《经济学人》:读博是浪费时间?
日期:2011-08-08 11:14

(单词翻译:单击)

Doctoral degrees
博士学位

The disposable academic
学位贬值

Why doing a PhD is often a waste of time
为什么读博通常是浪费时间?

Dec 16th 2010 | from PRINT EDITION

ON THE evening before All Saints’ Day in 1517, Martin Luther nailed 95 theses to the door of a church in Wittenberg. In those days a thesis was simply a position one wanted to argue. Luther, an Augustinian friar, asserted that Christians could not buy their way to heaven. Today a doctoral thesis is both an idea and an account of a period of original research. Writing one is the aim of the hundreds of thousands of students who embark on a doctorate of philosophy (PhD) every year.
1517年的万圣节前夕,马丁路德将批判教会的95条纲论钉到了威登堡一教堂的门上。那时,论文仅作为人们辩论的场所存在。路德,一个奥古斯丁教的传教士,他认为基督徒们不能买断到天堂的路。今天,一篇博士论文是一种想法也是对某一特定时期原创性研究的陈述。完成一篇博士论文是成千上万一届又一届为取得博士学位而奋斗的博士生们的目标所在。

In most countries a PhD is a basic requirement for a career in academia. It is an introduction to the world of independent research—a kind of intellectual masterpiece, created by an apprentice in close collaboration with a supervisor. The requirements to complete one vary enormously between countries, universities and even subjects. Some students will first have to spend two years working on a master’s degree or diploma. Some will receive a stipend; others will pay their own way. Some PhDs involve only research, some require classes and examinations and some require the student to teach undergraduates. A thesis can be dozens of pages in mathematics, or many hundreds in history. As a result, newly minted PhDs can be as young as their early 20s or world-weary forty-somethings.
在大多数国家,取得博士学位是进入学术界的基本条件。博士是独立研究的开始,有点学术著作的意思,通常是在与导师密切合作的基础上完成的。不同的国家、大学甚至是不同的学科,取得博士学位的要求也不尽相同。有些申请者需首先读两年的硕士并取得相应学位或学历。他们中有些在攻读博士学位期间可以获得一定的补助,而有些则完全是自费。有些博士生专门搞研究,而有些则需完成一些课程和考试,还有些需他们给本科生上上课。至于博士论文,数学的需要几十页内容,而历史方面的需要更多。因此,博士毕业有的年轻才20多岁,而有的都到不惑之年了。

One thing many PhD students have in common is dissatisfaction. Some describe their work as “slave labour”. Seven-day weeks, ten-hour days, low pay and uncertain prospects are widespread. You know you are a graduate student, goes one quip, when your office is better decorated than your home and you have a favourite flavour of instant noodle. “It isn’t graduate school itself that is discouraging,” says one student, who confesses to rather enjoying the hunt for free pizza. “What’s discouraging is realising the end point has been yanked out of reach.”
博士生有一个通病:不满足。有些博士认为他们干的是“奴隶们才干的活”:一周工作7天、每天10个小时、低薪以及不确定的未来,这些都很普遍。有这么个讽刺:当你工作的办公室装修的比你家漂亮时,当你端起一碗泡面的时候,你就知道自己是一名博士生了。“其实学校本身并不让人沮丧”,采访中的一个博士这么说道,他坦言宁愿**,而真正让人沮丧的是不知道这样的生活何时才是尽头。

Whining PhD students are nothing new, but there seem to be genuine problems with the system that produces research doctorates (the practical “professional doctorates” in fields such as law, business and medicine have a more obvious value). There is an oversupply of PhDs. Although a doctorate is designed as training for a job in academia, the number of PhD positions is unrelated to the number of job openings. Meanwhile, business leaders complain about shortages of high-level skills, suggesting PhDs are not teaching the right things. The fiercest critics compare research doctorates to Ponzi or pyramid schemes.
这些博士生们牢骚不断也不是什么新鲜事,但培养学术型博士的机制似乎的确出了什么问题(诸如法律、商业和医学等强调实践方面的专业学位博士相比还不错)。尽管培养博士主要是针对学术研究方面的,但有很多博士专业的设置与需求却不一致。同时,企业老板们总是抱怨缺少高层次人才,表明博士期间所学的内容完全不对口嘛。更有甚者,将整个学术型博士的培养机制比作是一个庞兹骗局。

