Guardian Roundtable: ‘What next for postgraduate students?’

“What has become clear is that for a sector focused on gathering and assessing evidence, postgraduate education has been surprisingly poor at researching itself. Before anyone starts making major decisions about what should happen to postgraduates in future, more information is needed about what they are like now.”

This paragraph, from the Guardian’s recent article on postgraduate education, succinctly expresses the motivations for the PhD Today conference. At a time when the future of UK Higher Education is coming to the fore of government policy, it seems imperative that postgraduate students come together to discuss and debate the key issues, such as:

  • the huge rise in the number of postgraduate students since 1990 (the PGR population quadrupled in 1991 and doubled again over the next decade).
  • imbalances in gender (twice as many male undergraduates than female undergraduates progress to PGR), class (with the rise in tuition fees, debt is likely to be a significant problem for unfunded PGRs), and race (the number of graduates from certain ethnic groups going on to study research degrees has been described as “shockingly small”).
  • the reasons for PGR study: do we want to produce an effective workforce or an educated society? Is it possible to do both? What role do funding and future employment play in the production of knowledge?
  • how do these problems interact with the divide between university disciplines? What effect does specialization have on knowledge and society?

We’ve enjoyed reading your abstracts so far, and look forward to receiving more in the coming days.

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