Overview Articles

Denise Cuthbert and Tebeje Molla (2015), PhD crisis discourse: a critical approach to the framing of the problem and some Australian ‘solutions’, Volume 69, Issue 1, January 2015, p. 33-53

Abstract. A feature of HE reform discourse is the tendency to construct the rationale for reform in terms of averting calamity and risk. We refer to this risk talk as ‘crisis discourse’. This study examines the formulation of PhD crisis discourse internationally and in Australia. We find that a key feature of PhD crisis discourse is that universities are producing too many graduates for too few academic jobs; and graduates lack skills that enable them to be productive in jobs outside academia. In Australia, the discourse has shifted from one dominated by efficiency concerns from the late 1990s to the present focus on graduate skills and employability. The policy solution to the efficiency crisis in the Australian PhD resulted in system-wide changes in research training funding focused on increased efficiency. The current unemployability discourse has as yet prompted isolated institutional responses, the introduction of new PhD programs or re-badging existing offerings as pro-skills development offerings. Following an examination of three Australian institutional responses, we conclude that the crisis discourse signals tensions surrounding the PhD: should achievement in doctoral education be measured by outcomes in intellectual excellence or the responsiveness of qualification to the current needs and priorities of society?

Macauley, P, M. Pearson, T.Evans (2008). Growth and diversity in doctoral education: assessing the Australian experience. Higher Education, Volume: 55 Issue: 3 (March 1, 2008), pp: 357-372
Abstract. The major growth of doctoral education in recent decades has attracted attention from policy makers and researchers. In this article we explore the growth of doctoral education in Australia, its impact on diversity in respect of the doctoral population, shifts in disciplinary strengths, institutional concentration and award programs. We conclude that there has been both change and continuity in the provision of doctoral education with extensive variation at the level of practice in what is a reasonably stable system featuring continuing hierarchical institutional diversification. The limitations of available data and issues for further research, policy and practice are discussed.

Smeby, J. C. (2000). Disciplinary differences in Norwegian graduate education. Studies in Higher Education, 25(1), 53-67.

Abstract. In the humanities and the social sciences master’s and PhD students take more lime to complete their degree than in the natural sciences, This article examines the reasons for the difference. The findings suggest that field differences in Knowledge structures and in the organisation of research have significant implications for research training. ‘Hard’ fields are characterised by a directed supervision model and a close relationship between students’ and supervisors’ research. Even though this model appears to be effective, it seems to be difficult to implement in ‘soft fields where team organisation of research is rare and where professional authority and judgements are more subject to discussion.

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Latest update:28-3-2015



The Responsive PH.D. Innovations in U.S. Doctoral Education. Published by: The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.



Brewer, Robert (2007). Your PhD Thesis. How to plan, draft, revise and edit your thesis. Abergele: Studymates Limited.