Elevated career positions, life-changing research and a globally-recognised qualification; these are just a few things PhD programmes have to offer.
So what happens when a university PhD degree fails to fulfil those promises?
The threat of free research
Sometimes, PhD degree frameworks inspire practitioners to undergo years of in-depth research to reach pragmatic solutions that counteract global challenges.
Once the project has been finalised and the qualification has been awarded, the university can then gain recognition for the students’ efforts.
Through PhD study, students also pick up the academic expectations placed on the university. Your tutors might help you to construct a thesis, but the direction of your project may work in your respective department’s favour.
Author of You Must Be Very Intelligent: The PhD Delusion and Molecular Biology PhD graduate Karin Bodewits knows all too well the stresses postgraduate students experience.
“I wasn’t prepared well for life after my PhD and my supervisor wouldn’t have accepted me spending time on something different than research,” claims Bodewits.
With no space for personal work or networking opportunities, she continued to pursue her research for the university, but failed to nurture her future prospects.
An anticlimactic pursuit?
Those strenuous hours you spend in the library, the thousands of heavy textbook pages you read through and those regular discussions with your PhD mentor slowly fade into cherished moments of relief at your graduation ceremony.
Post-PhD blues are a legitimate experience, felt by many postgraduates who have reached the end of their course and have no new goals.
Through The Guardian‘s feature, Academics Anonymous, one student revealed their true feelings about their PhD experience.
“For the past three years I have been meeting deadlines, working non-stop and striving for something that felt bigger than I am, and now what? Just silence. This has left me feeling odd, sad and not myself.
“I’ve come to describe this funk as a case of post-doctoral melancholy. To me, it’s a feeling of worthlessness upon completing a PhD, an introspective sense of grief over my intellectual deterioration. Other postgraduates have similarly spoken of post-PhD blues or a post-dissertation slump, focused on the feelings of sadness and malaise following an intense period of study. For me, these feelings are best understood as my difficulties in adjusting to losing touch with my academic community and an intellectual way of thinking, ” the anonymous academic explains.
What about the post-PhD career prospects?
Often defined by lifelong recognition for your hard work and research, the reality of the PhD may not live up to its dreamlike expectations.
Throughout your studies, it’s likely you were so focused on your research that you failed to make use of the university’s connections or the opportunity to self-promote your skills.
Yes, your work may be outstanding and your ideas may be revolutionary, but beyond your campus bubble, employees face a saturated and competitive job market.
Consequently, PhD programmes require a careful act of balance, endorsed by supportive faculty members and personal tutors.
Failure to ensure this can cement an underlying fear in graduates that they will enter the working world without an understanding of what employers expect and where their PhD could lead.
All things considered, students must think twice about the value of a PhD degree and ensure that their chosen university has the faculty and resources to offer the support they deserve.