PhDo or PhDon’t?

Together with my academic partner in crime Armand Smits I wrote a brief reflection on the question what all the PhD-ing in The Netherlands (and in general) is good for. Or, more specifically: does PhD research prepare a PhD-to-be for his or her future career? The article was inspired by a literature review Armand and me wrote for Prof. em. Ben Dankbaar’s ‘liber amicorum’ on the career paths of PhD’s; specifically the first step on that path after obtaining the degree. The literature was intended to be factual, but we ran into some more philosophical and ethical questions that I felt were not very clearly represented in the academic literature on PhD career paths. In the article I linked to above, we go into the question what the (economic) value of PhD research could be. Without condemning anyone in academia or the field of educational policy, I still wonder if PhD research is about its contribution to the body of knowledge and the creation of a new generation of academics to populate universities, or about giving talented people an excellent start to a career that can just as well (or even more likely) be outside of academia. I’m not entirely convinced that PhD’s are well-equipped for the work that many of them will do in the worlds of business and policy after graduating. In any case, it seems a moral imperative to view PhD research in terms of its own societal costs and benefits, but also as a phase in the life of people who will base their future on its academic bedrock.

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