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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Many junior scientists need to take a hard look at their job prospects

Posted in Research on October 26th, 2017 by steve

“For his 2012 PhD thesis, the sociologist Chris Platts surveyed and interviewed more than 300 young footballers — aged 17 and 18 — at UK club academies who were hoping to pursue a career in the game. He told the newspaper The Guardian this month that just four of them currently have gained a professional contract. That’s a drop-out rate of 99% …” (more)

[Editorial, Nature, 25 October]

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Is doing a PhD a waste of time?

Posted in Life on September 26th, 2017 by steve

Ireland“What use is a PhD nowadays? After almost two decades in education, is it really worth committing another three, four or even more years to a doctorate? Will it help you in your career, or are PhDs a frivolous extravagance for the rich? Once upon a time, the path for PhD students was clear: graduate and become an academic …” (more)

[Peter McGuire, Irish Times, 26 September]

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The ideal PhD researcher has no baggage

Posted in Teaching on September 26th, 2017 by steve

“The way institutions conceptualise doctoral candidates – as individuals without baggage, able to devote all their time to their research – has very real consequences for those who do not fit this profile. Marie-Alix Thouaille reports on recent research into the professional development behaviours and experiences of doctoral and early-career researchers …” (more)

[Impact of Social Sciences, 26 September]


Not all PhD supervisors are natural mentors – some need training

Posted in Teaching on July 29th, 2017 by steve

“When I told my graduate supervisor that I wanted to join his lab, he blinked at me and said, ‘Do you think you can handle it?’ I was overwhelmed by self-consciousness as a wave of cold anxiety rushed through me. My inner voice screamed, ‘I thought I could, but maybe I can’t?’ Outwardly, all I could muster was a small, squeaky, ‘Yes, I think so’ …” (more)

[Guardian, 28 July]


Of monsters and mentors: PhD disasters, and how to avoid them

Posted in Teaching on June 1st, 2017 by steve

“For all the efforts in recent years to improve the doctoral experience for students, Times Higher Education still receives a steady supply of horror stories from PhD candidates. To the authors of such submissions, the system appears, at best, indifferent to them and, at worst, outright exploitative. Here, we present three such examples – all of whose writers, tellingly, feel the need to remain anonymous, given the power dynamics involved …” (more)

[Times Higher Education, 1 June]

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PhD students: time to make them university employees?

Posted in Governance and administration, Legal issues on May 18th, 2017 by steve

International“The benefits of treating PhD students as university employees, an issue under consideration by some institutions in the UK and US, have been spotlighted by the recent completion of reforms in Sweden …” (more)

[Holly Else, Times Higher Education, 18 May]

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Higher Education Courses Provision: Numbers taking PhDs

Posted in Fees, access and admissions on May 12th, 2017 by steve

IrelandThomas Byrne (Meath East, Fianna Fail): To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if his Department or a body under its aegis has figures on numbers undertaking PhDs in each year since 2009, including PhD entry rates compared to completion rates in HEIs here; and if he will provide same …” (more)

[Dáil written answers, 10 May]

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Some Lesser-Known Truths About Academe

Posted in Life on May 9th, 2017 by steve

“Asking a professor whether you should pursue a PhD is a little like asking The Rock — aka Dwayne Douglas Johnson, the world’s highest-paid actor last year — whether you should become an actor. Once you enter a doctoral program, the main problem isn’t necessarily that you can’t finish …” (more)

[Daniel McCormack, Chronicle of Higher Education, 3 May]

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How Hard Is It for a University to Revoke a PhD?

Posted in Governance and administration on January 18th, 2017 by steve

“Monica Crowley backed out of a job in the Donald J Trump administration this week following reports that she had plagiarized parts of her dissertation. But whether her Columbia University PhD could be in jeopardy is another matter …” (more)

[Tom Hesse, Chronicle of Higher Education, 18 January]

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Limiting PhDs creates the wrong kind of elite

Posted in Governance and administration on January 5th, 2017 by steve

“Whether or not you’re entirely convinced by the figures on casualisation recently publicised by the UK’s University and College Union, it is beyond dispute that increasing numbers of PhD graduates are being forced into short-term, insecure work to sustain their academic careers. There simply are not enough permanent jobs out there for all those qualified to do them …” (more)

[Tom Cutterham, Times Higher Education, 5 January]

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Undervalued, Overworked, Taken for Granted: PhD Students Issue Damning Report on ‘Exploitative’ Working Conditions at Queen’s

Posted in Governance and administration on October 26th, 2016 by steve

UK“Tuesday evening saw the launch of a highly critical report issued jointly between the University and College Union and the Students’ Union of Queen’s University. Entitled ‘Undervalued, Overworked, Taken for Granted: A Report on PhD Working Conditions’, the publication urges a reform of ‘exploitative conditions’ placed upon academic staff amidst a backdrop of university marketisation …” (more)

[Niall Coleman, The Gown, 26 October]

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Queen’s University: Some PhD students ‘earn less than minimum wage’

Posted in Governance and administration on October 26th, 2016 by steve

UK“Some PhD students at Queen’s University are being paid below the minimum wage, claims a report from the University and College Union (UCU) and Queen’s Students’ Union. The report is based on data on work and wages …” (more)

[BBC News, 26 October]

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A Comparison of Males and Females with a PhD by County in Ireland

Posted in Research on September 24th, 2016 by steve

Ireland“Yesterday I showed a chart detailing how the counties of Ireland differ in the number of people resident in each county who hold a PhD by percentage. Today I want to compare the gender balance/imbalance in each county …” (more)

[Careful With That Axe, Eugene, 23 September]

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Which is the smartest county in Ireland?

Posted in Life on September 22nd, 2016 by steve

Ireland“If the percentage of people in an area who hold a PhD is a measure of how smart a county is, then look no further than the 2011 Census Small Area Population Statistics (SAPS) for details. I downloaded the figures for the overall population of each county, and the numbers of men and women in each county who hold a PhD ….” (more)

[Careful With That Axe, Eugene, 22 September]


Wanted: more qualified PhD students for life sciences

Posted in Teaching on July 29th, 2016 by steve

Ireland“Highly qualified graduates, and plenty of them, are central to sustaining Ireland’s life sciences success. But how to get them? ‘There is an ever-increasing need for ever better graduates’, says Mark Ferguson, director general of Science Foundation Ireland …” (more)

[Sandra O’Connell, Irish Times, 28 July]

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What’s the point of the PhD thesis?

Posted in Teaching on July 6th, 2016 by steve

International“Doctoral courses are slowly being modernized. Now the thesis and viva need to catch up. On the morning of Tom Marshall’s PhD defence, he put on the suit he had bought for the occasion and climbed onto the stage in front of a 50-strong audience, including his parents and 6 examiners …” (more)

[Julie Gould, Nature, 6 July]