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Friday 8 March 2013 Letters
Postgraduate study
Are MA and PhD students just putting off the world of work?

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Letters responding to: There is no right to be a postgraduate, by Joanna Williams

This article never honestly attempts to consider the actualities of postgraduate study. It fails to address the state of postgraduate funding and grants.

For every student that seeks to stave off ‘confronting adulthood’, there is one who hopes to work in a field that necessitates postgrad study. These include jobs like solicitor, accountant, teacher, barrister, to name just a few for which it’s wholly possible to secure private or government support. This isn’t the case, however, for academic jobs, where students typically have to compete for funding for two postgraduate degrees. It cannot be overlooked that funding for MA programmes is now extremely competitive, much more so than for PhDs.

I have worked nowhere that has offered more than ine full MA scholarship per cohort and (as if those odds weren’t bad enough) MA funding is being cut further (particularly in the humanities). The consequence is that almost all students who cannot self-fund for at least one year stand no chance of gaining a PhD. In this respect, academia is becoming an increasingly closed field, a fact for which this article becomes little more than an embarrassing apologia.

Put simply, it adds insult to injury to say that you shouldn’t work a part-time job to follow your professional ambition. I wonder whether the author would discourage a strong student from following postgraduate study if there wasn’t public funding available. If so, the ideals of ‘scholarship’ and ‘original knowledge’ are just ornaments of an exclusionary system of privilege.

Sadek Kessous, UK


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