What Could Make a PhD Program Fail – Part 2

Last week we looked at student or supervisor neglect, this week its critical mass.

Failure – lack of success; the action or state of not functioning1

Critical mass

Perhaps not immediately obvious, but a critical mass of students was identified as a barrier to success and potentially a point of failure. Several reasons were provided, including poor cost-benefit analysis when it comes to training students and lack of peer support during the PhD.

Poor cost-benefit analysis was about the financial cost of the PhD program. Specifically, the cost of sending students for events and training or hosting a dedicated CRC event. When the student numbers were too low, the equivalent dollar cost per head was too high to justify participation. Similarly, sending students to outside providers for the same training was expensive. Lower numbers of students also implies a higher per student cost for any staff (or proportional FTE) allocated to PhD support, further limiting the justification for development of training programs.

As noted above, student neglect is a potential failure point that can be addressed via a peer-support program. Limited PhD students means less likelihood of the development of a student-led program. It also means that unplanned absences from meetings have a larger proportional impact on attendance.

Good luck building and implementing your program!

If you need help building your PhD program(s) or finding existing programs to make use of, get in touch with the CRC Association and/or Dr Richard Huysmans (Richard.Huysmans@ravencg.com.au, 0412 606 178). We can help you build, implement and operate the best PhD program for your CRC.

In part 3, coming next week, we’ll look at the importance of knowledge transfer between program coordinators.


Dr Richard Huysmans knows the challenges of implementing an awesome PhD program as well as what it takes to complete a PhD. He is passionate about the #pracademic applications of PhD training, not just the academic outcomes. He is driven by the challenge of making a PhD to in-depth knowledge and what an MBA is to Business. To find out more, call 0412 606 178, email (Richard.huysmans@ravencg.com.au) or subscribe to the newsletter.

1Google, dictionary, https://www.google.com.au/search?q=Dictionary, accessed 12 July 2018