The stories we tell ourselves about the doctorate and their consequences: Ageing and the PhD

Tara Brabazon, Eunice Gribbin, Catherine Sharp

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PhD supervision is marinated in assumptions. These assumptions are fuelled by professional and personal stories of success and failure, and are edited for public presentation and dissemination. They hook deeply into the conversations we have with ourselves, to justify behaviour, prejudice, discrimination, decisions and the injustices. As PhD supervisors and advisors in higher education, we hold power. How we wrangle that power with PhD students has profound consequences. This article intervenes in one of the stories that academics tell ourselves, about age and the PhD. The moment we enter Google Images and type the phrase“PhD students” into the search engine, our assumptions spill onto the screen. We see young men, and some women, in the sciences, cloaked in a lab coat, staring earnestly at the camera. The truth is distinct. A large proportion of our students are already in professional jobs and completing a doctorate for professional and personal advancement. But the stories continue of higher degree programmes ‘training’ bright young men to be the scientists of tomorrow. This article disrupts such slick, marketable and simple stories about Graduate School. Our students are not like us. They are not us. They have and will experience a completely different university system.
Original languageEnglish
Article number17
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Journal of Social Sciences and Education Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023


  • Doctor of Philosophy
  • Storying
  • Ageism
  • Homology
  • Professional Development


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