By Jeff Hawkes
New plans to rejuvenate working conditions for Ph.D. students in the UK were revealed today, receiving a poor reception. The plans are being introduced due to an explosion in PhD student recruitment over the past few decades.
“It used to be that having a degree was fantastic for ones employment opportunities, but over the years the UK has allowed the value of higher education to decrease and become gradually less relevant to a candidates eventual job. Now go-getting youngsters who want to ‘get the edge’ on their rivals are having to earn an extremely specific research doctorate in order to apply for any job earning more than minimum wage”, said social analyst Frank Bosser.
“We’re expecting that over the coming years the average Joe will need some years of teaching experience at university level in order to leave higher education with any employment prospects whatsoever”. It’s quite a normal ‘educational inflation’ effect when there aren’t enough jobs to go around and so people by default continue to get more qualifications. The problem is that the universities stay the same physical size, so ‘something’s gotta give’”
James Blogg, head of the governments Centre for Recession Administration Management (CRAM), said: “We’ve begun reducing the actual space given to individuals – and Ph.D. students in particular, because they have the least power and they generally leave after a while anyway. Also, by reducing the amount of space available to the student, we get the bonus effect of minimizing the amount of movement-related procrastination they can indulge in. We’ll pipe in instant coffee and high protein food supplements so they never really have to leave.”
“Our main goal is to increase potential enrollment and improve the output of high-impact scientific research articles from universities in the UK, but we’re also working with departments of Social Sciences, Psychology and Medicine, across the country, in a cross-disciplinary research exercise.”
Jimmy Young, a Masters student from the USA, is having second thoughts about enrolling at university in the UK:
“I have formally accepted an offer to work on an incredibly interesting Ph.D. project, but now I’m not so sure. The university looked first-class when I visited and saw the ‘typical’ working conditions, but now I hear that there’s some sort of weird Phillip K. Dick future-utopia battery-chicken thing going on, and I’m not sure if I want to spend three (four) years at the prime of my life depriving myself of sunlight and happiness. Even if it might improve my H-index, whatever that is.”
A representative from a leading UK university had the following to say: “We just can’t stop people from applying for Ph.D.s here, and we don’t know what to do with them – we certainly can’t turn down the money! Goodness knows what people would think of us if we gave only a few great students our fantastic Ph.D. supervision, rather than trying our best to educate as many future professors as possible. That’s so old-fashioned it’s almost laughable! If we’re not turning out at least 20 doctors per professor every year, the whole system is just going to collapse in on itself, like a very clever supernova.
Jeff Hawkes is a PhD student at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton