Harry S. Truman once famously pleaded for a one-handed economist, tiring of his questions being answered with ‘On the one hand … and on the other’. And so it is with the proposal to have some PhD students share their conferrals with summer graduates, which has split opinion in the subtext warehouse.

The idea is that a number of PhD graduands will be spread across most of the July ceremonies, with around ten attending each event. Allocating them in this way will ensure the message of the university’s research mission and impact on the wider world reaches multiple ceremony audiences. Whether that message would actually be interpreted as intended by the parents in the audience is an interesting question. As in last December’s PhD ceremony, the title of each thesis would be read out. As readers may know, the world of academic research is a far more inclusive, eclectic and unusual place than some parents may assume. We suspect eyebrows would be raised at some of the more interesting PhD titles that would be read out – especially ones from those degenerate disciplines like sociology, criminology and linguistics. There might even be swear words! Current PhD title favourites (not from Lancaster) include ‘Jesus Potter Harry Christ’ and ‘Intimate Relationships With Artificial Partners’. The proposal suggests that listening to some of the work being announced in this way would not be ‘engaging for the guests’. subtext begs to differ. We feel this could generate quite a frisson of wonderment. Is that what they do at University?

subtext understands that, under the current system, PhD students need to submit any corrections by 30th Sept to guarantee a place at the December ceremony. From 2019 onwards, this deadline moves forward to 31st August (with 28th Feb as the deadline to get into the July ceremony). Someone students finishing their corrections in September would be massively disadvantaged by the proposed changes. Previously, they would get their PhD within 3 months, while under the new proposals they would have to wait 10 months! Many PhD students have their vivas in June, July, August or September, and then work solidly on corrections (if needed) by the end of September.

On the other hand(!), under current arrangements, someone submitting in October would have to wait 14 months until their conferral. It would be good to look at some actual figures on completion dates, but alas, no statistics were provided in the proposal. If the figures for completing corrections are uniformly spread across the year, then the proposal has some merit. On the other other hand (CLANG), if there is a late summer spike, then the change might disadvantage more students than it helps. subtext welcomes the views of one-handed or two-handed subscribers on this particular topic.

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