Reform the PhD system or close it down! : Mark Taylor — from The Center for Internet Research; posted by Reid Cornwell (emphasis DSC)
There are too many doctoral programs, producing too many PhDs for the job market. Shut some and change the rest, says Mark C. Taylor [Chair of the Department of Religion at Columbia University in New York and the author of Crisis on Campus: A Bold Plan for Reforming Our Colleges and Universities (Knopf, 2010)]


The system of PhD education in the United States and many other countries is broken and unsustainable, and needs to be re-conceived. In many fields, it creates only a cruel fantasy of future employment that promotes the self-interest of faculty members at the expense of students. The reality is that there are very few jobs for people who might have spent up to 12 years on their degrees.

There are two responsible courses of action: either radically reform doctoral programs or shut them down.

The necessary changes are both curricular and institutional. One reason that many doctoral programs do not adequately serve students is that they are overly specialized, with curricula fragmented and increasingly irrelevant to the world beyond academia. Expertise, of course, is essential to the advancement of knowledge and to society. But in far too many cases, specialization has led to areas of research so narrow that they are of interest only to other people working in the same fields, subfields or sub-subfields. Many researchers struggle to talk to colleagues in the same department, and communication across departments and disciplines can be impossible.

If doctoral education is to remain viable in the twenty-first century, universities must tear down the walls that separate fields, and establish programs that nourish cross-disciplinary investigation and communication. They must design curricula that focus on solving practical problems, such as providing clean water to a growing population. Unfortunately, significant change is unlikely to come from faculty members, who all too often remain committed to traditional approaches. Students, administrators, trustees and even people from the public and private sectors must create pressure for reform.


From DSC:

  • Again, the phrase staying relevant comes to my mind, as does the word reinvent.  Academia doesn’t need to pour more fuel on the backlash that’s building up against it.