Rich pickings
丰厚的外快

For most of history even a first degree at a university was the privilege of a rich few, and many academic staff did not hold doctorates. But as higher education expanded after the second world war, so did the expectation that lecturers would hold advanced degrees. American universities geared up first: by 1970 America was producing just under a third of the world’s university students and half of its science and technology PhDs (at that time it had only 6% of the global population). Since then America’s annual output of PhDs has doubled, to 64,000.
历史上的多数时期内,在大学里读到最高学位是少数富人们的特权,而许多教员们并没有博士头衔。但随着二战后高等教育的扩招,教员们取得博士学位也是自然之事了。美国的大学首次扩张始于20世纪70年代,当时美国每年毕业的大学生接近世界总数的1/3,而自然科学和技术方面的博士生人数占全世界的一半,要知道当时美国人口才占全世界的6%。此后,美国每年毕业的博士生又翻了一番,达到64000人。

Other countries are catching up. Between 1998 and 2006 the number of doctorates handed out in all OECD countries grew by 40%, compared with 22% for America. PhD production sped up most dramatically in Mexico, Portugal, Italy and Slovakia. Even Japan, where the number of young people is shrinking, churned out about 46% more PhDs. Part of that growth reflects the expansion of university education outside America. Richard Freeman, a labour economist at Harvard University, says that by 2006 America was enrolling just 12% of the world’s students.
美国以外的国家也在追赶。98-06年间,经合组织各成员国的博士数量增长了40%,同期美国的增长率才22%。而在墨西哥、葡萄牙、意大利和斯洛伐克,这个数字更大。甚至是在人口老龄化的日本,博士生数量也增加了约46%。增长的部分原因表明美国以外的地区大学教育正在扩招。哈佛大学的劳工经济学家RF说,到2006年为止,美国各大学每年录取大学生的数量仅占全世界的12%。

But universities have discovered that PhD students are cheap, highly motivated and disposable labour. With more PhD students they can do more research, and in some countries more teaching, with less money. A graduate assistant at Yale might earn $20,000 a year for nine months of teaching. The average pay of full professors in America was $109,000 in 2009—higher than the average for judges and magistrates.
但各大学也发现博士生已沦为廉价但主动性强同时可任意使用的劳动力。博士生越多,可以做的研究也多;但在有些国家,做老师的博士生越多,工资越少。而在美国,耶鲁大学的一个研究生助教每年授课9个月就可以有2万美元的收入。据统计,2009年美国各大学教授的平均工资为10万9千美元,比法官和公务员的平均收入还高。

Indeed, the production of PhDs has far outstripped demand for university lecturers. In a recent book, Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus, an academic and a journalist, report that America produced more than 100,000 doctoral degrees between 2005 and 2009. In the same period there were just 16,000 new professorships. Using PhD students to do much of the undergraduate teaching cuts the number of full-time jobs. Even in Canada, where the output of PhD graduates has grown relatively modestly, universities conferred 4,800 doctorate degrees in 2007 but hired just 2,616 new full-time professors. Only a few fast-developing countries, such as Brazil and China, now seem short of PhDs.
事实上,博士的“供给”已远超过了大学的需求。最近有本书,是学者AH和记者CD合著的,该书称美国在05-09年间培养的博士已经超过10万人,而同期需求却只有1.6万。而用大量的博士生给本科生代课又挤占了全职教师岗位。甚至是在博士培养数量一向严谨的加拿大,07年也有4800人博士毕业,而这一年只需要新招聘2616名全职教授。目前,似乎只有个别发展迅速的新兴国家博士供给不足,比如巴西和中国。

