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Future of the PhD: live Q&A

What are the problems with the science PhD — and does it need reinvention? Join us here on Thursday, 21 April at 4pm London time for a live Q&A on the future of the PhD with Maresi Nerad, author of Toward a Global PhD?: Changes in Doctoral Education Worldwide. Enter your e-mail address below to sign up for a reminder, and feel free to post your questions in advance in the comment section.

The future of the PhD


  1. Report this comment

    Nadeem Faruque said:

    How can prospective PhD students best evaluate the viability of projects on offer? Should they be trained during their degree to consider potential supervisor’s track record, the funding or the advise of a trusted third party (eg BSc tutor)?

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    A.M. Khan said:

    How important is it to have specific experience/knowledge of the intended Phd area. Is it a big consideration on part of the selectors, or is it okay to somewhat change directions from the previous degree.

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    Daniel Robertson said:

    Should it be compulsory for all science PhD’s to complete an introductory course in the history, philosophy and sociology of science? Knowing the science content is one thing, knowing what it is to be a scientist is another thing entirely.

  4. Report this comment

    Glenn Masson said:

    Do you feel that PhD research projects with titles and aims which exist prior to a student embarking upon them inhibit the creativity of students in modern research PhDs? Are the diversity of approaches and influences which a new student may bring to a project stifled by the restrictions imposed by the research aims of the lab or supervisor?

  5. Report this comment

    Tewodros Gebresilase said:

    1. What is the most important things you should look before doing PhD? Is it funding, environment, research interest, …?

    2.What are some of the qualities you should need/develop for a graduate school?

    3.Is there any difference, in terms of quality, of European PhD which takes 3-4 years and the lengthy US PhD?

    4. How should you approach your supervisor when doing PhD?

    5. Any tips to make your PhD enjoyable???

  6. Report this comment

    Gonzalo Banda-Cruz said:

    In conservation industry, the job market is increasing the demand for PhDs into management positions. How to balance science specialization and management skills?

    PD: curricula at the moment hardly tackles both issues.

  7. Report this comment

    Akhand Pratap Singh said:

    Is it true that only positive or expected results are meaningful in Ph.D.

  8. Report this comment

    Eugene Sittampalam said:


    Standard textbooks in basic physics today reflect an unsubstantiated view of mainstream physicists, which concept was also uncritically accepted by Einstein in his relativity theories, that a moving body contracts ONLY in the direction of its motion and that NO contraction takes place along any direction perpendicular to that line of motion of the body. For an elaboration on this question, please see the following two web pages.




    Please do take this question very seriously, as the true and substantiated answer here would have ramifications across the ENTIRE realm of physics today, reinforcing physics as the bedrock of science!

  9. Report this comment

    ES said:

    Future of the Ph.D? Does it need reinvention? The main problem that needs to be addressed is: what should be the attitude of the society towards one who gets his/her Ph.D after toiling for many years, if the only reward at the end is to find a job as a taxi driver or a clerk at a grocery store?

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    Stuart Campos Guerra said:

    What will happen to people that has already gotten their PhD degrees? will they need something like a PhD renewal or something like that if the PhD variables change?

  11. Report this comment


    Very few PH.D programs across the world emphasize the problem solving aspects of research. Very often it is a case of “jumping at the deep end” when graduate research commences. If the PH.D. is a training in research only (3-5 years),then this may not be adequate. What is the ultimate objective of a graduate thesis?

  12. Report this comment

    José Alisson dos Santos said:

    I understand when a graduated professional, already established in the labor market, needs to go back to school to get PhD in his scientific area to improve his skills and possibilities of success. Somebody who goes straight from a graduate course to a PhD without leaving the school is spending a long time to introduce himself to the labor market. Isn’t he decreasing more and more the possibilities of finding a job in his specific area?

  13. Report this comment

    A. Yagi said:

    Is it not time to limit and acknowledge the universities which award PhD? Is it not time to seriously consider problem solving attitude in the program rather than just the conventional approach (inroduction, materials and methods, …etc?)

  14. Report this comment

    Tiankai Yao said:

    Is there any difference between the PhDs between China and the US? I know the situation in China for PhDs are terrible. no job position, no funding and no husband/wife~~pleases somebody answer me….the Future of PhDs in the US

  15. Report this comment

    Yizhi Xiang said:

    Obtain of a Ph.D degree should means of the excellent and specialized in a major of a person, they should be outstanding among their colleges. However, with the increases of the number of the Ph.D, the quality of them is decreased, because the professor doesn’t have enough time to push a Ph.D into excellent. I think there are mainly 3 problems associated with the Ph.D should be focused and need reinvention.

