Just a note of caution: I agree with much of the discussion so far, but
some appears to categorise students into 'suitable' different career
paths based on the country and system in which they did their Ph. D.
This seems to me to be a generalisation too far.
First, we could compare like with like in terms of age: a student who
has just completed a Ph. D. in the US will tend to be a year or two
(often more) older than one who has just completed a Ph. D. in the UK. A
UK-PhD students of the same age as just-graduated US-PhD students would
generally therefore have had a couple of extra years experience post-PhD
to widen their education and knowledge. That might have been as a
postdoc, but if that experience has been in industrial/governmental
research then they may even have a broader background than the
just-graduated US students who's training to that point might only have
been within universities. Hence, either system could produce equally
good academic, industrial or governmental employees or researchers.
Also note that much of the UK-PhD system has changed to a 3.5 or 4 year
PhD system, including elements of taught training.
Finally, in my experience, I simply haven't noticed that academic
postdocs that we have had who came from the US-PhD system were any
better or worse at academic research than those from the UK-PhD system.
There doesn't seem to be a consistent pattern at all.
So, I don't agree with:
"The shorter time to [UK]PhD is probably appropriate for those PhD grads
that go on to industry, consulting or government jobs."
We should be careful not to over-generalise. There are potentially many
PhD students on this list who might feel that their future career paths
are being categorised unfairly!
Brandon, Mark wrote:
> Interesting discussion. Let me take up the "further training" issue that Jo=
> hn mentions below.
> In the US system, there has been a decreasing emphasis to get an MSc before=
> a PhD. At Yale, we only have a PhD program, and about 90% of our incoming =
> students have not done a masters. The trend is to decrease the amount of ti=
> me to a PhD from about 7 years for both a MS and PhD when I was a student b=
> ack around 1980, to about 5 years for a PhD alone. I prefer this approach t=
> o the UK approach, where students are expected to get a PhD in 3 years. The=
> reason is that the US approach provides the time needed for a student to d=
> evelop his or her own research project. My sense is that students in the UK=
> and in Europe are more commonly assigned a project that has already been d=
> efined. That allows them to finish in a shorter time, but does not allow pr=
> actice doing independent research.
> The other change is the increasing number of PhD students that go on for po=
> st docs. About 1/3 of our PhD grads go on to get academic positions. Many o=
> f those get post-docs, which provides an important opportunity to develop f=
> urther independence and experience. The shorter time to PhD is probably app=
> ropriate for those PhD grads that go on to industry, consulting or governme=
> nt jobs. The post-doc opportunity provides a more efficient way to provide =
> academic based experience for those who need it.
> Mark Brandon, Professor, Dept. of Geology and Geophysics
> Yale University, P.O. Box 208109, 210 Whitney Avenue
> From: "John F. Dewey" <[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>>
> Reply-To: Tectonics & structural geology discussion list <GEO-TECTONICS@JIS=
> CMAIL.AC.UK<mailto:[log in to unmask]>>
> Date: Sun, 7 Aug 2011 16:40:04 -0400
> To: "[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>" <GE=
> [log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>>
> Subject: Re: BSc to PhD?
> Jeff Greenberg is right that the US system produces a better-educated, more=
> -rounded person but that person needs furthe traing in their discipline bef=
> ore undertaking Ph. D lavel research.We need diversity.
> John Dewey
> On 8/7/11 2:24 PM, "Jo Marion" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> With the long-term effect of the misguided abolishment of state-run grammar=
> schools in Britain, we are in real danger of losing all meritocracy in edu=
> cation, especially with the introduction of exorbitant undergraduate tuitio=
> n fees. The British geology degree is of a very high standard and I do bel=
> ieve students are adequately schooled for PhD research if they have innate =
> analytic ability.
> An excellent way of judging if a student is suitable for research is throug=
> h the final year project - usually a mapping project for geology. My colle=
> ge actively encouraged and supported an extended project in addition to a f=
> ull mapping project, and it placed the marking supervisor in an excellent p=
> osition to judge the student's ability and tenacity to go on to PhD researc=
> Can I suggest that UK colleges encourage Geology BSc students interested in=
> going onto PhD to undertake an extended project and that the reference sup=
> plied by the marking supervisor be the most valued. It will show commitmen=
> t from the student and give potential PhD supervisors an important indicato=
> r of suitability. It will also encourage poorer students to consider PhD a=
> s they will not have an extra MSc year to fund.
