Phi Beta Cons

The Incredible Shrinking Need for Ph.D.s

In this Chronicle of Higher Education article, Leonard Cassuto, a Fordham English professor, walked right up to a hard dose of reality, recognized it for what it was, and then fled in terror as if he’d seen the Mark of the Beast. The dose of reality that so terrified him is the fact that universities are overproducing Ph.D.s at an absurd rate:

If the goal of graduate programs is to produce only enough Ph.D.’s to fill the hiring needs of colleges and universities, then that number is . . . going to be so small, in fact, that it will cause drastic changes in the structure of graduate education.

He recognized that one of two things must occur for academia to produce the proper numbers of Ph.D.s — to “rightsize” itself. One, there must be smaller graduate programs — so small, in many cases, that enrollment will no longer be able “to support the traditional seminar method of teaching.”

The other is the more likely — there must be fewer programs. Unfortunately, to Cassuto this would mean an end to intellectual diversity in academia, since he feels that only the most prestigious programs would be able to stay afloat and only the wealthiest and most orthodox students would qualify.

Rather than accepting one of those two conclusions, Cassuto then suggests that academia must sell students on how valuable their Ph.D.s will be for careers outside of academia.

His suggestion is just a desperate attempt to keep the Ph.D. Ponzi scheme going. Except for a few high-level scientific, financial, policy, and technical jobs, just about nobody needs Ph.D.-level training outside of academia.

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