What has happened to the “research” doctorate?

After being knocked back for funding for future PhD students I finally found out why.

And apparently it is because I am a dinosaur.

Back in the dim and distant past when I did my PhD you worked with your supervisor in a collaboration to put together some experiments that addressed a question. Notice: collaboration, i.e., your supervisor doesn’t design all the experiments for their student. And certainly not before they’ve even recruited the student.

Nowadays, if you want funding, apparently you have to design all the experiments up front.

This might be my personal view that has gone the way of the dinosaurs, but in my day that was called a “taught” doctorate, not a research one.

If this is how studentships are designed these days, why bother with a student? Wouldn’t you be better with an already trained postdoc? In this new system, they are effectively the same thing: general dogs body and lackey to do your bidding. Independent thought not required. No input desired.

In this new system, where is the training? The mentoring? How does a student learn to conduct research if they have no input and just follow some preordained plan delivered from on high (yes, I am, in fact, god).

What happens if the first experiment goes tits up?

In the push to get more and more students enrolled on PhD programmes, we seem to have forgotten the bigger picture. We’re suppose to be training the next generation.

EDIT. Should also point out that one of the big reasons for moving over to this new model is because uni’s want to increase their completion rates. RCUK only counts a student as completed if they submit in four years


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