A short course in supply and demand
华尔街短期培训课程对物理学博士的冲击

In research the story is similar. PhD students and contract staff known as “postdocs”, described by one student as “the ugly underbelly of academia”, do much of the research these days. There is a glut of postdocs too. Dr Freeman concluded from pre-2000 data that if American faculty jobs in the life sciences were increasing at 5% a year, just 20% of students would land one. In Canada 80% of postdocs earn $38,600 or less per year before tax—the average salary of a construction worker. The rise of the postdoc has created another obstacle on the way to an academic post. In some areas five years as a postdoc is now a prerequisite for landing a secure full-time job.
研究过程中发现,情况基本一致。有个学生将博士生与合同教员---也就是我们所说的“研究员”---比作“学术民工”,因为目前他们的工作量是在太大。不光博士生多,博士后也多。DF将2000年前的资料汇总概括得出这样一个结论:假如美国在生命科学方面每年多提供5%的编制,那么也仅仅只有20%的学生可以获得。在加拿大,80%的博士后每年的薪水是税前3.86万美元,与建筑工人的均薪一个水平。博士后数量的增加也使得想要获得一个学院岗位变得困难。在某些领域,具备5年的博士后研究经历是目前获得一个可靠全职工作的前提。

These armies of low-paid PhD researchers and postdocs boost universities’, and therefore countries’, research capacity. Yet that is not always a good thing. Brilliant, well-trained minds can go to waste when fashions change. The post-Sputnik era drove the rapid growth in PhD physicists that came to an abrupt halt as the Vietnam war drained the science budget. Brian Schwartz, a professor of physics at the City University of New York, says that in the 1970s as many as 5,000 physicists had to find jobs in other areas.
大量的低薪博士研究院和博士后们的确提高了大学的因此也提高了一个国家的研究能力。但凡事有利就有弊。当主流价值观发生改变,聪明的、受过良好训练的高层次人才就会被白白浪费掉。比如美国在得知苏联发射第一课人造卫星后,加快了培养物理学博士的步伐,但越南战争的爆发又榨干了用于自然科学的预算。纽约城市大学的一位物理学教授BS说,20世纪70年代,多达5000名物理学家不得不放弃物理学研究转向其他工作。

In America the rise of PhD teachers’ unions reflects the breakdown of an implicit contract between universities and PhD students: crummy pay now for a good academic job later. Student teachers in public universities such as the University of Wisconsin-Madison formed unions as early as the 1960s, but the pace of unionisation has increased recently. Unions are now spreading to private universities; though Yale and Cornell, where university administrators and some faculty argue that PhD students who teach are not workers but apprentices, have resisted union drives. In 2002 New York University was the first private university to recognise a PhD teachers’ union, but stopped negotiating with it three years later.
在美国,博士生实习教师联盟的出现结束了之前大学与博士生群体之间不清晰的责任关系,自那以后工资就丰厚多了。早在20世纪的60年代,实习教师在像威斯康兴州曼迪逊大学这样的公立院校已经成立了自己的联盟,只是最近才开始行动起来。目前,工会广泛存在于各个私立大学;尽管耶鲁和康奈尔两所大学反对工会势力,因为他们认为博士实习教师还不算是正式教员而仅仅是见习生罢了。2002年,纽约大学作为私立大学第一个认可博士实习教师工会的合法地位,但3年后就取消了。

In some countries, such as Britain and America, poor pay and job prospects are reflected in the number of foreign-born PhD students. Dr Freeman estimates that in 1966 only 23% of science and engineering PhDs in America were awarded to students born outside the country. By 2006 that proportion had increased to 48%. Foreign students tend to tolerate poorer working conditions, and the supply of cheap, brilliant, foreign labour also keeps wages down.
而在有些国家,只有那些在国外出生的博士生们的工资和前景比较差,比如英国和美国。DF估计1966年,只有23%的自然科学和工程方面的博士学位授予境外学生。直到2006年,这个比例才上升到48%。境外学生通常可以忍受更差的工作条件,这些便宜又聪明的境外“劳动力”压低了博士生作为一个群体的工资水平。

