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Considering how hard it is to get a PhD done due to limited resources, I was puzzled by reading about a guy in his 80s getting a doctorate. He made it clear that he has no intention to work so why would a university waste time on somebody like that?

The purpose of a PhD is to produce scientists capable of and motivated to make contributions to science. It is NOT to satisfy one's ego and pursue meaningless dreams.

Shouldn't the university instead educate someone who would actually use this degree?

https://6park.news/massachusetts/manfred-steiner-achieves-his-dream-of-becoming-a-physicist-at-89.html

Just to clarify: the age is irrelevant: if a 30-year-old said they want to collect a PhD as a trophy but never use it for practical needs then I think such a person should never get one, either.

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    Whats stopping me (24 years old) from getting a PHD and then not working in that field?
    – Michael
    Dec 2, 2021 at 7:39
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    The question is loaded, if you wonder where the downvotes are coming from.
    – henning
    Dec 2, 2021 at 8:05
  • @Michael If you say that a PhD is a trophy you want to collect so you can brag about it but you don't have a PRACTICAL use for it, then the university should not give it to you. Age is irrelevant. Dec 2, 2021 at 8:10
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    So me personally I think that someone with your attitude should never get a PhD. Ageism should be an automatical exclusion.
    – gnasher729
    Dec 2, 2021 at 8:22
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    @Peter Dr. Steiner said "I’m not looking for a paid job. I’m over that." He did not say he will not use the knowledge obtained from physics PhD.
    – Nobody
    Dec 2, 2021 at 8:38

2 Answers 2

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It is not a waste of time. The PhD research itself has value, including presentations he might give about it, and in other ways.

The question is insulting to a person in his late 80s who has made a highly impressive achievement.

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    From personal knowledge, George Marsaglia did some excellent mathematical work when he was 86. Probably better than many in their twenties.
    – gnasher729
    Dec 2, 2021 at 8:21
  • @gnasher729 in his late 80s he was a retired professor not a PhD student, I guess.
    – Alchimista
    Dec 3, 2021 at 9:42
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I would not say that universities (or rather the people working there, and in this case supervisors and professors) waste time on PhDs. For them, supervising a PhD can be very little work, and in case of more theoretical research topics not very much ressources either (the books in the library are there no matter the number of PhD students). On the other hand, no matter what the PhD student intents on doing afterwards, the produced research will result in a higher scientific output and more publications - beneficial for profs and universities.

As long as those kind of PhD students don't take paid positions, scarce resources or scholarships away from others while doing their PhD (and I highly doubt that a retired doctor is requiring funding to to a PhD), and a professor has enough time on their hand to supervise, there is really nothing bad that comes out of it.

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