Monday, December 17, 2007

Getting a Doctorate in Less Than a Decade? You Bet!

Hat tip to Tyler for leading me to this feature.

This is an excellent article about doctoral degrees and how some Humanities programs can encourage their doctoral candidates and the faculty advising them to expedite their graduation process. Here is a snippet from it:

For doctoral students, the clock is always ticking. How many years of fellowship support do you have left? How long can you delay starting a family or bringing home a real paycheck? How old do you want to be while still being a student? How many good jobs will disappear before you have a Ph.D.?

But what about the professors who supervise doctoral work? Does the clock tick for them enough to motivate them to be realistic about dissertation expectations, to be sure to get comments back on that chapter draft, and to both encourage and prod their Ph.D. students to the finish line?

A series of new policies in the humanities and the social sciences at Harvard University are premised on the idea that professors need the ticking clock, too. For the last two years, the university has announced that for every five graduate students in years eight or higher of a Ph.D. program, the department would lose one admissions slot for a new doctoral student. The results were immediate: In numerous departments that had for years had large clusters of Ph.D. students taking eight or more years to finish, professors reached out to students and doctorates were completed.


The life of a doctoral student is a mentally taxing and intense one. Much work needs to be done while life is also happening simultaneously. It's a big juggling act. Life appears to be in limbo which, to me at least, was a big incentive to be done as soon as possible.

While some of us have had very supportive advisers without whose help we would not have been able to finish as fast we we did, others might not have the same luxury. However, that's where policy comes into place. The Harvard example is indeed an encouraging one for all parties involved. And I am pretty sure that candidates generally speaking pine for academic closure.

4 comments:

Nicki said...

i've never been able to understand why some take a get a decade to get done either.

dave said...

Getting done fast is also a question of economics. Most candidates don't wish to be in a student status too long.

Rebecca said...

I do think doct. students need to approach their diss. writing process the way they'd approach any long-term activity: pragmatically and with pen and paper in hand. When can I get done and how can I allocate my time efficiently to the right, focused tasks that will take me to the finishing point. It's a tedious process but it works. I agree with you in that one could finish one's work in just 4 or 5 years. Look at you, right? Thanks for the post.

Teresa Robert said...

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