Friday, August 24, 2012

Cost of Supervising and Assessing Doctoral Degrees

Yesterday I attended a seminar on writing for research students by Catherine McLaughlin at the Australian Catholic University in Canberra. One point which Catherine made was that a thesis needs to be well written, because examiners get paid very little to read them. A recent topic on the EDUCAUSE Instructional Technologies Constituent Group (INSTTECH) has been "How can technology reduce or improve faculty workload now and long term?". It occurred to me that there seems to be little discussion of the costs involved in research supervision and the adequacy of examination, compared to coursework.

With a course, about 40% of the staff cost is for assessment. But the Universities Australia recommended fee for examining Higher Doctorates is only $425, where the thesis is more that 66% of the assessment. Assuming the thesis is 66% of the doctorate and there are three examiners, that would put the total cost of the assessment of a doctorate at $1,932. The international fees for a typical three year Doctor of Philosophy are $90,288. Even allowing for a 50% profit margin on the course and 50% staff cost, this indicates that the assessment is only 8% of the cost of the course. Some allowance would have to be made for the supervision component of the degree, which provides a form of ongoing assessment, but even so there would appear to be a lack of assessment in a research doctorate, as compared to coursework.

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