An extraordinary resource
The recent article on administrative assistants was very
insightful – and far better written than many academic texts
(“The unheralded administrative assistant,” excerpted from the
book, Solitudes in the Workplace: Women in Universities, April issue).
I worked for years with a government agency and often dealt
with the secretaries (as they were then called) of university
vice-presidents, academic, when I needed quick and efficient
assistance. Later, working at a Canadian university, I sought help
from administrative assistants for the same reason. It is still
amazing that such efficiency, good judgment and hard work are
taken for granted. I had the same impression when occasionally
watching Downton Abbey: footmen and maids, being invisible
through their status, were deemed to be without eyes and, being
unspoken to, were assumed to be voiceless. Time for the powers
that be at universities to appreciate the extraordinary resources
they have in these “non-nons.”
Dr. Layton is a cultural anthropologist and author residing in British Columbia. She worked for 17 years in various capacities in the
B.C. postsecondary education system, interacting with senior ministry and university officials (and their assistants).
More PhDs? Yes indeed
the opinion article “Say it loud: Canada needs
more PhDs” (April issue) echoes the conclusion
reached in a December roundtable in Ottawa entitled “Does Canada have too many PhDs?” sponsored by Friends of CIHR that featured thought-leaders in government, universities and industry.
Their answer: Canada needs more PhDs!
The majority of PhDs graduating today do
not become professors. Yet, graduate education
remains based on an apprenticeship model
where professors train their students to follow
the same academic career path they followed a
generation or two ago. The recognition that PhDs
find meaningful employment in all sectors
will positively transform graduate education to
ensure that graduates are fully prepared with the
essential skills and networks to take advantage
of career opportunities in academia and beyond.
Dr. Reithmeier is a special adviser to the dean, graduate skills
development and engagement, in the School of Graduate
Studies at the University of Toronto.
Canada does produce a lot of PhDs
one can easily understand that the president of
the Canadian Association for Graduate Studies
wants to promote … graduate studies (“Say it
loud: Canada needs more PhDs,” April issue).
However, there is a problem when, instead of
providing robust arguments for her thesis that
Canada should produce more PhDs than it does,
the author formulates disparaging comments on
those who simply ask a rational question, “Does
Canada produce too many PhDs?” For her, rais-
ing such a question suggests a “disturbing sub-
text,” “discounts” our education system and
“undermines” the value of the PhD. Instead, she
urges that it would be more to the point to ask a
different question and inquire as to how to “max-
imize the potential of our graduate students.”
Well, the two questions are quite different and
both are legitimate.
For the first, we need robust data and an
understanding of the Canadian industrial landscape that the author does not provide, except
through the vague sentence that “less than one
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