    First, Ph.D student is a kind of cheap and experienced worker for the professor, and the professor need more Ph.D student to work for them, so they simply ask Ph.D to do what they are interested in, while not teacher them why it is interested, because them have too many Ph.D student. Therefore, the graduated Ph.D student is only an experienced worker, but not a experienced researcher.

    Second, professors themselves can let a student graduate or not graduate, even if a Ph.D student is very poor in skill, they also can obtain the Ph.D degree, the key problem is they can pass the entrance test.

    Third, the school also need more Ph.D student to increase their rank in the country or the world.

    Firth, Ph.D have more chance in cause they have them same conditions as others, the society also have many limitations for none Ph.D worker, especially in university (for example, it is quite difficult for people to work in university and become a professor).

    So many Ph.D students can’t found a good job after graduate, thus the problem of postdoc is arising.

  16. Report this comment

    roger malina said:

    There are a number of new PhD programs in the arts, particularly in the emerging area of art-science practice.

    Does a PhD make sense in the arts ? what is the best way to train artist researchers ?

  17. Report this comment

    Dips said:

    My interests lies with interdisciplinary and applicable research.

    1)Doing a PhD would hinder me from entering the “present job” market for at least 4 years which on the contrary is getting demanding. Is PhD the right choice?

    2)If yes, would you recommend an industrial or an academic PhD?

  18. Report this comment

    Allan Pang said:

    I’m a PhD student. Should I panic now? Should I worry that I won’t have a job after earning my doctor’s title?

    Should I now get off in this program and pursue something else?

    I wanna work in academia but it seems that it is less and less encouraging now.

  19. Report this comment

    Saurabh Dewan said:

    1. Should field trips and industry rounds be actually incorporated into all kinds of PhDs?

    2. Isn’t the whole system be about enjoying your doctoral studies?

    3. Practical implications, whether they are for society, industry or academia be taken into consideration while pursuing doctoral studies?

    4. Which is better of the following: PhD after a bachelors’ degree or a masters’ degree?

  20. Report this comment

    nicolau werneck said:

    I didn’t know a PhD could take so long in the USA… But are these students enrolling right after graduation, or do they get a master title first?

    I am a graduate student, and I would love to collect information about how graduate students support themselves everywhere in the world. Here in Brazil we have lots of government grants… But they don’t pay very well (not at all) compared to salaries of recent graduates. Does that happen everywhere?

  21. Report this comment

    Krishna said:

    I think PhD students should be encouraged to spend quality time to come up with interesting questions rather than working only for publications.

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    Atul Abhale said:

    Yes, reinvension is needed in Ph.D.,In research areas very large number of publications are contributed by the research students. most of the time Advisers wont do there independent work and will be happy on the work of student itself. since students at first place are not matuare enough to do good research in starting days,so most of the research around the world is contributed by amature fellows. the role of the person registerd for Ph.D. is very important. So my suggesion is that please reduce the value of that role. During Ph.D. let them(student) be a learners and not experts.

  23. Report this comment

    Dick Turpin said:

    If your first and foremost concern is a job or even a stable career, I recommend AGAINST getting a PhD. Compared with other options out there, a PhD is probably not worth the investment of time and effort. However, if you want the opportunity to make an original contribution to human knowledge, a PhD is an excellent idea.

    Thus, I believe it makes the most sense to pursue a PhD out of a sense of intellectual adventure, and really for no other reason.

    Somewhere along the line – starting in the 1990s perhaps – the PhD was no longer seen as an in end in itself but as a stepping stone to a six-figure salary, health & retirement benefits, a mortgage, and a stable career. That’s very unfortunate because it’s ruined what a PhD originally stood for: intellectual adventure, something we could all use more of.

    Nowadays a PhD seems not much different from what a law or medicine degree stand for: prestige and wealth in service to the greedy and ignorant herd of humanity.

  24. Report this comment

    Dodo said:

    I’m working on my dissertation and I am completely burned out. When I started the grad school I was so determined, so dedicated, I had the curiosity. But now, after 4 years nothing is left. I got crushed completely and it was a combination of horrible adviser, very poor funding, and most importantly I finally figured out how our field works and it depresses shit out of me. It is not about your abilities, it is all about networking, who knows who and whos arse you kiss at the given time. I can safely say that the grad school completely killed the interest I had for the topic of my studies. I am bitter, disillusioned and have tons of student loans, because our stipend was 600 USD. These years were horrible, and if I could go back in time I would stay away from the grad school at all costs.

