Between depth and a flat place’

Posted in Teaching on August 30th, 2018 by steve

Abstract: Expertise is under sustained interrogation. We see it in so‐called edu‐scepticism and pessimism about graduates’ apparently diminishing employment prospects, challenges to the role of Higher Education institutions as arbiters of knowledge and post‐truth rhetoric more broadly. This paper examines how the PhD is being discursively positioned in this context. We ask what these changing conceptions of expertise, education and work mean for how PhD‐level expertise is understood. Drawing on a range of sources, from the scholarly to the wider media, we draw together five exemplar models of expertise to expose the transforming ratio between generalist, transferable skills and specialist knowledge. The evident diminution of specialisation raises numerous issues for the PhD as it is increasingly called upon to serve multiple and potentially contradictory needs: an innovation society on the one hand and the discipline on the other. Reconciling the tension between depth and breadth is an important issue for a degree whose hallmark is – or at least has been – depth.

Robyn Barnacle, Christine Schmidt and Denise Cuthbert, Expertise and the PhD: Between depth and a flat place, Higher Education Quarterly. First published: 29 August 2018. https://doi.org/10.1111/hequ.12181.


Why it is not a ‘failure’ to leave academia

Posted in Governance and administration on August 3rd, 2018 by steve

“As a PhD student in my final year, I find it demoralizing and frustrating to be constantly reminded of the bleak job prospects in academia. This dim outlook may well increase the pressure on students and contribute to high rates of anxiety and depression among them …” (more)

[Philipp Kruger, Nature, 1 August]

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Student Grant Scheme Administration – Research Students

Posted in Fees, access and admissions on June 28th, 2018 by steve

Willie Penrose (Longford-Westmeath, Labour): A significant number of people have contacted me about the failure of Student Universal Support Ireland, SUSI, to fund to completion those pursuing doctoral studies in various disciplines. These postgraduate students are eligible to grant aid under SUSI’s criteria. However, it is cut off due to time limits …” (more)

[Dáil debates, 27 June]

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Doctoral students

Posted in Fees, access and admissions on June 21st, 2018 by steve

Catherine Martin (Dublin Rathdown, Green Party): To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the number of students in State-funded third level education facilities that undertook doctoral research in 2017 and to date in 2018; and the number of these that were State funded …” (more)

[Dáil written answers, 19 June]

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Call the doctor

Posted in Governance and administration on June 19th, 2018 by steve

“In the circles in which I once moved when I was still an active law lecturer, one of the regular questions colleagues from the United States of America would ask is whether, with a JD degree (‘Juris Doctor’), they were entitled to style themselves ‘Dr’. This often led to long discussions about how academic qualifications should be used by their holders to declare their status. I was awarded my own PhD in 1982 …” (more)

[Ferdinand von Prondzynski, University Blog, 18 June]

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Where are the Modest Men?

Posted in Life on June 17th, 2018 by steve

“A hashtag debuting this week has caused quite a stir on Twitter: #immodestwomen. In the wake of a US newspaper deciding not to accord anyone the title of Dr in its articles, unless they were medical doctors …” (more)

[Athene Donald’s Blog, 17 June]

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Postgraduate students likely to experience stress and depression, according to GSU survey

Posted in Life on June 1st, 2018 by steve

“The average PhD student experiences severe stress, moderate anxiety and mild levels of depression, according to the results of a Graduate Students’ Union (GSU) postgraduate mental health survey. The survey was presented by GSU Vice-President Madhav Bhargav at a meeting of the Student Life Committee this week …” (more)

[Peter Kelly, Trinity News, 31 May]

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I struggle when hiring academics – because the candidates are too good

Posted in Governance and administration on June 1st, 2018 by steve

“Some employers complain about not having enough good candidates to fill roles. I envy them. Imagine working in an industry where entry-level jobs require ‘world-leading’ research records, where far more people are graduating from PhD programmes than the academy will ever employ. The problem is that nearly everyone on the long list for your new permanent lectureship is amazing …” (more)

[Guardian, 1 June]

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Irish university sector

Posted in Fees, access and admissions on May 31st, 2018 by steve

“A chara, – Maynooth University has recently announced teaching PhD studentships with waived fees and a stipend of €9,000 per annum. In return, the recipients may be requested to teach up to 455 hours per annum …” (more)

[Eoin Ó Colgáin, Irish Times, 28 May]

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PhD students supervised collectively rather than individually are quicker to complete their theses

