British PhDs (was:postdocs to faculty)

Bart Janssen bjanssen at
Mon Aug 18 17:22:28 EST 1997

David Shivak wrote:

> While I'm at it: what is the general time to PhD in other systems than
> Canada and the US?  Do you think the time is justified?

In New Zealand, when I went through you were required to get an MSc (2
years) prior to getting a PhD.  Like the Australian system the PhD is
minimum 3 years maximum 7 years, with an average about 4 and a half

Partly as a result of criticism from my generation the system has been
changed to allow some students to do a six month honours course attached
to their BSc and then go straight into the PhD program.

The minus of the intermediate MSc is that it adds 2 years to the time
taken to get a PhD.  The plus to that system is it gives a really solid
grounding in the literature (1 full year in the library with three three
hour exams at the end of the year) as well as an opportunity to do a
shortish research project (1 year) and write a thesis.  This gives those
people who aren't certain about a career in science to spend a whole
year in a lab doing research and talking with the PhD students and the

The other big minus is that there is absolutely no recognition or value
given to that extra time taken in the MSc, so in the final analysis you
end up 2-3 years older and in exactly the same position as someone from
Britain who did a 3 year PhD straight after their BSc.  That in the end
is what changed the system in our department in NZ.


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