PhD to nowhere

January 23, 2003

Stephen Rowland rightly bemoans the lack of clarity over the outcome of a PhD. Most doctoral students embark on a PhD to make an original contribution to knowledge and with a view to an academic career ("Fuzzy skills agenda just dumbs down our PhDs", THES , January 17).

Any "transferable" skills, such as communication and time-management problem-solving, that they are taught ought to be applicable to academic life: research, teaching and committee meetings.

But what if there is no academic position awaiting them? Their original contribution to knowledge may be groundbreaking and useful to the teaching process, but it is of little use if the author is reluctantly working in a call centre.

Where will the government find the extra 17,000 lecturers to teach the 50 per cent of 18 to 30-year-olds to meet its target if doctoral students give up on an academic career because of lack of opportunities?

Simon Phillips

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