Ph.D. Programs in Science and Technology at Jordan’s Universities:Between Reality and Ambition | View Points | Ammon News


Ph.D. Programs in Science and Technology at Jordan’s Universities:Between Reality and Ambition


[12/18/2017 5:37:39 AM]

AMMONNEWS - By Dr. Ghazi G. Al-Khateeb - No one can miss the basic requirements and default criteria needed for a Ph.D. program including human resources, advanced research labs and equipment, financial resources for research assistantships and research support, well-prepared study plans, trained research lab technicians, and proper research environment. This step is undeniably important and essential; without having the needed facilities and resources, an academic institute will never have the courage to think of initiating such programs. However, opening Ph.D. programs is not as easy as some academics may deem.

To be ready to elevate the master program to the upper level (Ph.D. program) and promote the master graduates one leap up, it is not a matter of taking the required courses and fulfilling the academic requirements including the Ph.D. thesis. The difference between a Ph.D. graduate and a master graduate is not only a set of courses taken in the Ph.D. program and a thesis done to complete the requirements. If that is the case; then, the Ph.D. program will not differ than taking another master degree with extra courses and another master thesis. Even in some cases, the master student may be asked or advised by his/her thesis advisor to take extra courses and research an advanced subject in his/her master thesis. The coursework and thesis research work are only a component of the whole process.

To launch a Ph.D. program, first one need to watch for the next step after the master program that will elevate the entire group one level up! This step is not simple, because the goal in a Ph.D. program is not to complete an assigned set of coursesrequired from a Ph.D. student as in an undergraduate program; but rather to develop an original and innovative research in the area of interest. Graduate courses should be developed to assist students to take what they find beneficial and useful to their research and not to acquire specific facts and methods.

Research terminology such as research tools, skills, creativity, innovation, integrity/honesty, high-level research work versus low-level research work are not only terms that should be known, but rather these terms should be understood and applied as well. The common practice of selecting top-ranked undergraduate students, encouraging them to pursue their master degree, and then screening the master students to go for the Ph.D. program is not always the way to go when it comes to producing successful Ph.D. holders. In reality, getting out of this box and thinking more thoroughly are needed. Being a top-ranked student is a key aspect but there are so many elements that need to be addressed when it comes to graduate studies. Sometimes, there are cases of excellent students in terms of grades and course achievement; and yet, they lack significant skills and talents such as communication skills, professional writing skills, presentation skills, personality, research-oriented attitude, way of thinking and analysis, and self-motivation.

The backbone of any Ph.D. program is a solid research platform that should be established in the institute. This research platform has several components; one of them is the research background of the professors who are in charge of the program. The Ph.D. program needs professors with long experience and new faculty members, who have new research and technology; this will benefit the program both ways. It is also important to ensure that the long experience for professors in the Ph.D. program is not circular in nature but accumulative and updated. The originality and practicality of research considered in the program should be given a great attention. In addition, the contribution of research and what it adds to the current knowledge are important. Literature review done in the thesis work of graduate students is a key element related to this point. Technical advisors in graduate programs should pay attention to the literature review that graduate students do for their thesis work. In most cases, graduate students overlook the significance of literature review. The common trend among students when they conduct literature review is to underline paragraphs and stuff the research study with pages of literature related to the research topic without recognizing the main goal of literature review. Consequently, the purpose of conducting a literature review becomes ambiguous. In other words, it is hardly understood why this researcher is doing this literature review. It is very important to realize the research direction and how previous studies affect the direction and the progress of the research. Explicitly, if the research does not build on previous research findings and take them one step forward, then the research conducted is having one or more of the following descriptions: outdated (obsolete), difficult to publish, does not add to current research knowledge, not original, impractical, does not interest practitioners or readers in the field.

Mentality of research among professors, students, and lab technicians and research culture in the community are still deficient. Without these two components, research will never be conducted the right way. For this reason, it will be difficult to implement Ph.D. programs that will produce successful graduates. Despite the fact that there are some rare cases of Ph.D. graduates from a few universities in Jordan who can be considered successful, Ph.D. graduates will not be competent enough with Ph.D. graduates from top-ranked universities in the United States and other countries. Top-ranked universities in the USA (for instance) normally don not hire its Ph.D. graduates before gaining another experience from another academic institute or research center. Therefore, universities in Jordan should be capable of providing such policy to enable Ph.D. graduates to gain another experience from outside the big system of research and education in Jordan before hiring them. Staying in the same systemwill never benefit the educational process and graduate studies.

On top of this, the internal belief in research philosophy is lacking in some cases. In addition, the attitude that research is done mainly for promotion or/and to collect some financial incentives became the only motivate behind conducting and publishing research work. Although this is not wrong; nevertheless, it impacts the internal enthusiasm and eagerness of why researchers and graduate teams should conduct research.

Non-sense signs that raise several questions against healthy environment for research and Ph.D. programs inside the campus of any university should be eliminated. For instance, the absence of research labs and utilizing teaching labs to conduct research is a major problem. This of course sets a huge limitation to conduct research in these labs by graduate students particularly when these labs are fully occupied for teaching purposes. Conducting research in the Ph.D. program requires students to stay in the lab for long hoursto perform experimental work. Several questions are raised herein; are graduate students allowed to stay in the labs after 4 or 5pm? And if they are allowed, are there proper and safe environment for them to feel like they are in a research-oriented university!? Is there a flexible system to adopt administrative procedures and to ease urgent procurement processes during the time of research in case research instrumentations and supplies are needed in the middle of the research!? Are those in charge of the Ph.D. program capable of maintaining the program once it is established? The fear to terminate the Ph.D. program once it is initiated is always there.

Diversity is another significant issue that lies behind the success of institutes and establishments in general and the progress of research and development in any academic institute in particular. Several academic departments in many universitiesbecame exclusive to Ph.D. holders having the same culture and background. In some cases, this situation does not provide a healthy environment for graduate studies, research, and education in general. Diversity influences the interrelationship between academics, the research climate and environment, competition, and sustainability.

The thirst and keenness behind graduate studies and conducting research is a long story. To provide some examples; the driving force of doing a research in the field of highways and pavements should be the disastrous problems that Jordan’s highways suffer from. A researcher in urban planning should look into the dreadful and random expansions and troubles in the urban facilities and areas located in large cities. A researcher in traffic engineering and geometric highway design should realize the catastrophes in the streets and highways that lack basic design elements (such as: no balancing in lanes, no proper marking, no proper traffic signal designs, tragic roundabouts that lack enough weaving sections and minimum standard design, no sufficient turning radii for turning or U-turns, dislocated or damaged traffic signs, and so on). A researcher in water and environment should recognize the urgent need for water resources and the vital necessity of clean environment in this country. Many more examples from other fields can be also listed.

It is true that there is a gap between practical research (if any) and decision makers and some other politics that may contribute into the whole picture and applying the outcomes and findings of some research in the real-life practices. However, Ph.D. holders still need to search for the calibrated compass that will take them to the right direction in case they have the eagerness and truthful allegiance in order to implement good research and to start planting research culture and mentality in the academic community; its only mainspring is to develop and improve our community, amenities, and graduate studies.

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