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Doctoral degrees: The disposable academic

Doctoral degrees: The disposable academic
ON THE evening before All Saints' Day in 1517, Martin Luther nailed 95 theses to the door of a church in Wittenberg. In those days a thesis was simply a position one wanted to argue. Luther, an Augustinian friar, asserted that Christians could not buy their way to heaven. Today a doctoral thesis is both an idea and an account of a period of original research. Writing one is the aim of the hundreds of thousands of students who embark on a doctorate of philosophy (PhD) every year. In most countries a PhD is a basic requirement for a career in academia. One thing many PhD students have in common is dissatisfaction. Whining PhD students are nothing new, but there seem to be genuine problems with the system that produces research doctorates (the practical “professional doctorates” in fields such as law, business and medicine have a more obvious value). Rich pickings Other countries are catching up. Indeed, the production of PhDs has far outstripped demand for university lecturers.

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