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A Brave New World of Unemployed PhDs 失业哲学博士的新世界


In his article “Overeducated, Underemployed“, published in 2011, William Pannapacker wrote that “a humanities PhD will place you at a disadvantage competing against 22-year-olds for entry-level jobs that barely require a high-school diploma.”, and recommended prospective graduate students to avoid this track at all costs. And indeed, in the five years that have since passed, one may easily notice a continuous shrinkage of humanities’ budgets and replacement of tenured faculty members by contingent teachers.

Who are the people still pursuing a humanities PhD, while the rest of the world is looking for visible results and measurable increases in stockholder value? The recent “Survey of Earned Doctorates“, published by the US National Science Foundation, presents depressing prospects for recent PhD graduates, with an increasing competition for each available tenure track position, and an average tuition debt of $70K per graduate.

Moreover, as a doctorate in humanities usually takes longer to complete, a young Doctoris philosophiae will be thrown at the job market in his thirties, while his peers in the fields of Science or Technology are already in the midst of their careers. Lacking practical experience, the prospects of such PhD graduates are dreary; and even those able to find a postdoctoral or tenured position, will earn a meagre $40-60K/year.

Humanities studies were always at the core of universities, from Ancient Greece, through monastic schools of the Middle Ages, the first colleges of Bologna (1088) and Oxford (1096), until the 20th century. Academia was always the best place to pursue research and develop a stable academic career in any field of humanities – be it theology, linguistics or education. But what the hell happened now?

The answer, given in CVR Issue 4, is that knowledge is now de-monopolized. In an age when anyone, anywhere, can access any bit of information at the tip of his fingers, the schools of humanities with their vast libraries are rendered obsolete and redundant.

There are many new ways to pursue education and gain new knowledge, and doing research “for the sake of research only” may no longer be a feasible solution for universities to keep surviving.

What can universities do to survive and reinvent their roles as hubs of knowledge and research?

How can they change and improve the services they give to the surrounding society?

How can venture influence this perilous change and redesign universities for the Age of Knowledge?

  • CVR Issue 4 presents answers to these critical questions;
  • Our workshop, UV2017HK (April 23rd, 2017 – Hong Kong) will provide practical tools for universities’ survival.

Stay tuned.

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