Sunday, December 19, 2010
The Economist looks at today's glut of doctoral students as a sign of decay in higher education. Some especially pertinent quotations:
"Although a doctorate is designed as training for a job in academia, the number of PhD positions is unrelated to the number of job openings… The fiercest critics compare research doctorates to Ponzi or pyramid schemes."
"Since  America’s annual output of PhDs has doubled, to 64,000."
"The production of PhDs has far outstripped demand for university lecturers. In a recent book [Higher Education?: How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids - and What We Can Do About It], Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus, an academic and a journalist, report that America produced more than 100,000 doctoral degrees between 2005 and 2009. In the same period there were just 16,000 new professorships."
"In America only 57% of doctoral students will have a PhD ten years after their first date of [enrollment]. In the humanities, where most students pay for their own PhDs, the figure is 49%."
"PhDs in maths and computing, social sciences and languages earn no more than those with master’s degrees. The premium for a PhD is actually smaller than for a master’s degree in engineering and technology, architecture and education. Only in medicine, other sciences, and business and financial studies is it high enough to be worthwhile. Over all subjects, a PhD commands only a 3% premium over a master’s degree."
"Workers with “surplus schooling”—more education than a job requires—are likely to be less satisfied, less productive and more likely to say they are going to leave their jobs."
"The organisations that pay for research have realised that many PhDs find it tough to transfer their skills into the job market. Writing lab reports, giving academic presentations and conducting six-month literature reviews can be surprisingly unhelpful in a world where technical knowledge has to be assimilated quickly and presented simply to a wide audience."
Learn More: The Economist: The disposable academic: Why doing a PhD is often a waste of time
Read More: Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus have summarized some of their newest book's findings for The Chronicle of Higher Education in Are Colleges Worth the Price of Admission?
Read More: Robin Wilson offers sobering numbers of the shrinking tenure system in The Chronicle of Higher Education: Tenure, RIP: What the Vanishing Status Means for the Future of Education. Here's the key number: "Over just three decades, the proportion of college instructors who are tenured or on the tenure track plummeted: from 57 percent in 1975 to 31 percent in 2007. The [U.S. Education Department report, Employees in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2009], is expected to show that that proportion fell below 30 percent in 2009. [ed. note: the percentage held at 30 percent exactly] If you add graduate teaching assistants to the mix, those with some kind of tenure status represent a mere quarter of all instructors."
Read More: Last Call at All-You-Can-Eat Academy