Integral Education: Strategic Challenges and roadmap ahead (XXIV): Why does the Ph.D. programme have to change?
Many times I wonder if I was not able to travel out of El Salvador to do my Ph.D. simply because the way it works is not fruitful to my own expectations. As I mentioned to you in the past, one of my dreams is to do a Ph.D. in Management. For several years, I have explored several top universities, one of them is INSEAD, France. The INSEAD program seems to be the one I would have chosen 15 years ago. I couldn´t pursue it because I was forced to stay in El Salvador. This crazy idea of stopping brain drains or human capital flight (or to stop the emigration of highly trained or intelligent people from their country of origin) obstructed me to continue with my academic dreams. And I couldn’t leave El Salvador then. To this day, I am still trapped in town without my marriage with Alejandro Guillermo Lozano Artolachipi, without my own babies, and all my dreams to become a Doctor of Philosophy in Management have been on hold. I hope this will change soon. But I will not complain about it. “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” Romans 8:28.
On my last publication, I wrote about the importance of educating the educators as the main strategic challenge for Asia, Latin America, and Africa. And when I wrote “educating the educators”, I meant that professors have to be improved and redesigned for the needs and wants of the next decades. And this education to the educators has to be integral (in terms of ethics, in terms of content, in terms of teamwork, in terms of how to cultivate relationships with other professors, in terms of respect to multidisciplinary talent, and in terms of redesigning the content to keep and protect the planet earth and people living here, and in terms of fostering the skills needed for the future era). To teach the educators is crucial. To re-educate the educators brought me to the Ph.D. And exposed the following question: Why does the Ph.D. programme have to change? Regardless of the academic field.
Let´s understand how the Ph.D. currently works. What is a Ph.D.? It is the initials of Doctor of Philosophy. To my understanding, the majority of higher education entities with a respectable degree of reputation offer a Ph.D. or Doctor of Philosophy in some or several specialized fields. We can find Ph.D. in management, Ph.D. in History, Ph.D. in Astronomy, Ph.D. in Psychology, Ph.D. in Biology, etc. Harvard University offers 76 subject fields of the Ph.D.
The Ph.D. is a doctorate title. In the majority of the countries, it is a degree offered to those who have finished a Bachelor Degree or 4 years of undergraduate university. It is awarded to those who have an academic dream to teach and to do research. Depending on the university, it may require at least between 4 to 6 years of fulltime dedication upon completion. Usually, the Ph.D. student is required for the initial two years of graduate study course-work, and later between two to four additional years for research and dissertation. Some universities offer a Ph.D. of 3 years duration for those who have a Master Degree in the same discipline, before the enrollment.
The Ph.D. is the highest degree awarded in higher education. Those who finish this degree, have to demonstrate subject-matter expertise and mastery by examination. They also have to perform a new scholarly contribution to a particular area of knowledge through their own original research.
The Ph.D. model has to change for several reasons:
- The Ph.D.s location (place) focus is misbalanced: There is a disequilibrium in the amount of Ph.D.s per capita and per country all over the world. Let´s start with the quantity. If I see Ph.D.s from the point of view of the numbers only. Meanwhile, in the USA, 1.5% of the population have a Ph.D. degree, there are other countries with less than 0.01% of the population. I have seen in El Salvador, accredited universities by the Ministry of Education, with all their professors without Ph.D. from a recognized top university. The disbalance is outrageous or atrocious.
- Existing Ph.D.s career plan is quite static: The Ph.D.s ideal scenario is to work in academia (Teaching and writing research papers). This means their dream job is to get a lifetime tenure. Rosovsky has written: “Tenure is one of the necessary virtues of academic life, as the principal guarantor of academic freedom”. But how many universities are around with the capacity to offer tenure to professors? Probably just the top universities all over the world. When the demand of professors and associate professors is less than the offer of Ph.D.s, there are not enough jobs for all the newest graduating every year. Many Ph.D.s end up working in the corporate world, simply because they were not able to find a suitable position. What happens with investigation and research? There are not many think-tanks or research institutions which can hire Ph.D.s either. Once the Ph.D. professional finds a tenure, he or she will keep it for the rest of his or her life at that specific university, and will not risk losing the job security of it.
