PhDs' best deterrent

February 27, 1998

Debts discourage students from taking PhDs (Research pull-out, THES, February 20) for several reasons. First, the graduate job market has seen salaries and demand rise, thus making postgraduate study the subject of greater scrutiny in terms of other opportunities available.

Second, the pay-off. The average university post-doctoral wage is between Pounds 15-18,000 per annum. It is not uncommon for research jobs to pay less than Pounds 15k. Compare this to even a teacher in a secondary school or the average salary levels of most graduate jobs and guess who is the poorest relation?

The widespread use of short-term contracts, a heavy workload and poor promotion prospects make the picture worse. As a final-year doctoral student, I will look at a university job as a last resort. Spending three or more years on your own research project often with little support fosters self-interest. Perhaps a survey of where PhD students would like to or expect to end up would be revealing.

Glenn Athey. Department of urban studies. University of Glasgow

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