Time limit is the limit 1

January 21, 2005

What is happening to the advancement of knowledge for its own sake? It seems that PhDs are now being pulled into the "sausage machine" of time-constrained knowledge production and standardisation ("Seven-year hitch casts doubt on future of part-time PhDs", January 14). Why should self-funded part-time PhD study be completed within a set period? It is clear that different forms of research by their nature require different time requirements.

If "funding is the key variable in successful completion", what is meant by "successful completion"? Should it occur within an arbitrary fixed time limit without consideration of the nature of the research and the circumstances of the PhD student? I know of excellent self-funded part-time social research that has been undertaken because of the commitment of the PhD student, rather than for self-advancement. I also know of the problems that mature students encounter when undertaking such research: looking after children or elderly relatives and so forth. Mature PhD students don't enter into their studentship lightly, yet they encounter rigid time limits and extreme pressure to complete writing by a fixed date or see years of work not accepted for examination.

Does recognition of PhD research come only through external funding and from jumping through the hoop of time? Do society and academe now value only research that has been legitimised through research council funding and completed within a specified time limit? Whatever happened to wisdom, diversity and equality?

Barbara Humberstone
Buckinghamshire Chilterns
University College

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