13 SES 07, Values, the Pedagogy of Interruption, and Publishing Now
The doctoral student is an ambiguous figure in the contemporary university. Neither fully a teacher, nor fully a student, the doctor-to-be seems to inhabit the university in a shadowy zone: sometimes assisting in teaching, sometimes taking classes, but most of the times studying and writing. Starting from this figure, we want to explore another way of looking at the university study, in contrast to current conceptualisation which usually reduce the university to a nexus of forms of learning and research. Our main question in this paper concerns the relation between the doctoral student and the university. What does the figure of doctoral student tell us about the university? Can we say something about university and university study departing from the figure of the doctoral student?
Following the Salzburg Principles of Doctoral education (2005) advanced by the EUA (European University Association), the main task of a PhD is the ‘advancement of knowledge through original research’. Thus, in EU policy perspective, the doctoral student seems to be more of a researcher than a student. However, this contributes nothing to understanding the specificity of the doctoral student, taking into account that, in the contemporary university, everyone is called to be a researcher, and even outside the university, where the entrepreneurial self becomes indistinguishable from the researcher-self (Hodgson, 2016, p. 46). However, we want to focus on this requirement for original research and inquire what does it say about university study as such.
The PhD degree appeared later in the university – William Clark (2006) traces it to Fichte’s plans for the University of Berlin. The PhD is a particularly modern development in an otherwise old institution. If we step back further towards the roots of the PhD, namely the Master’s title, we will notice that the originality was not yet a requirement. The doctoral degree was born out of a displacement of the speech in the Master’s defence. The speech usually uttered in the Master’s defence was not the student’s own creation, but the professor’s thesis which the student was to defend publicly. Once the switch from the oral disputatio to the written thesis was complete, the requirements for originality appeared. William Clark, however, reads in this displacement a silencing of the voice, as the publishing requirements for a PhD student supersede the show of the public defence which is usually just a convention nowadays.
Following Clark, it is unclear why we still have public defences nowadays, in an age of publishing. However, we want to revisit the public defence, this requirement to voice one’s original truth in front of an audience that may speak against the candidate, to expose one’s truth and turn it into a matter of public concern. Following Agamben’s insight that the author ‘marks the point at which a life is offered up and played out in the work' (Agamben, 1995, p. 69), we will argue that to produce original research is not the same as being an original author, and that this dimension of authorship has been lost from the contemporary discourse on PhD study.
In our paper, we will explore what the defense means for the PhD who is, at the exact same time, required to be an original writer-author which also speaks publicly. Through Agamben’s notion of authorship, and through the notion of public study (Simons & Masschelein, 2007), we aim to show that the figure of the doctoral student, as author-speaker-writer, which involves aspects of ‘authorization’ and ‘publication’ (as process of originality), might help us rethink the university beyond the contemporary disjoint figures of learners, researchers and innovators.
We start from a historically-informed analysis of the changes in the practise of the doctoral public defense in Europe, beginning with the Early Modern emergence of the PhD as a title. Through a conceptual analysis, we show how different understandings of authorship were involved in the changing status of the doctoral student the university and, through the entanglement of authorship and making public through speech, how different ideas of what a university could be played out. Our return to the historical roots of the PhD is meant to construct a history of the present of the figure of the doctoral student in which the present is questioned in its contingency, thus showing that other ways of looking at the present are possible, and perhaps, opening up other futures.
By shedding light on the relation doctoral student – university, we want to use it as a way to understand the public dimension of study. We argue that the public dimension is somewhat obscured in contemporary universities, which are approached theoretically either from the angle of the student or of that of the professor. In starting from the ambiguous figure of the doctoral student, we aim to find a new point of entrance for the conceptualisation of university study. We take this ambiguity as an advantage. We will show that the classical distinction research-education-service obscures exactly the zone of indistinction between the three, where the university is neither about only education, nor only research, nor only service, but all three at once and at the same time. We also hope to show that the doctoral student is an interesting figure worthy of further philosophical investigation.
Agamben, G. (1995). Idea of prose. SUNY series, Intersections: philosophy and critical theory. Albany: State University of New York Press. Clark, W. (2006). Academic charisma and the origins of the research university. Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press; Bristol : University Presses Marketing [distributor]. Eua (2005) Doctoral Programmes for the European Knowledge Society. Brussels. http://www.eua.be/eua/jsp/en/upload/Doctoral_Programmes_Project_Report.1129278878120.pdf Hodgson, N. (2016). The Researcher and the Studier: On Stress, Tiredness and Homelessness in the University. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 50(1), 37–48. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9752.12171 Simons, M., & Masschelein, J. (2007). Only Love for the Truth Can Save Us: Truth-Telling at the (World)university? In M. Peters & T. Besley (Eds.), Counterpoints, 1058-1634: v. 292. Why Foucault? New directions in educational research / edited by Michael A. Peters & Tina (A.C.) Besley (pp. 139–161). New York: Peter Lang.
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