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Change and perception of change in the PhD in social sciences. A case study

Matos, F.; (2012) Change and perception of change in the PhD in social sciences. A case study. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Blueskies University is a top UK institution: an old university, very prestigious, and a strong brand. As others it changed doctoral degree programmes in compliance with the Roberts Report, the QAA guidelines for research degrees, and the Joint Statement of the Skills training requirements for research students. These brought the importance of transferable skills to the fore. Universities should prepare students for life outside academia where research skills gained throughout the PhD may not be enough. A strong emphasis on completion deadlines is also affecting the structure of doctoral programmes. In this process the main PhD actors – supervisors and doctoral students – have not been heard. This thesis aims at giving voice to these two cohorts. Therefore I conducted 40 in-depth interviews in different Social Sciences departments at Blueskies University. The PhD experience as well as individual conceptions of the PhD were the main axes of my study. This research concludes that whereas the official skills discourse was widely perceived as being of little value, the views on the 3-4 years deadline were diverse. For the students, many of them gone over the deadline, this was of little relevance. However, supervisors were divided: some thought the deadline was a good thing. Students would have time for creative research throughout their academic career. Others voiced the concern that original thinkers were being rejected from PhD programmes for fears that their research could take longer. This thesis suggests that, for universities such as Blueskies University, the PhD may be losing its intrinsic value which conceives knowledge as an end in itself, and is being chosen for its extrinsic value, that of a passport to academia. It posits that the nature of social research is changing and therefore disciplines are changing too. Finally, the thesis questions whether universities are preparing intellectuals or efficient researchers.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:Change and perception of change in the PhD in social sciences. A case study
Open access status:An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language:English
Additional information:The author would like to thank the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia for the financial support of this project (PhD scholarship SFRH/BD/28177/2006)
UCL classification:UCL > VP Education > CALT (Centre for the Advancement of Learning and Teaching)

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