no the guardian, education network...
"Jonathan Wolff is right, there are more people completing science PhDs than there are academic posts available (Doctor, doctor … we’re suffering a PhD glut, 21 April). That is why we must dispel the myths that a PhD leads to a job for life, and to leave academia is to fail. Students and their supervisors need to understand the wide range of careers that a PhD can lead to in and outside science. To this end the Royal Society has produced a set of principles to better manage doctoral students’ career expectations.
There are many careers outside academia where scientific skills are invaluable, and students should be exposed to these in their PhD training. It should also include basics like interview and presentation skills. Supervisors should encourage students to think early on about the path they’d like their career to take. We don’t need fewer people doing science PhDs, we need more people thinking more widely about what those PhDs could lead to.
• Jeremy Bentham’s auto-icon sits inert in its cabinet in University College London but, judging by Jonathan Wolff’s article, something of the spirit of utilitarianism still wafts through the institution’s corridors. If I read him correctly, Professor Wolff, UCL’s dean of arts and humanities, argues that the discrepancy between the number of PhD graduates in the arts and humanities and the number of university posts open to them is particularly problematical (“their subject training rarely prepares them for the work they end up doing”). In my experience, many PhD students in the humanities – particularly mature students – embark on a doctorate out of pure intellectual curiosity, a desire to test themselves, and an impulse towards self-fulfilment.
That aside, there are many professions where the insights, depth of understanding and appreciation of complexity that should flow from doctoral study may be applied. Among these may be numbered the caring professions, the police and - whisper it softly - school teaching. In the late 1950s and 60s, many schools – admittedly, chiefly direct grant or grammar – had on their books a number of staff with doctorates. There must be a significant number of teachers with doctorates in the humanities at present. Provided they can teach, such staff can only help raise the status of teaching – if one accepts that it needs raising.
Professor Wolff asks (rhetorically?): “Why do so many people continue to enrol for PhDs when the prospects are so uncertain?” The answer must be because human aspiration doesn’t fit the procrustean template of the market mechanism. Or at least that is what Bentham’s great critic Coleridge thought."
Emeritus professor Glyn Turton
Shipley, West Yorkshire