The disposable academic

The Economist, Dec 21, 2010
Commentary by Stephen Downes

The privateers smell blood in the water and have lined up their media, such as the Economist, to make the case for privatizing the university system. This article suggests that earning a PhD is a waste of time. "In some subjects the premium for a PhD vanishes entirely. 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." And, more significantly, it accuses universities of luring people into the programs merely for the supply of cheap labour. "In America the rise of PhD teachers' unions reflects the breakdown of an implicit contract between universities and PhD students: crummy pay now for a good academic job later." And it suggests that even the funders are misled. "The organisations that pay for research have realised that many PhDs find it tough to transfer their skills into the job market."
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