- Research Themes are fragmented, irrelevant, and overly specialized: The majority of Ph.D.s research areas in top universities depend on the taste of the higher-rank and eldest professors or mentors or thesis supervisors. Many of these professors are biased toward emerging and poor markets, and the themes of research do not have an impact to solve the most important issues in the world in these poor regions. The research and investigation from Ph.D.s must be at service to the economically and socially excluded populations of any country and continent. These research themes have to help to solve the most important issues in the world, by order of priority and in tune to the UN sustainable goals. Why is this not happening in all fields and academic areas? For example: when I was exploring to do my Ph.D. degree, I was looking for a mentor who cared for Latin America in issues of strategic management, and I couldn´t find it. I knocked on the door of many strategy professors, and none of them was interested at all to be my mentor simply because Latin America was not on the spotlight for their research interests.
- Developed and developing nations lack a well-adjusted reward system for full-time professors. I live in a poor country where the majority of professors are well experienced, with a Master degree but without a Ph.D. And more than 80% of them are not full-time professors. Why? The universities are not able to pay their salaries. These professors have to work in other activities from 8 AM to 5 PM, and after finishing their working day, they go to teach to students. These university professors don´t have the time to prepare their courses properly (even if they try to do it over the weekends) and are not doing any type of investigation or research in the field of their courses. And this has happened for decades. Nevertheless, I don´t blame them. They have to do it this way, simply because universities can´t pay their salaries. And even, if local universities are able to hire full-time professors, they offer low salaries (range between US$ 8,400 – US$ 14,400 per year). This is the salary offered at universities for teaching here. With this salary wage, the professors can´t even pay for a low-income middle-class apartment and the rest of the basic expenses for their families. In addition, the university budgets do not have research funds or corporate sponsors for research either. Many of these universities, only hire part-time or hour-class professors. In addition, Multiple of these educational centers do not offer a career plan for long-term development to them. It is up to the professor to train himself or herself. Let´s go to the USA, I have read in several publications that around 25% of American Ph.D.s are also starving, living with food stamps programs, and looking for several part-time jobs as adjunct professors at community colleges with restricted budgets. For example, since the 2008-09 recession, the number of Ph.D.’s who filed for food stamps tripled according to The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Urban Institute. In part that’s because part-time professors, who are paid by the class, can earn less than university secretaries.
5. Ph.D.s Education Support Resources have shrunk: Since the year 2008, countries which have supported higher education changed their approach. Particularly in the United States, public state and federal support have been cut to state universities and community colleges. The big issue for Ph.D. programs is their own existence.
6. Ph.D.s have minimum soft skills on their plate: The majority of them lack of teamwork talents, empathy to support junior doctorate candidates, lack of communicative and interactive skills and the most important thing: they lack the integral mindset so much required for the future.
7. Ph.D.s need to strategize their future for helping the future generations… to leave it better than what they found it. A new strategy, a new mental framework of creativity and innovative culture, a healthy lifestyle, a nurturing approach for creative research is needed.
Is an educational reform needed in the Ph.D.´s programmes all over the world from its roots? Why?
The redesign of the Ph.D. programme has to be done simply because the skills, the type of jobs and the required profile for the Ph.D. workforce of the future is changing. The educators need a different form of education.
More to continue next week… Thank you.
Sources which inspired me to write this article:
Disclaimer: All the presentation slides shown on this blog are prepared by Eleonora Escalante MBA-MEng. Nevertheless, all the pictures or videos shown on this blog are not mine. I do not own any of the lovely photos or images posted unless otherwise stated.
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