Laurie Taylor column

October 7, 2005

Universities are becoming PhD factories and "many students do not get the full 'PhD experience'" - Jim Ewing, general secretary of the National Postgraduate Committee, The Times Higher , September 30 .

From: The Head of Postgraduate Studies

Concern has recently been expressed about graduates not having the full "PhD experience". It therefore seems appropriate to remind all academic staff of the nature of that experience so that appropriate standards may be maintained.

THE FULL PhD EXPERIENCE

Year One

Your chosen supervisor explains that although your topic (root vegetables) falls directly within his specialist area, he will not personally be able to offer supervision. You have been allocated to someone whose "name will come to me in a minute".

You meet your new supervisor, who is not competent in all root vegetables and suggests you concentrate on turnips.

Your H of D asks if you would like to get on the first rung of the academic ladder by taking 12 seminars a week for less than minimum wage.

You are allocated one third of a desk in the "research facility".

Year Two

Your new supervisor is granted a year's leave. Your H of D wonders if you have "anything at all" on paper that could be turned into a publication.

Your department refuses to finance your visit to an essential conference.

Year Three

Your new new supervisor takes early retirement.

You give a paper on "work in progress" to a staff-graduate seminar. No one attends.

Draft of first three chapters submitted. Silence.

Letter to supervisor urgently requesting feedback. Silence. Supervisor leaves for holidays. H of D announces deadline for thesis is October 1.

Thesis submitted.

Your specialised emphasis on turnips is making it difficult to find an external.

External finally appointed.

Viva. External asks for resubmission. The thesis must be broadened to encompass a wider range of root vegetables.

Thesis resubmitted.

PhD awarded.

Supervisor forgets to send congratulatory letter.

Experience concluded.

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