Fulfilled but poor

December 13, 2002

So nearly a quarter of postgraduates feel that a PhD in the arts and humanities has failed to fulfil their career aspirations (News, THES , December 6)? Is the bottle half full or half empty? More than three-quarters of the cohort felt that professional and personal expectations had been overwhelmingly fulfilled.

The findings need to be matched against the reasons why people take an arts doctorate in the first place. Our survey showed that only 21 per cent of graduates identified long-term earning potential as a motivator, placing more emphasis on the academic advantages (81 per cent) and the development of professional skills (66 per cent).

The profile of the typical PhD graduate in arts and humanities subjects is virtually identical to that of their life-sciences colleagues. As our survey covered only graduates from the past five years, many of our respondents were in their first academic post.

The results confirm what we all know anyway, that university salaries are miserable in comparison with the value of the people we produce.

Judy Simons
Chair, Council of University Deans of Arts and Humanities

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