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The modern PhD model, in the form of independent research attested by a dissertation, was instigated through Germany’s educational reforms in the early 19th century, and has rapidly spread to other countries in the world, representing today one of the highest academic levels. Governments recognise the importance of PhDs and have targets to increase their production. However, in a changing environment, the lack of employment opportunities for PhD graduates and the concerns expressed by employers about the skills and knowledge of PhDs, remain important issues in the debate about the role, effectiveness and quality of PhD education.
This paper aims to identify these concerns and to set them in the context of broader trends affecting education more generally, identifying some of the suggested reforms already underway. The purpose of this paper is not to develop solutions but rather to provide the context for an informed debate on a matter that is of considerable importance worldwide, and more specifically to Australia.