When the funding councils decided to withdraw funding support from academic departments with a low PhD completion rate within four years, presumably their intention was to reward those units offering the best supervision and support to postgraduates.
But the consequence has been that some universities have introduced draconian regulations to set an absolute deadline of four years to force up completion rates whatever the circumstances. Students who fail to submit on this date will be denied any qualification. Yet we all know that there are many legitimate reasons why a PhD can take more than four years.
I am sure this devolution of sanctions was not the outcome intended by the funding councils, and urge them to reconsider their completion quota regulations to safeguard the interests of some of the weakest and most vulnerable members of the university community.
Bruce G. Charlton Department of psychology University of Newcastle upon Tyne