Unplanned educational obsolescence : is the ‘traditional’ PhD becoming obsolete?
journal contributionposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by Donna Brien
Discussions of the economic theory of planned obsolescence—the purposeful embedding of redundancy into the functionality or other aspect of a product—in the 1980s and 1990s often focused on the impact of such a design strategy on manufacturers, consumers, the market, and, ultimately, profits (see, for example, Bulow; Lee and Lee; Waldman). More recently, assessments of such shortened product life cycles have included calculations of the environmental and other costs of such waste (Claudio; Kondoh; Unruh). Commonly utilised examples are consumer products such as cars, whitegoods and small appliances, fashion clothing and accessories, and, more recently, new technologies and their constituent components. This discourse has been adopted by those who configure workers as human resources, and who speak both of skills (Janben and Backes-Gellner) and human capital itself (Chauhan and Chauhan) being made obsolete by market forces in both predictable and unplanned ways. This includes debate over whether formal education can assist in developing the skills that make their possessors less liable to become obsolete in the workforce (Dubin; Holtmann; Borghans and de Grip; Gould, Moav and Weinberg). However, aside from periodic expressions of disciplinary angst (as in questions such as whether the Liberal Arts and other disciplines are becoming obsolete) are rarely found in discussions regarding higher education.