PhDs in industry aren't failures, says Blakemore

The perception among science, technology, engineering and maths PhD students that any career outside academia is akin to failure is denying industry access to high-quality, PhD-educated employees, a leading neuroscientist has claimed.

December 13, 2012

Colin Blakemore, professor of neuroscience and philosophy at the University of London’s School of Advanced Study and emeritus professor of neuroscience at the University of Oxford, said that too many postgraduate STEM students were “desperately clinging to what they see as the only honourable career after that training”.

Speaking to Times Higher Education after addressing a Westminster Higher Education Forum in London on 6 December, Professor Blakemore said: “Everybody at the moment has a view that those PhD students who don’t continue into an academic career are in a sense a failure, and I think we have to change that attitude both among students and among supervisors and teachers.”

He said that the only way to do this was to ensure that universities were giving the correct advice to postgraduate students and to those approaching the end of their undergraduate study.

“There’s much less advice available to graduates about the potential outcome of postgraduate training and in PhDs. We need to focus a bit on emphasising the range of other opportunities that are available,” he said.

One problem, Professor Blakemore said, was that many PhD supervisors see it as their role to nurture students for academia and are not concerned about what happens to those who decide against this path. “That might be a matter of educating the educators,” he said, adding that many supervisors give “very biased advice” to encourage their charges to pursue academic careers.

Professor Blakemore expressed concern about a lack of research into industry’s demand for people educated to postgraduate level in STEM subjects, claiming that more detailed information might push the government towards a reassessment of its funding model.

“[We need] more money for post-grad teaching, but that requires…a real evaluation, a critical evaluation of demand (that) would have to be government-led.

“[If we knew] what would be the needs of industry for people trained in taught master’s courses, research master’s courses, PhD courses in the future…then perhaps that would move the government to become serious about proper funding for postgraduate education.”

chris.parr@tsleducation.com.

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

Daniel Mitchell illustration (29 June 2017)

Academics who think they can do the work of professional staff better than professional staff themselves are not showing the kind of respect they expect from others

As the pay of BBC on-air talent is revealed, one academic comes clean about his salary

Senior academics at Teesside University put at risk of redundancy as summer break gets under way

Thorns and butterflies

Conditions that undermine the notion of scholarly vocation – relentless work, ubiquitous bureaucracy – can cause academics acute distress and spur them to quit, says Ruth Barcan

University of Oxford

Reinstatement of professor over age discrimination must force rethink over ‘unfair’ retirement rules, say campaigners