This is a call for all University of Sheffield Doctoral students who would like to give an opinion on whether their doctorate was worth it – what is the value of a PhD, to you personally, and in the job market? Billy Bryan (PhD student in Medical Education) and I are running a research survey where you can give you thoughts.
The topic of degree-value is an ever-present factor surrounding higher education, and doctoral programmes are no exception. The number of students studying for a research degree in the UK has steadily increased to over 112,000 in 2015. And five years’ worth of data from Science and The Royal Society shows that around 40-50% of STEM PhD graduates then opted to immediately work in roles outside of academia, a proportion which increases after subsequent post-doctoral contracts. All sectors, all discipline data can be seen here.
This got us thinking: what is the value of a PhD? And we’d like to know what you think for 2 reasons: (1) To allow researcher development professionals to optimise how they support doctoral to students make the most of their time while studying and (2) to better understand how the professional experiences and expertise from the PhD are actually being put into use in wider employment across sectors. We’d like to let employers know too, it’d be good for them to see what value doctoral graduates are adding to their businesses.
To collect data, we are using the survey, and we are also interviewing doctoral graduates from different backgrounds and disciplines who are now in different careers. We will analyse these data sets separately, then combine them to compare how current doctoral students, and graduates see the value of their degrees.
Ultimately, we hope that the findings of this work will raise awareness of the issues affecting the doctoral learning experience, providing meaningful new guidance and support for students. We will be producing a report and will aim to have this published in a national journal. By doing this we hope to inform doctoral programme designers, researcher development packages, and HE policy makers across the UK.
In phase 2 we will expand this research out to other universities in order to understand doctoral degree value in a national context.
The survey will take around 10-15 minutes to complete and your responses will be anonymous so you cannot be identified. If you are a doctoral graduate and wish to get involved please contact Kay Guccione.