  25. Report this comment

    jeremy blank said:

    The move to solely employing staff with PhD’s within Art departments in universities has radically altered the focus, intent and dynamics within Visual Art majors. The M(F)A is a dead duck now, only perceived as a technician qualification while honors students are being tutored as part of their ‘contextual’ units in how to write their candidacy proposals for PhD. It is clear that the age of the ‘lab-rat’ project funded and driven academic / artist is upon us, while much of the work I have witnessed is really only illustration of existing critical (french) theory at best, hey it doesn’t matter coz they are in,& anyone with bucket loads of experience, good cv, range of practice etc etc. is out without those letters after the name.

  26. Report this comment

    Clarice said:

    Should publications and academic results be the sole focus of PhD? It is an accepted fact that these days, students of any level are expected to churn out publications and work for the pursuits of their PIs and disregard their own scientific interests.

  27. Report this comment

    Jeffrey Medis said:

    What an utterly fantastic world it would be, indeed, to see even 80% of the population with a Ph.D. Re-evaluating “elitism”, based on new educational models and (subsequent?) insecurities, seems base and tacky to me. However it does bring up something that is actually relevant: the increasing need to nurture social intelligence/i.q. “imagine” -john lennon

  28. Report this comment

    mynur said:

    In my opinion and through what I have experienced, the PhD supervisor’s role, his moral personal responsibility and his vision are vital because the supervisors are given too much power over their students. I have seen many selfish supervisors have almost destroyed the future chance of their student for their own selfish and personal perpose. No one questions or no one protects the student. There are supervisors who have deprived their students from any future development which includes participation in academic activities, seminars held in the department. I witnessed some of them have become lab labors for their supervisors without any academic perspectives. Some of them have been made to do their degree for 6 years so that they can produce an encyclopedia demanded by their supervisor rather than a thesis without alternative or any other choice. After that what happens to the student? Who cared? There are students who is suicidal!!

  29. Report this comment

    Ken Nii said:

    One case in Japan:

    Most our studies do not connect with business (in may case, volcanology). So we have less oppotunities to get not only academic posts but also private companys’ post. In my opinion, we, PhD, and our supervisor are not specialists for earnig or business. Now,we must know about them or we need professional agent for getting jobs. Anyway, we, Japanese scientists, have to appeal that research is important to our lives.

  30. Report this comment

    kent norton/cantubury said:

    many contribute new knowledge, Edison, Ford, Ben Franklin, Lincoln, Gates, etc. Why cannot a Ph. D. be granted for new knowledge by a peer group at a new type of global univsity, without the robes, pomp and cost. “teaching as a subversitive activity” by Postman and Weingarden was my mentor. Maybe 5-7 years at a grind does not separate the wheat from the chaff anymore. i love mixed metaphors

  31. Report this comment

    chunsheng said:

    Do you think most of the PHD student are excellent ? They are hardworking, smart. But what’s the propose do you think they are pursuing ? Good job ? Highter salary ? Steady life ? And how many PHD is really have strong interest ? I really want to know ? Why we PHDs are living for ?

  32. Report this comment

    Akhilesh Datt Pandey said:

    I would like to say, why we are worried that more students are obtaining PhD? What will happen if numerous students will obtain PhD?

    I think evolutionary point of view starting form microorganism evolution to human being. As per Darwin’s natural selection is active in the field of science also, I would like to say it is not simple, evolution also give power to evolve weakest species.

    If more PhD student will obtain there will be no harm because always Darwin’s natural selection law is active here it is modified like Scientist’s selection law. Under this law they are getting more application and selecting more suitable students. And may be after selecting high quality student they may be contributes better for science.

    Now the question about survival of those students who are not getting scientific position after PhD. It is really worth to think but we should know that we are educating them more and they are obtains more knowledge and skill along with widening their gauze. With this aspect if they will not obtain scientific position they will become frustrate little bit and due to pressure for survival they may adopt other type of work. Since they are educated fashionably whatever they will do they will do in a more logical way and nicely.

    The saturation of all types of job in this world is possible or not I do not know about this. But while giving them higher education we are making world population more educated and capable. This is the reason we should not afraid that more people are getting PhD or PhD factory.

    We are giving more educated people who can make a better world.


    Akhilesh Datt Pandey


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