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Are PhD graduates unemployable? Are we are producing too many PhDs? Does the public good of their research outweigh the public cost of their training?
Obtaining a PhD by research is the pinnacle of formal educational achievement and in principle PhD graduates have experienced an unrivalled opportunity to realise, cultivate and unleash their intellectual potential. Despite the undoubted strength of PhD education in Australia there is an ongoing debate here as right around the world about PhD programs, their purpose and effectiveness. Some of this debate reflects the views of disillusioned graduates who are finding that their employment opportunities do not meet their expectations; some reflects the views of employers that PhD graduates lack some of the attributes they would expect (and require) them to exhibit; some reflects the concerns of governments that there may be an insufficient supply of PhDs to meet the demands resulting from their policies to restructure their economies and make them more competitive, as well as their unease about the increasing costs of PhD education and its effectiveness.
This paper presents the context for this debate and identifies some of the suggested reforms emerging from this worldwide discussion.