A PhD may offer no financial benefit over a master’s degree. It can even reduce earnings
关于赚钱,读博士或许还不如读个小硕

Proponents of the PhD argue that it is worthwhile even if it does not lead to permanent academic employment. Not every student embarks on a PhD wanting a university career and many move successfully into private-sector jobs in, for instance, industrial research. That is true; but drop-out rates suggest that many students become dispirited. In America only 57% of doctoral students will have a PhD ten years after their first date of enrolment. In the humanities, where most students pay for their own PhDs, the figure is 49%. Worse still, whereas in other subject areas students tend to jump ship in the early years, in the humanities they cling like limpets before eventually falling off. And these students started out as the academic cream of the nation. Research at one American university found that those who finish are no cleverer than those who do not. Poor supervision, bad job prospects or lack of money cause them to run out of steam.
支持读博的人们认为,即便不能当大学老师也是值得的。并不是每个读博的人都想在大学任教,许多人只是想到私企工作,比如工业研发。这不假,但退学率表明很多学生对读博持悲观态度。在美国,只有57%的博士生可以在入大学10年后成功获得博士学位。而在多数学生选择自费读博的人文学科方面,这个数字是49%。然而更糟的是,在有些专业,学生们选择早点退学,人文学科方面的还好些,大家只要能撑下去还是会硬着头皮读完博士。那些中途“弃船而逃”的学生最终成了这个国家的“学术面霜”。一个美国大学的研究发现,那些死撑下去的学生并不比中途退学的聪明到哪。学校糟糕的管理、不容乐观的就业前景、缺钱,三者加到一起最终让这些人不堪重负,“弃船而逃”。

Even graduates who find work outside universities may not fare all that well. PhD courses are so specialised that university careers offices struggle to assist graduates looking for jobs, and supervisors tend to have little interest in students who are leaving academia. One OECD study shows that five years after receiving their degrees, more than 60% of PhDs in Slovakia and more than 45% in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany and Spain were still on temporary contracts. Many were postdocs. About one-third of Austria’s PhD graduates take jobs unrelated to their degrees. In Germany 13% of all PhD graduates end up in lowly occupations. In the Netherlands the proportion is 21%.
甚至是当初没有选择到大学当老师的那些博士生们混的也不怎么好。博士的课程都太专业了,以至于各大学的就业指导中心拼命帮毕业生找工作,而博导们通常对打算参加工作的学生不感冒。经合组织的一项研究显示,取得博士学位5年后,斯洛伐克超过60%,比利时、捷克、德国和西班牙超过45%的博士们签的仍是短期合同。这当中许多人还是博士后。而澳大利亚约1/3的博士毕业生从事着与专业无关的工作。德国13%博士生从事着薪水不高的各种工作,荷兰的这个比例还要高些,21%。

A very slim premium
微薄的薪金

PhD graduates do at least earn more than those with a bachelor’s degree. A study in the Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management by Bernard Casey shows that British men with a bachelor’s degree earn 14% more than those who could have gone to university but chose not to. The earnings premium for a PhD is 26%. But the premium for a master’s degree, which can be accomplished in as little as one year, is almost as high, at 23%. In some subjects the premium for a PhD vanishes entirely. PhDs in maths and computing, social sciences and languages earn no more than those with master’s degrees. The premium for a PhD is actually smaller than for a master’s degree in engineering and technology, architecture and education. Only in medicine, other sciences, and business and financial studies is it high enough to be worthwhile. Over all subjects, a PhD commands only a 3% premium over a master’s degree.
博士们的工资确实比本科生多些。BC在《高等教育政策与管理杂志》的一项研究显示,英国拥有学士学位的男性比未受过高等于那帮人的薪水要高14%。此外,PhD的奖金比例是26%,而硕士生与之相差的并不大是23%。对某些专业的PhD来说甚至根本就没什么奖金。数学和计算机专业PhD的工资还没有这两个专业的硕士生多。在奖金方面,工程与技术、建筑、教育方面的PhD处境一样,不如硕士。而只有医学等其他一些自然科学方面以及商业和金融领域的PhD值得一读。总的来说,与硕士相比,博士们的奖金只略高3%。

