Sunday, 28 November 2010

Factors Contributing to "Failure " of Sponsored PhD candidates to finish within the specified time

Factors Contributing to "Failure " of Sponsored PhD candidates to finish within the specified time

The MOHE grant was given to a group of academics to study the factors as well as the impact of sponsored academics to finish their PhD’s in the specified time. The study covered the time period 2000-2010. The method of data gathering was by issuing questionnaire as well as interviews. The respondents were the candidates, DVC, Deans and officers in charge of the study leave. For detailed analysis, refer to the report of Grant KPT 9003-00195.The study concludes that:

· Those who studied overseas managed to complete their studies earlier than those who did so in local universities (4.3 years as opposed to 4.7 years)

· Lack of experience (or maybe exposure) to research( methodology, academic writing, thesis writing, data analysis, statistics) are the main contributing factors

· Other secondary factors are attitude, health, and environmental

· 35.5% found difficulty in writing chapters 4-6 (analysis, discussion and conclusion) and therefore could not complete within the time

· 3 years is too short a time. 78.4% of respondents want this to be revised. Need and criteria depend on programme and the supervisor involved.

· For those who completed the degree, the important contributing factors are preparation prior to study, the supervisor and self discipline are all contributing factors.

(The total number of respondents were 653)

I suppose having been a candidate myself, I am qualified to comment on the “findings” of the project KPT 9003-00195. I was not very happy that the Head of Project announced that he managed to finish his PhD within 2 years (less than 2 ½ years, if I am not mistaken). It would be very helpful to find out if he had to build experimental rigs from scratch (not hand-me-down rigs from previous work) or he had to grow stubborn bugs before he had to actually start bioreactors experimenting on the growth blab la of the bugs. I agree whole heartedly with bullet no5. No two PhD’s are the same, some start with a beaming supervisor ready to help them at every opportunity, some like mine used their expertise to avoid their PhD students, some are just busy because they are the Deans, Directors, etc etc, yes, just like many of us in Malaysia.

I agree whole heartedly with all the bullets but I think the researchers miss a very important point. At the expense of being accused of being proselytising, I would say that “spiritual strength and preparation” is very important. Doing a PhD is not easy. It needs concentration, focus and discipline. (for those contemplating a PhD, remember, it is all hard work and no glory). Consistency is the name of the game. Self motivation is also the name of the game. Having said all these, the candidate can never know what actually transpires until he or she is actually doing the PhD, staring at a blank piece of paper that needed to be filled up with words and equations or an empty bench waiting to be filled with a beautiful workable experimental rig, pumping out results within 6 months.

After actually finishing the hard work of coaxing out data from temperamental rigs, the real hard work needs to be tackled- writing up. An academic who says writing up is easy is lying or just plain showing off. Writing is the hardest thing an academic must do because you have to express yourself intellectually. Some do with more flair than others because they are gifted- it is what Allah has destined for some and not for others. For these people, you must pray and do your humble prostration that you have been chosen to have this gift. For those who have to labour more, use what Islam has taught you, work and pray. Pray that Allah will give you inspiration and ease in your labour.

Work and pray. Pray hard all the time. Dzikir is the best companion in times of your stress and hardship , although it should be so in times of happiness!

I submitted my PhD draft in 3 ½ years and waited 6 months for the viva. And so all in all I took 4 years to complete my PhD. I only need to correct the spelling mistake “heterogenous” throughout the thesis and so took one day to correct it. At the outset of the writing up, I had some notions of grandeur because I read somewhere that someone had the examiner write.. what an elegant thesis! I read the thesis, and since I fancy myself as rather a good writer of English, I thought to myself, if that idiot could do, so could I. And so I wanted to write up an elegant thesis.

In the end, I don’t think I wrote up an elegant thesis. Writing up the thesis was a colossal project that left me drained for some months and I was just glad I managed to finish writing it up. For a few years after my PhD (I won’t say when) I published papers from it and I have never looked at it for the last 20 years.

I am writing this post as much as for those young people out there who are struggling to finish their work, as to two very special people in my life, writing up their theses right now in Nottingham. As I write (today being Eid-ul Adha in Malaysia) memories of me writing up the last chapters of my thesis came flooding back. I keenly feel what they are feeling.

Good luck all of you, and if my “advice” is any good, do take it and may you all profit from it, insyallah.

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