I’m winding up my time here at UBC, so it seems fitting that on Friday, I had opportunity to attend a symposium on the very future of the Canadian PhD itself.
The symposium “Re-imagining the PhD: new forms and futures for Graduate Education” was organised by the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. I assisted the GPS team on the day, taking notes for some of the sessions; it was a wonderful opportunity to get a sense of some of the current conversations surrounding graduate education in Canada.
Faculty, postgraduates and distinguished guests such as Dr
Andrew Szeri (UC Berkeley) and Dr Russell Berman (Stanford) met to discuss the different attributes PhD graduates need to succeed in diverse fields, how the PhD can serve the public good, and what barriers and challenges exist in reinventing or reimagining the PhD for the 21 Century.
As you might expect in an academic setting, there were a lot of different views, and some lively discussion! Appropriate vehicles of of assessment, the perception of non-academic careers as ‘failures’ and the need to collaborate across disciplines were all topics that sparked debates, as well as strenuous defences of the PhD as a research project rather than career preparation.
One of the issues identified was how to best take advantage of existing expertise in postgraduate development, and how to promote collaboration. There’s a lot of knowledge and expertise available, but it can be difficult to know how to access it. That’s where programmes and offices like the GPS office (and my own role at Birmingham) can be usful.
The day ended with lots of new ideas, and it seems that’s there’s some interesting conversions and projects still to happen. I’m sad I won’t get to see them played out here!