Last week we looked at student or supervisor neglect, this week its critical mass.

Failure – lack of success; the action or state of not functioning1

Critical mass

Perhaps not immediately obvious, but a critical mass of students was identified as a barrier to success and potentially a point of failure. Several reasons were provided, including poor cost-benefit analysis when it comes to training students and lack of peer support during the PhD.

Read more: What Could Make a PhD Program Fail – Part 2

Failure – lack of success; the action or state of not functioning1

It would be very difficult – if not impossible – for a CRC PhD program to fail. If for no other reason that the PhD itself is offered and managed through a university, not the CRC. However, if the goal of the CRC is to turn out PhD graduates with an enhanced or specific skill set, then it is possible for the program to lack success or not to function. Thus, although students might graduate; although they could have an association with the CRC; the program might be considered a failure if:

Read more: What Could Make a PhD Program Fail – Part 1

Cooperative Research Centres, Centres of Excellence, Centres of Research Excellence, Institutes, etc. are all large programs, usually have high (monetary) value and are complex to deliver. These factors are present from the design and application processes, all the way through to implementation, operation and wind-up.

Although the complexity cannot be removed, planning can certainly reduce the complexity, as well as smooth out or prevent bumps in the road.

Read more: Building a PhD Program - So You’ve Got A Research Centre: What Next?

Industry-involved PhD programs are all the rage now. The NISA (National Innovation and Science Agenda) has really put a spotlight on universities working more closely with industry; and what better place to start than a PhD. Added to this, PhD graduate data paints a stark picture of employment – with less than 5% of graduates turning their training into a long term research career. That is, only 1.5% of PhD graduates spend ten or more years in research and go on to be

Read more: The Case for Enhanced PhD Programs

The predominant method for delivering training within a PhD is through apprenticeship-style approaches. Essentially students are asked to “see-one-do-one”. In an environment where learners are immersed in the culture for large periods of time (40 hours per week for more than three years), apprenticeship-style works very well. Indeed, errors are often seen early and corrected. 

Read more: Getting The Most Out of Your PhD Training

In an earlier blog, I wrote about maintaining motivation during your PhD. However, motivation only gets you so far. What happens when you lose all motivation? You still need to be able to make progress. You still need to be able to do experiments, analyse data, complete reports and write your thesis. What do you do when your why, fun and accountability are not working for you?

Read more: Creating Habits to Complete Your PhD