Sunday, October 09, 2005

What's a PhD Worth?

Michaelmas term officially began today, so I suppose I’m really doing a D.Phil (=PhD) now – if I wasn’t already (I think I ‘officially’ began on the 1st October, and I’ve certainly been researching over the summer, based on my M.Phil anyway) It’s a bit of a shame I got very little done today, having been to a birthday party last night and not getting in until almost 5am, but at least I didn’t have any lectures because it’s Sunday…

I was slightly perturbed by reading this article that seems to question the value of a PhD, arguing they tend to focus too much on small pedantic issues and lose the big picture. While a lot of my professors don’t have PhDs, that’s the case of a past generation – now it’s a prerequisite of most academic jobs, though of course I do know one or two exceptions (Andrew Williams, for example, never actually completed the D.Phil he started here, with my supervisor).

If my research goes well, I’d like to enter academia. I am aware how competitive it is though. This report highlights that there are more doctors than academic posts, even if the government’s university target might increase demand for lecturers.

One advantage of doing politics rather than philosophy (at least when it comes to the official label of my thesis, which falls between the two really), is I suppose it sounds more marketable to potential employers such as newspapers or think tanks. Another Guardian article emphasises the need to look for transferable skills that can be applied outside of the academic ‘ivory tower’. I’ve already attended numerous applied ethics seminars while doing my masters, and plan to follow these up by attending the Public Policy Unit lunchtime seminars this term – so I hope I’m doing enough to keep that route open.

At the end of the day, a lot of people don’t even get as far as doing a PhD – much less finishing – so I suppose I’m lucky to be here, and funded. Being paid £12,000 just to be a student for two more years isn’t such a bad deal after all…

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