CDTs in the round
The news story “Social science doctoral training centres not working, says report” (26 November) focuses on claims that centres for doctoral training (as they are called now)are ineffective and unsustainable.
The article should have highlighted that CDTs have both good points and bad points.
In their favour, they bring students together as a cohort, which makes them feel less isolated and allows them to learn from each other.
The centres can cultivate input from and ties with external partners such as charities, industry and government. And they can be used to force change on issues such as diversity.
As for points against, only a handful of big universities get many CDTs. Most (even in the Russell Group) will get one or two.
However, universities are diverse places, and forcing all academics who want to take on PhD students to do research into, say, “ageing” or “big data” could potentially be destructive to the breadth and diversity of the research effort. This effect is clearly greater on universities lower down the food chain, which receive fewer or no CDTs but which may have important pockets of research excellence. Patrick Degenaar