You really want a PhD… really…?!?

So you think you want to do a PhD…?

You have a bright idea for a research project. You have made contact with a number of academics who could potentially supervise your work. You have investigated sources of funding. You have looked into the processes for all the applications. You have collated all the documents and information that you need. You are now about to take your first big step and submit your applications.

While you wait for the outcomes of these applications, and before you make the final decision to embark on a PhD, you may want to read the following articles and learn a little bit more about the risks and potential costs of going down the PhD pathway.

Think of this as a ‘consumer warning label’ before you purchase the very costly (in time, finances and health) product of a Ph.D. education/experience. Rather than discourage you, the information on this page is provided in the spirit of helping you make an informed decision. A caveat emptor if you will.

NOTE: these articles came to my attention by way of news feeds and email newsletters. I did not actively set out to cull a biased selection of horror stories. That said, there is subjectivity in choosing articles to feature on this page. Although most of the articles make reference to universities located in the ‘West’ (with which I am most familiar), many of the dynamics and issues identified also exist to a greater or lesser degree in other locations, particularly in those institutions that see themselves as part of the global higher education industry. The dates next to the links to the articles refer to the date of publication.

Most universities in the world today operate in a global marketplace, and have converged onto rather similar ‘business strategies’, the chief of which is the pursuit of status in global university rankings. This ‘business goal’ contributes to the increasing emphasis on research-, over teaching-, profile, which in turn has (rather predictable) implications for those seeking and attempting to hang on to academic positions…

This (September 2015) is, sadly, one of the best snapshots of the current state of the higher-education sector in English-speaking countries that I have read in recent times. For a critical (damning?) evaluation of the contemporary university in Australia (UK and USA), read this (April 2016).

The state of the academic job-market has given birth to a series of articles, collectively known as “quit lit”, written by discouraged aspiring-academics:

If you do decide to sign up onto a doctoral programme, here are some handy tips for your PhD experience: