The student union poster sale, seen students use it in a variety of ways – they obviously get inspiration from the range here:Tweet
My PhD Examiner (who passed my thesis with no corrections) is quite well known in the history field, you know. See what has just been created for him at the University of Sussex for the 50th Anniversary Celebrations.
Read more about Lord Asa Briggs, and what’s he’s up to in his 90th year here.
See some of his texts:
OK. I shall be the one to raise the question that cries out to be asked of my country’s university staff, administrators and government financiers. Why do we enrol so many PhDs? Why do we entice so many bright young people into doctorates in the humanities and liberal social sciences?
In May in The Nation, William Deresiewicz pointed out that Yale was delighted if it could place half its graduating PhDs. He was rightly derisive of cheap, tenured professorial talking-up – or, to use an apposite Australianism, “spruiking” – of a “life of the mind” when the relationship between humanities graduates and academic posts deteriorates by the week. This situation is made sadder as every PhD student I’ve ever met has, at some stage, entertained romantic thoughts about a job teaching the discipline they have spent so much time studying.
In Australia, the plight has special features since its privileging within the university has fostered the national tendency to parochialism, given the determination that every university must have its wodge of doctorates. Worse, it has done massive collateral damage to undergraduate teaching and learning.
Administrators, ironically many of them unplaced PhDs, have for two decades urged staff to augment their postgraduate numbers. A longed-for higher placing in the university rankings is thought to be dependent on the matter. In following this line, they have been pushed by government, which finances every PhD candidate at 16 times the amount given for instruction delivered to an undergraduate.
Because staff-to-student ratios ever widen, canny staff develop their own “research schools”, deemed helpful in obtaining lavish research grants. In turn, much undergraduate instruction is passed to doctoral students with the myth that teaching experience will serve them well in their applications for (non-existent) jobs and with the penalty that they do the basic work of marking essays and seeing students in tutorials, but cannot design their own courses.
Read full story.Tweet
A group of history students had plans to set up a blog, so I have been giving them some advice on how to use WordPress, etc., and their blog is emerging here. I agreed to be interviewed by them (excuse the scruffiness, it was the day I was heading downwards with a cold)… the interview runs to 3 videos: see them all here.Tweet
Rude Britannia: A History Most Satirical, Bawdy, Lewd and Offensive
“Series exploring British traditions of satire and bawdy and lewd humour begins in the early 18th century and finds in Georgian Britain a nation openly, gloriously and often shockingly rude.
It includes a look at the graphic art of Hogarth, Gillray, Rowlandson and George Cruikshank and the rude theatrical world of John Gay and Henry Fielding. Singer Lucie Skeaping helps show the Georgian taste for lewd and bawdy ballads, and there is a dip into the literary tradition of rude words via the poetry of Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift and Lord Byron, and Laurence Sterne’s novel Tristram Shandy.”
“Europeans have always thought the British a peculiarly cussed and impolite people, and from the eighteenth century onwards the British have enjoyed a unique liberty to earn that reputation. In the eighteenth century even the greatest were satirised with venom – royal family included.
Prosecutions for libel were few, and the ideals of ‘English liberty’ were thought to distinguish Britain from more absolutist and censoring countries, so most satirists got away with it. Although this great tradition was weakened in the ‘respectable’ nineteenth century, the tradition bequeathed by satirists like the writer Jonathan Swift or caricaturists like James Gillray, Thomas Rowlandson, and the young George Cruikshank has lasted into our own day.
Professor Vic Gatrell – Historian and Author of ‘City of Laughter: Sex and Satire in Eighteenth Century London’.”
The power of visual culture! See the BBC’s Rude Britannia Website (where you can catch up on the first programme, and get ready for the next).Tweet
The following questions (The History Boys) were posed to my group on ‘Creating and Consuming History’ today as they watched Alan Bennett’s film ‘The History Boys’. This film could be analysed from a number of perspectives (film theory, feminist/gender theory, aesthetics, narrative, film history, teacher training, etc), but on this occasion we were looking for a consideration of ‘what is history’, which is spelled out from different perspectives by a number of different characters from the film ((is it just “one f****** thing after another as Rudge says, or “facts, facts, facts” as Totty says, or.. please summarise other character perspectives), and also ideas of what it is appropriate to teach in history lessons (e.g. is the holocaust just another topic, and should we remain detached, or are our emotions important) and ideas of memorialisation (we don’t place memorials to remember, we place memorials to forget). A further opportunity would be to reflect upon the film from the perspective of a fictional film of a historical era, and how such things were depicted when the film was made in 2005/6.
I thought that we’d get around 10 minutes to discuss the film, but the projector took 10 minutes to warm up, and the film was around 10 minutes longer than I’d calculated (maths has never been my strong subject), so I would like to encourage students to read the IMDB Review, and provide feedback, comments and debate upon this blog! No, this is NOT assessed (a point that made itself clearly known in the film), but will provide you with an interesting exercise in developing your critical skills in engaging with historical material.Tweet
I had complaints that it was difficult to find material on the site, so I am just changing the theme…
Still finding my way around a new theme – and guess am going to have to manually go through and change the image sizes!Tweet
“Students often give up when they realise how few jobs there are in their specialism. Believing they have nothing else to offer they end up jobless.”
The long haul is over and the prospect of lucrative job offers are an enticing alternative to months of solitary confinement in the research laboratory. Yet very few PhD students do themselves justice in the job market, often under-selling themselves to prospective employers because they fail to appreciate the value of the special skills they have honed during their research.
Surprisingly few doctoral students are aware of their employability. They often give up when they realise how few jobs are on offer in their specialist area. Believing they have nothing to offer elsewhere, they end up depressed and jobless.
Others cannot see beyond their contribution to their field of study. But most employers do not view findings at the frontiers of knowledge as relevant to their business, except in rare cases.
In order to be more attractive to employers and to prepare for a wider range of careers, PhD students need to thing further than their subject expertise. They need to be able to sell those skills and abilities developed during the process of the PhD, and which are valued in wider settings – the so-called transferable skills.
The Association of Graduate Recruiters in its reports, Skills for the Twenty-First Century, suggests that graduates who are most attractive to employers will possess transferable skills in four broad areas: specialist, generalist, self-reliance, and teamwork.
Specialist skills are easily recognised. Therefore a great deal of work has to be done to shed light on the skills in the other three areas, largely due to the Employment Department’s Enterprise in Higher Education Initiative, but it has been almost entirely for undergraduates. Little work has been done on what additional skills it is reasonable to expect at PhD level. There are a few transferable skills which employers would value, and which it is reasonable to expect from postgraduates. The crucial point about these skills is that they should develop naturally, as part of the PhD process. Students, who are aware of these additional skills should have a competitive edge. Furthermore, in jobs outside their specialisms, they should attract higher salaries than applicants without PhDs. All PhD students will, by the time they finish, have spent three or more years on their research, with its various highs and lows. This feat should develop the transferable skill of being able to see any prolonged task or project through to completion. It should include, to varying extents which depend on the discipline and the research topic, the abilities to plan, to allocate time and money, and to trouble-shoot.
In addition, the PhD research needs to keep up with the subject, to be flexible and able to change direction. The abilities to think laterally and creatively and to develop alternative approaches are also highly necessary. Adaptability is highly valued by employers who need people to anticipate and lead change in a fast-moving world, yet resist it where it is only for its own sake. All PhD students should have learned to set their work in a wider field of knowledge. The process requires an extensive study of literature and should develop the transferable skills of being able to sift through large quantities of information, to take on board other points of view, challenge premises, question procedures and interpret meaning.
All PhD students have to be able to present their work through seminars, progress reports and their thesis. Seminars should develop confident presentation, and group discussion skills. Dealing with criticism and presenting cases ought to be second nature. Report and thesis-writing should develop the skills needed for composing reports, manuals and press releases and for summarising bulky documents.
The doctoral road can be lonely, particularly in the humanities and social sciences. Yet the skills of coping with isolation are transferable and can be valued highly by employers. They include self-direction; self-discipline; self-motivation; resilience; tenacity and the abilities to prioritise and juggle a number of tasks at once. Students working on group projects should be able to claim advance team-working skills.
Further examples of transferable skills are many and depend on the interests of the student and the nature of research. Think about advanced computer literacy, facility with the Internet, and the ability to teach effectively. Negotiation skills in accessing resources can be highly sought after. And doctoral students used to networking with others, using project management techniques, and finding their way round specialist libraries or archives.
Since transferable skills of the type I have suggested should be developed naturally during the PhD, the problem for students does normally not lie in acquiring them, but in appreciating the full scope of what they are, in recognising the extent to which they have been acquired and in being able to demonstrate them to potential employers.
How much better it would be if PhD students could be made aware of their exciting and developing transferable skills as a regular ongoing part of their PhD. This would need only modest amounts of time and money. At institutional level, probably all this would need would be overt encouragement.
The main action would start at the level of the department or research group, to develop a checklist of possible transferable skills along the lines described above, but with an emphasis appropriate for the discipline. Supervisors as well as students would need to contribute to this task, so as to use all the available experience, enthusiasm and creativity. There would then need to be small but regular inputs of awareness raising activities, possibly within supervisions, or as part of a departmental seminar series, or provided centrally, perhaps by a graduate school.
To reach the largest number of students successfully, the provision must be integrated into their PhD programmes, so that supervisors, tutors and heads of department regard it as mainstream rather than peripheral. Bolt-on extras have little appeal as they do not contribute directly to the students’ main aim which is to complete the PhD. Ideally any such provision would also help students to show that they have acquired their transferable skills. There may be a case for a small portfolio containing, for example, photographs of press cuttings, etc. showing the student’s involvement in key activities; products or results of research, or plans, photographs or sketches representing them; and documentation of any special awards or commendations. Very little of this is done at the moment. This is both surprising and unfortunate. It is surprising since training in transferable skills is not uncommon at PhD level. Many PhD students, particularly in large departments in science and professional subjects, are trained in those transferable skills which now have general currency at undergraduate level. Also many PhD students are trained, via an institutional careers service, in the skills for career progression, such as researching the job-market, making applications and performing well in interviews and selection tests.
The lack of provision of the sort I envisage is unfortunate because it would require only modest resourcing and would be highly cost-effective in terms of raising the self-esteem of those PhD students who believe they have little to offer employers outside their field; improving the employment prospects of all participating students; and benefiting society by enabling employers to utilise expertise that they might not otherwise know existed.
At the time of writing this article Pat Cryer was a senior visiting professor at University College London and the originator and convenor of the Postgraduate Issues Network of the Society for Research into Higher Education.
The Times Higher: Research Opportunities. May 16 1997 p.1. The original article.
See also: Cryer, P. & Harris, M. The Research Student’s Guide to Success, 2000 (2nd Edn)Tweet