Sorry saga of PhDs

August 6, 1999

A jobless English PhD points out what appears to be a paradox:

"I thought that if the university and the Arts and Humanities Research Board was so keen to fund me for three years, it must have considered an academic career a realistic outcome" (Letters, THES, July 23). Had they known there would be no job at the end, they "might not have wasted their money". But not all the money has been wasted. Tuition fees can be used to shore up impoverished English departments. Moreover, a large number of postgraduates will boost a department's research assessment exercise rating, which may improve its financial position. Funding postgraduates can even generate profit if they are used as underpaid teachers.

There may be no financial reasons why universities should stop funding unnecessarily large numbers of arts postgraduates. Whether ethical reasons are still part of the equation is anyone's guess.

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