Seven new models for the PhD

We need more science PhDs, as in types of degrees, not necessarily doctoral students with a one in two chance of being employed in a university a decade after graduation.

Jonathan Morris, deputy dean of graduate research at UNSW, made the case for more refined PhD products to last week’s Australian Deans of Science research forum.

“Is the current PhD supervision model the best way to support the competing interests of research excellence and career development?,” he asks before providing seven alternatives to the “traditional PhD, with its focus on core research and optional value-added content.

Structured PhD: the focus is on research and other skills, with value-added content included and support by other academics as well as supervisor(s).

Academic PhD: “For those who want to be academics.” On top of research it includes a teaching component, such as supervising UG/masters students. A skills development component covers grant writing, project management, learning and teaching.

International PhD: the traditional PhD but studied and jointly awarded by two universities.

Developing nations PhD: intended for students seeking sustainable solutions that are culturally appropriate, includes placements in home country.

Science management PhD: “to learn management and consultancy skills.” Includes industry placement, leadership training and an MBA.

Entrepreneurial PhD: a longer programme, including a project with a commercial application, a start-up placement and support from a career mentor.

Industry focused PhD: industry “helps frame” the research question and provides a mentor/co-supervisor,

Aspro Morris points to the joint UNSW-CSIRO iPhD and the UNSW Scientia doctoral programme, which has an impact on social engagement or global impact as examples that fit his model.

However, he acknowledges challenges with the idea, notably how to set consistent assessment standards and fund the models.


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