> J. Marion
>> Date: Sun, 7 Aug 2011 20:03:45 +0100
>> From: [log in to unmask]
>> Subject: Re: [GEO-TECTONICS] BSc to PhD?
>> To: [log in to unmask]
>>> Dear Colleagues,
>> I think that Paul Ryan and Cara Burberry have the "right answer"
>> between them. We need a mechanism (the Bologna process or something
>> like it) to allow and encourage ease of student movement across
>> Europe and the globe, recognizing that students have different years
>> of experience and expertise/training in different countries. The
>> solution is "do not force uniformity of training and degree structure
>> but recognize and allow for the differences. The funding authorities
>> must loosen up and take this into account.
>> Best wishes,
>>> I should add that although Europe is developing tools to assist in
>>> the recognition of degrees, this does not
>>> take away the right of an individual course director to select
>>> students according to the advertised pre-requisites.
>>> In that academics are still 'free'.
>>> Professor Paul D. Ryan
>>> EOS, NUI, Galway, Ireland
>>> tel:+353(0)91794599 mob: +353(0)872956190
>>> -----Original Message-----
>>> From: Tectonics & structural geology discussion list on behalf of
>>> Mary-Caroline Burberry
>>> Sent: Fri 8/5/2011 1:14 PM
>>> To: [log in to unmask]
>>> Subject: Re: BSc to PhD?
>>> It seems to me that it's not the official "name" of the degree that
>>> is the pre-requisite for a PhD but the amount the student knows and
>>> time they have actually spent studying geology.
>>> I trained in the British system where we studied next to nothing but
>>> geology for the 3 or 4 years of the undergraduate, and am now
>>> teaching in the US system where my students have to take a large
>>> amount of general education classes and therefore spend around 40%
>>> of their time actually studying geology, over a 4-5 year average
>>> time in undergrad. After the undergrad degree, my US students have
>>> to go on to a Masters pre-PhD so that they can improve their
>>> knowledge of (often) core geology. We currently have at least one
>>> MSc student here who has never had a structural geology class. I'd
>>> be very skeptical indeed of taking on a student as a PhD student
>>> with the 50% general education credits that many of my undergrads
>>> have, even if the student in question had been in university for
>>> I don't know how these systems compare to the EU system, having
>>> never been a part of it.
>>> Cara Burberry
>>> Donate $13.10 FOR THE CURE!!!
>> Please note that my email address has changed to:<http://pages.teamintrai=
> ning.org/ne/omaha11/cburberqb8> [log in to unmask]
>> Prof. John F. Dewey FRS, M.R.I.A., FAA, Mem. Acad. Eur., Mem.
>> US Nat. Acad. Sci., Distinguished Emeritus Professor University of
>> California, Emeritus Professor and Supernumerary Fellow, University
>> College Oxford.
>> Sherwood Lodge,
>> 93 Bagley Wood Road,
>> Oxford OX1 5NA,
>> England, UK
>> University College,
>> High Street,
>> Oxford OX1 4BH
>> Telephone Nos:
>> 011 44 (0)1865 735525 (home Oxford)
>> 011 44 (0)1865 276792 (University College Oxford)
> Please note that my email address has changed to: [log in to unmask]<mailt=
> o:[log in to unmask]>
> Prof. John F. Dewey FRS, M.R.I.A., FAA, Mem. Acad. Eur., Mem.
> US Nat. Acad. Sci., Distinguished Emeritus Professor University of Californ=
> ia, Emeritus Professor and Supernumerary Fellow, University College Oxford.
> Sherwood Lodge,
> 93 Bagley Wood Road,
> Oxford OX1 5NA,
> England, UK
> University College,
> High Street,
> Oxford OX1 4BH
> Telephone Nos:
> 011 44 (0)1865 735525 (home Oxford)
> 011 44 (0)1865 276792 (University College Oxford)
Prof. Andrew Curtis
Total Chair of Mathematical Geoscience
Tel.: +44 786 654 6227
Fax.: +44 131 668 3184
School of GeoSciences
The University of Edinburgh
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