The case in favour of more PhDs

Léo Charbonneau, University Affairs, Dec 15, 2011
Commentary by Stephen Downes

The phrase from this article that jumped out at me and slapped me in the face was this: "PhD training in Canada." I'm not sure what reaction the author is intending to evoke with such a remark (or whether it was merely written absently) but it does point to what I think is a widening disagreement about the purpose of higher education. The author has just written two posts pessimistic about the PhD job market (here and here) with figures suggesting that the difference in income between Master's graduates and PhDs is minimal. Here he points to figures that counter that argument: the amount of money made by MBAs, and the growth in the number of PhDs being imported into Canada. He concludes, "I think the debate isn’t that PhDs have value, but that they have to be perceived as having value by employers. The challenge, as I see it, is how to get the private sector to utilize and recognize the value of these workers." And my reaction to this way of thinking is hostile, because it would entail jumping through ridiculous PhD hoops to qualify for jobs outside academic as well as inside. What we actually need is a way to provide and recognize very advanced education in a manner that does not resemble some sort of medieval initiation.
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