Dr Schwartz, the New York physicist, says the skills learned in the course of a PhD can be readily acquired through much shorter courses. Thirty years ago, he says, Wall Street firms realised that some physicists could work out differential equations and recruited them to become “quants”, analysts and traders. Today several short courses offer the advanced maths useful for finance. “A PhD physicist with one course on differential equations is not competitive,” says Dr Schwartz.
来自纽约的物理学家S博士说,博士课程中学到的技能很容易同过短期培训获得。他记得30年前,华尔街的公司发现一些物理学家懂微分方程,于是乎招他们来,有做分析员的也有做交易员的。目前,许多短期培训都可以满足金融对高等数学的需要。“相比之下,物理学博士就不再具有竞争力了”。

Many students say they are pursuing their subject out of love, and that education is an end in itself. Some give little thought to where the qualification might lead. In one study of British PhD graduates, about a third admitted that they were doing their doctorate partly to go on being a student, or put off job hunting. Nearly half of engineering students admitted to this. Scientists can easily get stipends, and therefore drift into doing a PhD. But there are penalties, as well as benefits, to staying at university. Workers with “surplus schooling”—more education than a job requires—are likely to be less satisfied, less productive and more likely to say they are going to leave their jobs.
很多学生说他们读博纯粹是出于兴趣,教育本质上就能助其一臂之力。但却很少有人思考纯粹的资格认证对一个人的爱好和兴趣能起多大作用。在一项英国博士毕业生们的研究中,有大约1/3的人承认他们之所以读博部分原因在于想继续过学生样的生活,或者不愿这么早就找工作。工程学领域有一半的学生就这么想。然而总是呆在大学里也是一把双刃剑。那些高学历的人们可能很难被满足,没有什么竞争力吧还总是会说“我马上就要跳槽”。

The interests of universities and tenured academics are misaligned with those of PhD students
学校与学生的利益一致吗?

Academics tend to regard asking whether a PhD is worthwhile as analogous to wondering whether there is too much art or culture in the world. They believe that knowledge spills from universities into society, making it more productive and healthier. That may well be true; but doing a PhD may still be a bad choice for an individual.
学院派总是觉得质疑读博是否值得就像质疑世界上的艺术和文化是否太多一样。在他们眼里,知识都是从大学流进社会的,并使之充满生气保持健康。这或许不假,但读博对于个人来说或许的确是个错误的选择。

The interests of academics and universities on the one hand and PhD students on the other are not well aligned. The more bright students stay at universities, the better it is for academics. Postgraduate students bring in grants and beef up their supervisors’ publication records. Academics pick bright undergraduate students and groom them as potential graduate students. It isn’t in their interests to turn the smart kids away, at least at the beginning. One female student spoke of being told of glowing opportunities at the outset, but after seven years of hard slog she was fobbed off with a joke about finding a rich husband.
其实,学校的利益与学生的利益并不是很一致。学校里聪明的学生越多,对学校当然就越有好处。研究生可以为学校带来各种基金,并充实着他们导师的出版物。学校挑选出聪明的本科生并将他们推荐到研究生院,显然,将他们拒之门外不符合学校的利益,至少起初是这样的。一个女学生曾说到,当初她被告知呆在学校继续学习前途是大大的,然而7年研究生阶段“猪狗不如的”生活后,她却重新被告知即便没有当初预想的那么好,但至少可以嫁个有钱人嘛。

Monica Harris, a professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky, is a rare exception. She believes that too many PhDs are being produced, and has stopped admitting them. But such unilateral academic birth control is rare. One Ivy-League president, asked recently about PhD oversupply, said that if the top universities cut back others will step in to offer them instead.
然而,肯塔基大学心理学教授MH是个例外。她坚信,目前博士供给过剩,为此拒了很多申请。但向这样由学院独自出马控制过多培养博士的做法并不多见。比如,一个常春藤的校长最近就问到有关博士供给过剩的问题,他说,就算我们缩招,别人也不一定缩招。

