Doctoral supervision may be in trouble

July 12, 1996

John McGinnety (THES,July 5) like Anthony Cohen, misses the point made in the Higher Education Funding Council for England "Harris Review", the Royal Society "Harrison Report" and indeed the United Kingdom Council for Graduate Education "Harloe Report". The objective is not to limit research in the new universities at all.

The problem is that in department/units which are not 4 or 5 rated (by the Research Assessment Exercise) doctoral students may not receive satisfactory supervision. Departments rated 4 and 5, whether in the ex-polytechnic new universities or in pre-1992 universities, provide excellent doctoral supervision, in my experience.

However, the quality of doctoral supervision in 2, 1 and unrated departments can often cause considerable concern. If the Harris/Harrison/Harloe recommendation is not implemented then the overall international standing of the PhD will be seriously degraded. In fact, I made exactly this recommendation in February 1996 to the Dearing Committee. I wonder whether McGinnety and Cohen are missing the point for political reasons?

DAVID TAPLIN Down Thomas, Devon

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