Will Higher Fees Save Us?

Posted on September 17, 2011


A recent post on the number of UK PhDs and academic jobs garnered several comments. Some of which suggested that the coming increase in university fees will decrease the number of PhDs.

I am not sure about this. For one, there is already a downward trend in student numbers but for the most part PhD numbers have stayed the same during that time. That would indicate that trends in PhDs are not tied to the overall number of archaeology students.

The second problem I have with this is that it assumes that lots of people will not undertake a PhD because of the costs. A look at the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise shows that only 56% of archaeology  research students are self funded but the rest receive scholarships-

Number of self-funded PhD students in the UK

Number of self-funded PhD students in the UK

Maybe? Some of the universities reported that no one was self funded. I am not sure that this is because they only accept fully funded students or just did not report those that are self funded.

Still that means that even if ALL self funded students decided to not undertake a PhD (I don’t see that has happening) than the numbers would only be halved. 110 PhD’s were granted in last year which means maybe 55 instead. That is still roughly 4x the number of PhDs then the number of hypothetical highest number of job openings (roughly 15 a year). Not that much better odds.

Worst still 55 PhD’s represent half a million fewer pounds going to universities. Which probably represents fewer academic jobs and reduce the ratio of jobs available to new students.

Call me pessimistic but looking at these numbers I don’t see higher fees helping the job market for academics, even if all self funded students don’t undertake PhDs (I think 50% is more realistic).

Am I missing something? Do you disagree with this? Let me know what you think.