Why Can’t the School of Oriental and African Studies Fix Their Low Graduation Rates in the Social Anthropology program?

onsidering finishing your PhD on the 30 year plan? It can be done, it seems—Miranda Irving writes about her experiences on the 30 year plan here. Her PhD. in Social Anthropology at the School of Oriental and African Studies was finally awarded in 2015. Embedded in this article is a nice link to what she wrote in 2006 about unfinished PhDs here.

Last month I wrote about the process of cooling out the graduate student who does not complete the PhD. The trick for the system is getting the graduate student to blame themselves for non-completion, rather than the grad school factory that is set up by professors to tolerate “non-completion rates” of 30-70%. Miranda does indeed accept responsibility for her own non-completion, and ‘fesses up and describes well how the grad student is cooled out.  She has been “cooled out,” in the sense that she is willing to blame herself for failure to complete a system designed with a high non-completion rate.

Still, wouldn’t it be nice if the SOAS Chair of the Social Anthropology Department wrote up the department’s explanation for why such high non-completion rates are designed into the system of the anthropology program there? Presumably it could be printed The Guardian as well. Perhaps that Chair could answer the question of why systematically high PhD completion rates are solely product of accumulated student failures, rather than of a system designed by the professors?