Doctoral graduates ‘need five years of post-PhD career support’

Early career social scientists should be entitled to extensive support from their university long after attaining their doctorate, study says

July 23, 2018
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Doctoral graduates should receive career guidance and institutional support from their alma mater for up to five years after receiving their PhDs, experts have said.

The radical suggestion is one of several recommendations made by researchers from the Centre for Global Higher Education, who conducted a survey of more than 1,000 doctoral graduates.

Reflecting the fact that many respondents did not work within academia immediately after taking their doctorate or worked solely in a teaching-only capacity, there were numerous calls for universities to provide additional support for PhD graduates and to devise ways to help them keep in contact with academia.

In response, William Locke and Richard Freeman, from the UCL Institute of Education, and Anthea Rose, from Leeds Beckett University, have called for PhD graduates to be given access to a range of facilities for a “minimum of three years, and preferably five years”, after graduation.

These would include an institutional email account that could be used for conferences and publication correspondence, access to library resources and career support and continued affiliation to an institution in the form of an “associate” status.

Universities that offered these facilities would be eligible for a “doctoral quality mark”, which would also recognise good practice around career advice and preparation during doctoral degrees.

“A doctoral quality mark would enable the recognition of good institutional practice throughout doctoral study and beyond,” the study’s co-author Dr Freeman, academic head of learning and teaching at UCL IoE’s Centre for Doctoral Education, told Times Higher Education.

“Such continued support is especially important for doctoral graduates in the arts and humanities and social sciences, who take longer to obtain a university post, often several years.”

A report by the trio, which was sponsored by the Economic and Social Research Council, was discussed by Professor Locke and Dr Freeman at a CGHE seminar on 19 July. It notes that many early career social scientists wanted to receive post-PhD mentoring from fellow alumni, although the study says that such mentoring is “complex and resource-intensive to establish and maintain” and it does not include this as a recommendation.

The study also notes that many respondents had called for new mechanisms to allow recent PhD graduates to stay connected to academia and research, which might also be considered.

The study states that it “should be possible for such researchers to [gain] a short-term grant to pay for them to be employed one day a week in a university while they continue…in their non-academic employment” – an opportunity that teaching-only lecturers could also access.

“This would make it easier to return to academia by increasing their publications record” and would resolve the “‘Catch-22’ of only being able to bid for research funding if in a permanent post”.

jack.grove@timeshighereducation.com

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Reader's comments (1)

Maybe, but perhaps what they really need is an industry that provides them with opportunities to get jobs that don't last for 10 months or one year. You know, as it used to be before 2008/9.

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