The views in “Mandatory PhD policies lead to a boom in academics with doctorates” (News, 8 March) were illuminating but for the seeming dilution of the arts, marketing and nursing as subjects.
The opinion that these “areas” need teachers with “recent relevant [professional] knowledge” is always sensible where practical competencies are concerned. However, all subjects, including those termed vocational, require input from those who can offer critical thought and development and who possess a love for their subject and continue to advance not only their own learning and understanding, but importantly the knowledge of that subject through critical thinking and analysis – the latter being acquired through doctoral education. Without this, the subject stagnates, failing the raison d’être of education, which is to advance knowledge in order to meet the needs of society through the provision of robust information to enable the exercise of judgements and choices.
Some of the rise in academics with PhDs can be attributed to universities providing time and funding for individuals to pursue doctoral study. However, for those institutions that have made a doctorate a requirement, in terms of socio-economic disadvantage, the article neglects to address the cost of entry to an academic career.
The shortage of funding for doctoral study, coupled with competition for jobs, makes pursuing the route risky for those without a financial safety net. While some professions are making efforts to address the disproportionate entry of those from more privileged socio-economic backgrounds by means of financial support and through thoughtful recruitment strategies, I see little equivalent effort in academia. By all means applaud an increasingly qualified workforce, but only after steps have been taken to provide a properly funded and secure path into a career that begins long before the completion of a doctorate.