Wed, Jan 09, 2019 - Page 8 News List

[ LETTER ]

Fewer doctors, no problem

The Ministry of Education last month published the first part of its annual statistics on higher education institutes for the academic year 2018-2019. In addition to several private universities, many public universities suffered badly as dozens of their doctoral programs failed to recruit any students — including some prestigious schools under the Aim for the Top University Project.

Some academics say that people’s willingness to pursue their master’s or doctoral degrees has dropped because such programs are too lengthy and the return on investment is low. Others say that since doctoral programs in basic science are irreplaceable, the government should look into why top national universities’ doctoral programs failed to attract students.

Master’s and doctoral programs used to be very desirable, and students who were able to enter graduate institutes were the best of the best, but those days are long gone. When I obtained my master’s degree, more universities were being opened in Taiwan, so it was not too hard for those holding a master’s degree or higher to find a teaching job. As a result, my classmates and I all became universities lecturers.

Since the market is now saturated, a doctorate has become a prerequisite for a university teaching job. However, for many people, pursuing a higher education degree does not mean that they are willing to pursue profound knowledge. Today, a diploma is no longer a guarantee of job security and it is time-consuming to obtain. The meaning of a diploma may be questionable if it is harmful to your job hunt and cannot put food on the table.

Take basic medicine as an example: There is a high degree of similarity among research conducted by medical students in different departments, and doctoral students are not much better than master’s students. Perhaps the only difference is the threshold for graduation. Despite the fact that universities have a graduation threshold for doctoral students, the graduation thresholds of some schools exist in name only due to their fear that a high threshold might scare potential applicants away.

If a graduate is simply seen as some kind of “academic” in a broad sense after obtaining a doctorate, then what kind of “academic” would they be in the future? No one seems to care. As times change, maybe it would not be such a bad thing if universities recruit fewer doctoral students.

Weng Min-hsueh

Taipei

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