Too Many PhD Positions: Uppsala, Sweden

There are a lot of articles out there on the absurdity regarding the number of PhD students universities bring in (and quickly push out), while neglecting the fostering of high quality researchers.

For example, Larson et al., 2014 suggests that there are too many PhD students to ever replace the professors they worked for. Knowing this, The Economist  argues that the universities see PhD students as “cheap, highly motivated and disposable labour.”

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Larson et al. notes that less than 17% of new PhDs in science, engineering, and health-related fields find tenure track positions within three years after graduating. Three years!  For a less than one-in-five chance of stable employment.

The Times Higher Education states that since there are not enough tenured positions for PhD students to eventually get, many are left to only hold temporary contracts (and have lots of stress).

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The Guardian argues that this emphasis on PhD Students and much less on tenure track positions shows a lack of accountability by the departments and heads of the university.

Clauset et al. (2015) says that you stand a better chance of getting a tenure track position if you attended an elite university. For example, they found gross social inequality when they analyzed their data, noting that just a quarter of all universities in the USA and Canada equate to around 75% of all tenure-track faculty in the USA and Canada.

In the most simple terms: The field is saturated with PhD students.

Lessons:

  1. Go to the best university you can to earn your PhD. Note that “best” does not necessarily mean a) the hardest to get into, b) a good geographical location, or even c) a professor/research you want to work for/with. Best, in this case, means those elite schools that will connect you to the job market.
  2. Professors and various management administrators should work on revising plans to a) hire people who already hold PhDs and b) cut-back on hiring PhD students.
  3. There should be less emphasis placed on professors for hiring PhD students, and more emphasis placed on the quality of research they complete.

I recently checked Uppsala University’s website for job postings.

In rank order of the diversity of the jobs available:

Full professor positions = 0

Associate professor positions = 0

Assistant professor positions = 0

Postdoc positions = 0

Administrative positions = 0

PhD positions = 19

There were no less than 19 PhD positions, and no other career opportunities. In other words, don’t try to find a job in academics after you’re done with that PhD–there are no openings for you.

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New PhD students– you now have four years to find a job. Start looking!

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