19 July 2012
By Rob Hardwick
Interesting article in THE this week: http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=26&storycode=420620&c=1
It reports from the Euroscience Open Forum meeting in Dublin last week. According to Professor Lenardo, who is founder of the NIH Global Doctoral Program, universities "paint a picture" that students are "going to be a Nobel laureate and run a great lab". He also said that the knowledge economy's need for "the cheapest form of skilled labour" may be responsible for the vast numbers of PhD programmes. He also called for a new type of qualification; "Maybe we need to construct a doctorate of technology. A doctorate, but with less emphasis on doing lab work or running a research group and [tailored] more for the jobs in a skilled economy that require doctoral-level training."
It sounds like some radical changes are afoot for PhD programmes. Here is one provocative suggestion: do we actually need PhD programmes at all? Why not just make them research apprenticeships and employ the postgraduates? Rather than writing a thesis, write papers describing your original research, and get appraised on the basis of other outputs, like contributions to patents, teaching, public engagement etc.? At least this way the universities are acknowledging that they are employing you on a temporary basis, and there does not have to be an expectation associated with it that you will go on to become an academic?
How would you change the PhD system?
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