8 May 2014
They are dismally referred to by many a PhD student under varying names. Canadians students in general dread the COMPREHENSIVE EXAMINATION, whereas American students tend to fear the PRELIMINARY EXAMINATION, and still other PhD students quiver at the thought of the QUALIFYING EXAMINATION. Having just survived my prelims as I will call them and in the midst of preparing to leave in a couple of weeks to explore the European higher education system, I was curious about whether PhD students in Europe and other parts of the world have to endure the same grueling process to achieve PhD candidate status as we do here in the U.S. For reasons unbeknownst to me, it turns out that this is a very hard topic to find any information on. I for one, am very interested to know whether PhD students around the world endure similar suffering as I recently did! Truth be told, the prelims were not all that terrible. They were tiring but they do serve a purpose that Devi D Tewari outlines in this article on University World News. The article describes two distinct models for examining PhD students in Britain, Australia, and some commonwealth nations compared to Canada and the U.S. It is not clear which system, or a mix of the two, operates in Switzerland, France, and Italy. Either way, I think this topic of how PhD students are evaluated is an extremely important one, particularly considering the ever growing number of PhD students and doctoral programs in universities all over the world. I think it relates to the Bologna Process as well in trying to create a standard by which to evaluate the qualifications of a PhD student. I think as PhD degrees continue to expand, the need for some sort of an accounting process will become more important. The idea of how PhD students are evaluated is definitely going to be an area that I look forward to exploring while in Europe. Devi D Tewari seems to prefer the U.S. PhD evaluation process over the European process, citing that it has more stages for quality control. I wonder what professors in European universities think? Is it better to have a completely external examination committee as in the European model or are there more benefits to the largely internal examination committees that oversee PhD examinations in the North America?