Vectors of knowledge exchange: the value of industry engagement to HASS PhDs

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Higher Education, 2020, 80, (5), pp. 973-987
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This article investigates the value of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (HASS) candidates’ prior industry networks and experiences as they intersect with doctoral study, as assessed by a group of HASS PhD graduates. While the phenomenon of industry engagement in PhDs across HASS and STEM is widely recognised, the value of these relationships to the PhD experience is less understood. This is particularly the case in HASS PhDs given the opportunities afforded to this predominantly mature-aged cohort of pre-existing professional networks. In our previous work on this topic, we showed that engaging with industry throughout the HASS PhD research lifecycle is widespread, and that networks may have their genesis prior to commencement and persist into careers post-graduation. In this article, we subject these networks to finer-grained analysis. Based on 16 in-depth interviews, we investigate the value HASS PhD graduates ascribe to their industry networks pre-, during and post-graduation. Our analysis suggests industry engagement during the PhD contributes value in two key ways: by facilitating candidate learning, in the form of research design and data collection related activities, and for knowledge exchange. These insights are further enhanced by development of a novel analytical model that measures the extensiveness, or continuity, of industry engagement across the PhD lifecycle. Comparative analysis reveals a correlation between enduring industry engagement and academic careers post-graduation, suggesting additional value in the form of a highly industry integrated HASS academic labour force. Our findings suggest HASS PhDs can function as an important and hitherto under-recognised industry engagement vector, contributing added value to the research process with multiple potential beneficiaries.
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