Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Making Doctoral Degrees More Useful

Professor Inger Mewburn, The Thesis Whisperer,  has warned of a imminent economic crisis in higher education and called on those involved with doctoral education to change what they do now, before the crisis hits. While I agree we need doctoral degree graduates, changing the PhD is not the only way to do it. We need more Professional Doctorates, which are specifically designed to train people with the highest skills for industry.

Professor  Mewburn suggests more time be spent on students "developing their full professional selves". Students need to learn to present in public and be more outward looking, as they are unlikely to find a job in the department where they trained, or in any university department, anywhere.  While I agree with all of this, Professor  Mewburn has overlooked the Professional Doctorate. This is a degree at the same level as a PhD, but focused on the needs of professionals working in industry.

In a way it does not much matter if PhDs are reformulated to be professional doctorates in all but name, or genuine professional doctorate programs are introduced alongside PhDs. In either case, universities , need to make some hard decisions to make this happen, quickly. Otherwise economic conditions will make the decisions for them.

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