What you have is an increasing number of brilliant PhD graduates arriving every year into the market hoping to secure a permanent position as a professor and enjoying freedom and high salaries, a bit like the rank-and-file drug dealer hoping to become a drug lord.
To achieve that, they are ready to forgo the income and security that they could have in other areas of employment by accepting insecure working conditions in the hope of securing jobs that are not expanding at the same rate.
Because of the increasing inflow of potential outsiders ready to accept this kind of working conditions, this allows insiders to outsource a number of their tasks onto them, especially teaching, in a context where there are increasing pressures for research and publishing. The result is that the core is shrinking, the periphery is expanding, and the core is increasingly dependent on the periphery.
See full blog post by Alexandre Afonso.
A similar but less intelligent critique of the system in the New York Times last week.
Sounds to me like this is a market where students and science benefit, at the expense of PhD students. i.e. a well functioning market.
Easy for me to say, however, since (1) I’m in a field where my PhD offers outside jobs, and (2) I made it to the insider group (or, well, on the insider track, as I’m not tenured yet).
Even so, when I was a PhD student myself at Berkeley, and heard how just a third history PhDs get academic jobs (despite Berkeley arguably having the best program in the world), my first thought was not “this is unfair” but “what the hell are these PhD students doing?”
It’s a little hard to say the wool is pulled over their eyes when at the same time they are being trained to be critical and well-informed scientists of social systems. The Afonso post is not doing that (the NYT article is) and the former is worth reading.