Noble pursuits
学术追求

Many of the drawbacks of doing a PhD are well known. Your correspondent was aware of them over a decade ago while she slogged through a largely pointless PhD in theoretical ecology. As Europeans try to harmonise higher education, some institutions are pushing the more structured learning that comes with an American PhD.
读博的诸多劣势总所周知。当笔者10年前正为了PhD而埋头苦干研究那毫无意义的理论生态学时就知道了,但可惜的是一代又一代前仆后继。当欧洲人努力协调高等教育时,有些机构正在竭力推行来自美国的更加有组织的博士学习方式。

The organisations that pay for research have realised that many PhDs find it tough to transfer their skills into the job market. Writing lab reports, giving academic presentations and conducting six-month literature reviews can be surprisingly unhelpful in a world where technical knowledge has to be assimilated quickly and presented simply to a wide audience. Some universities are now offering their PhD students training in soft skills such as communication and teamwork that may be useful in the labour market. In Britain a four-year NewRoutePhD claims to develop just such skills in graduates.
花钱搞研究的机构现在已经发现许多PhD浪得虚名,根本就没什么动手能力。撰写实验报告、展示专业ppt或者进行长达6个月的文献研究对于这个世界来说屁用没有。为什么?因为这个世界要求你必须快速汲取知识并以最通俗的方式呈现给全球观众,而不是煞有介事的将本该简单的东西搞的鬼都看不懂却还洋洋自得。目前,有些大学还给这些博士们开些对未来可能有帮助的诸如沟通、团队合作这样软技能的课程。例如在英国,一个为期4年的“新路径PhD”的项目声称正是要培养这种软硬通吃的研究生。

Measurements and incentives might be changed, too. Some university departments and academics regard numbers of PhD graduates as an indicator of success and compete to produce more. For the students, a measure of how quickly those students get a permanent job, and what they earn, would be more useful. Where penalties are levied on academics who allow PhDs to overrun, the number of students who complete rises abruptly, suggesting that students were previously allowed to fester.
相应的准入标准和机制或许也会做出调整。一些高校认为博士培养量是成功大学的标志,因此大量的粗制滥造。而对学生来说,问问自己“多久才能找到一个稳定的工作,工资水平又如何?”才是王道。放任大学扩招博士的学者们被施以处罚,完成博士学位的人数激增,表明扩招决定做出之时就暗含了该群体质量的下降。

Many of those who embark on a PhD are the smartest in their class and will have been the best at everything they have done. They will have amassed awards and prizes. As this year’s new crop of graduate students bounce into their research, few will be willing to accept that the system they are entering could be designed for the benefit of others, that even hard work and brilliance may well not be enough to succeed, and that they would be better off doing something else. They might use their research skills to look harder at the lot of the disposable academic. Someone should write a thesis about that.
许多读博的学生都是班上的佼佼者,并被期望未来在任何方面都有更出色的表现。马上,今年新招录的一批研究生就要投入到他们各自研究课题中去了。然而,他们不会承认,不会承认他们刚刚进入的系统或许是为了其他群体的利益而设计的,不会承认勤奋和天才不必然带来成功,不会承认选择读博其实是个机会成本更大的错误选择。其实,或许他们可以用掌握的研究方法好好的研究下目前大量又普遍贬值的博士学位,或许有人就这个话题还可以撰写个什么博士论文。

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重点单词
  • festerv. 溃烂,生脓 n. 脓疮,溃烂
  • outsetn. 开始,开端
  • temporaryadj. 暂时的,临时的 n. 临时工
  • discouragingadj. 令人气馁的 动词discourage的现在分词
  • tendv. 趋向,易于,照料,护理
  • expectationn. 期待,期望
  • collaborationn. 合作,通敌
  • privilegen. 特权,特别恩典,基本人权,荣幸 vt. 给特权,免
  • competitiveadj. 竞争的,比赛的
  • implicitadj. 含蓄的,暗示的,固有的,无疑问的,无保留的,绝