Posted in Teaching on April 20th, 2018 by steve

“Given the choice, most PhD students would prefer to receive individual supervision rather than be supervised alongside their peers as part of a collective. This is understandable, given the undivided attention and precise, directly relevant advice one would receive. However, Hans Agné and Ulf Mörkenstam have compared the experiences of individually and collectively supervised students on the same doctoral programme and found that collective supervision, during the first year at least, is correlated with significantly shorter times to thesis completion compared to individual supervision …” (more)

[LSE Impact Blog, 18 April]


Mandatory PhD policies lead to boom in academics with doctorates

Posted in Governance and administration on March 11th, 2018 by steve

“The increasing insistence by UK universities for new staff to have a doctorate has helped to drive up the number of academics holding a PhD by more than a third in just six years, new data show. According to the latest figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency, more than half (54%) of all academic staff held a PhD in 2016-17, a rise of eight percentage points compared with 2010-11 …” (more)

[Simon Baker, Times Higher Education, 8 March]

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Psst … Need a PhD thesis? That’ll be $63,000

Posted in Research on February 26th, 2018 by steve

“Many readers may have heard whisper of companies that offer a range of writing services – some more ethical than others. Although some companies offer to edit and polish writing, others can write PhD research proposals, masters’ theses, or even a dissertation …” (more)

[Retraction Watch, 22 February]

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Smart people problems: we need to talk about PhD mental health

Posted in Life on January 27th, 2018 by steve

“I was once invited to a costume party by graduate students where the theme was ‘what you would be doing if you hadn’t gone to grad school’. Although I never attended the party, in hindsight I would probably have dressed as a pharmaceutical sales rep for the mood stabiliser medication that I am currently taking …” (more)

[Alfredo Cumerma, Times Higher Education, 20 January]

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Has the doctoral thesis passed its sell-by date?

Posted in Teaching on January 17th, 2018 by steve

“The first UK doctoral student was admitted to Oxford just over 100 years ago in 1917. While the PhD (DPhil in Oxford) was a new-fangled thing for Britain, it had been introduced in continental Europe more than 100 years previously, initially in Berlin and Paris. In the USA, Yale University awarded its first PhD in 1861 …” (more)

[Andrew George, Wonkhe, 17 January]


Rise in number of teachers pursuing PhD qualification

Posted in Teaching on December 27th, 2017 by steve

Ireland“Teaching appears to be among the leading professions in terms of members pursuing doctoral qualifications, based on analysis of Census 2016 data. The biggest proportional rise in people with PhDs is in education – up 56% from 668 in 2011 to 1,047 …” (more)

[Niall Murray, Irish Examiner, 26 December]


PhD candidates and postdoctoral status

Posted in Life on December 8th, 2017 by steve

Ireland“Sir, – Sorcha Pollak writes of the difficulties and ‘darkness’ that come with undertaking PhD research (‘”I don’t think there’s anything darker than doing a PhD”‘, December 5th). I would agree but like to emphasise that much of the burden and stress comes from insufficient funding and exploitative working conditions …” (more)

[David Cichon, Irish Times, 8 December]

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Dutch university says student cannot defend PhD dressed as pirate

Posted in Legal issues on November 27th, 2017 by steve

“A researcher has taken a Dutch university to the country’s Institute for Human Rights for not allowing him to defend his PhD dressed as a pirate. Environmental engineer Michael Afanasyev says that he is a priest of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, an organisation that lampoons what it claims are special exemptions for religious people …” (more)

[David Matthews, Times Higher Education, 24 November]

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Doctorates on the double: Ireland’s PhD holders multiplying

Posted in Governance and administration on November 24th, 2017 by steve

Ireland“The number of people in Ireland with doctorates has doubled in the past 10 years, in line with State policy to improve the country’s research credentials. Data released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) shows 28,759 people had doctorates at the time of Census 2016, a rise of 31% since 2011 and of 99.5% on 2006 …” (more)

[Mark Hilliard, Irish Times, 24 November]

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‘A PhD supervisor found out I was deaf, and cancelled the interview’

Posted in Fees, access and admissions on November 11th, 2017 by steve

“Martin McLean, 38, has two postgraduate degrees – a PGCE awarded by the University of Wales and a master’s in arts policy and management from Birkbeck. He’s an education and training policy adviser at the National Deaf Children’s Society, and has been deaf since birth …” (more)

[Guardian, 10 November]

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