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The Why, What, and How of the Independent PhD: Part 1.1, Why? Independent vs Institutional PhDs

In Part 1 we talked about motivation for starting an Independent PhD. But why an Independent PhD rather than a classic, Institutional PhD?

I describe my Independent PhD as “Four-ish years of study, practice, and discourse that culminates in a book no-one will read.”

But the beauty of an Independent PhD is that it doesn’t have to be four years and there doesn’t have to be a book. There is only one have-to in the Independent PhD and that is: committing to developing your talent in a particular field over a long-ish period of time.

Institutional PhDs have a certain structure, and that structure does provide support to its participants. But I argue that, for many institutions, that structure is primarily designed to support the institutions. It’s not about you or me and the special, one-of-a-kind snowflakes that we are. It’s about keeping the institution’s finances and reputation afloat. If you fit and thrive in that program, great! If not, too bad.

I have studied at four institutions of higher learning, two of them particularly prestigious. To my surprise, the more prestigious the institution, the more they (and their students) were concerned with prestige and the less they were concerned with developing the skills and talents of their participants.

The beauty of the Independent PhD is that you can structure the thing however you darn well please.

My encouragement is not so much to take on board any particular structure. My encouragement is that, if there is an idea burning inside you, FOR GOODNESS’ SAKE GO AFTER IT.

In the next essay I’ll sketch one possible structure of the Independent PhD and offer examples of what it might look like in different fields.

With friendliness!

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