by Susan Porter & Lisa Young

A new taskforce report by the Canadian Association for Graduate Studies says it’s time to rethink the PhD.

What is a PhD for in 2018? Arguably, this is an open question in the academy. The core of the PhD continues to be the development of the ability to do independent, rigorous research, as documented in the dissertation. But, faced with unprecedented change in the academy and the world, academics are struggling with unresolved questions about the broader purposes of the degree.

Universities are increasingly engaged with society, changing the way we think about doing and communicating research; innovation is more routinely seen as an important mandate of the academy and its graduates; the concept of knowledge itself is evolving; and the world’s problems are such that solutions require a diversity of approaches not always practised in the academy. These changes necessitate reconceptualization of the PhD.

Greater awareness of the careers pursued by PhDs also drives this conversation, of course. Only a minority of PhD graduates will become professors. Most will continue to do “scholarly” work, broadly defined, but in ways that won’t necessarily resemble what they did to earn their degree. Their critical thinking abilities will remain important, but adaptability will also be essential, including the ability to connect and transcend different ways of knowing and doing.

Read the rest of this article in University Affairs.