Time to lay out the facts for PhDs

August 13, 1999

I was not one of those Simon Blackburn heard crying at the philosophy centre in Oxford ("Looking for a slice of the American pie", THES, July 30), but I could have been - I also failed the BPhil by one mark on one paper. I was not vivaed (no one was this year). Out of 20 candidates who started the BPhil in 1997, selected from about 100, no one got a distinction, and only 14 passed.

I am aware of no other postgraduate philosophy course that sets its hurdle so high or that has such a failure rate. The philosophy department's literature for potential candidates says nothing about these statistics. Given that the BPhil lasts twice as long and is considerably more expensive than most other taught postgraduate philosophy courses, candidates and their supervisors should be aware of the risk they run in taking the BPhil.

Sam Clark Queen's College, Oxford

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