Conceptual model of how PhD graduates perceive the value of their doctorate
Summarised from Billy Bryan & Kay Guccione (2018) Was it worth it? A qualitative exploration into graduate perceptions of doctoral value, Higher Education Research & Development, 37:6, 1124-1140, DOI: 10.1080/07294360.2018.1479378
Doctoral graduates perceived that they had derived value from their PhD studies that benefitted them after graduation. This was organised into the following core themes: (1) career value; (2) skills value; (3) social value; (4) personal value.
These themes were consistent across the sample, although the way each graduate judged value was influenced by contextual and situational factors.
The derived value from the doctorate was experienced differently by different individuals. Participants identified four main influencing factors in making value judgements: (1) time since graduation; (2) supervision; (3) accrued social connectivity; (4) employer value of the doctorate.
The four core themes of doctoral value, and the four influences on value judgements, were consistent across all participants’ accounts of their doctoral and graduate experiences.
Our conceptual model of doctoral value (below) was developed from these findings and provides a frame of reference for discussions of value, and value added in the design and quality assurance of doctoral programmes.
Supervision was the major influence on students’ perceptions of value. In line with other research, participants cited issues with supervisory support and relationship quality as causal in creating either positive or negative doctoral experiences. Those describing positive supervision relationships also cited supervisors as key proponents of their development, compared to those who reported poor relationships. The supervisory relationship is of key importance across much of the literature about the doctoral experience, and a number of sources highlight the relationship as being pivotal to successful completion.