Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Dispel Illusion of PhDs Leading to Jobs for Life, Says Royal Society

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Dispel Illusion of PhDs Leading to Jobs for Life, Says Royal Society

Article excerpt

Universities told to help doctoral students explore wider career opportunities. Holly Else reports

Universities should have a "proper dialogue" with PhD students from the start about the fact that they are "not walking into a job for life".

That is the view of Dame Athene Donald, head of a Royal Society working group that has published new guidelines about doctoral candidate development.

Dame Athene said the guidelines give a "clear statement" about the role of universities in managing the expectations of junior scientists at a time when competition for academic jobs has never been fiercer.

Students should also take responsibility for establishing and managing their own career expectations, according to the document, Doctoral Students' Career Expectations: Principles and Responsibilities.

Dame Athene, professor of experimental physics at the University of Cambridge and fellow of the Royal Society, told Times Higher Education that academia should be "honest and up front" about the fact that there are far more PhD students in training than there are faculty positions for them to fill.

"If they don't find out until quite late, they can be quite angry," she said. "One of the key things is to make sure right from the outset that students know that they are not walking into a job for life. There should be a proper dialogue about what a PhD is for [and] that it is not simply the first step in a logical career progression."

The Royal Society outlines its expectations for students, supervisors, career services and universities in the document, due to be published on 18 December. …

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