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Some reflections

by In Wales Tue Apr 29th, 2008 at 02:43:20 AM EST

[editor's note, by Migeru] Originally published on April 13.

I found out today from a researcher who is keeping track of Deaf people with PhD's that including myself, 37 Deaf people in the UK have a PhD. I am only the second in Wales to gain one, the first being achieved in 2000.

Having spent so much time in an environment where people either have or are working towards a PhD, it didn't occur to me that most of my friends have little experience of that so me getting my PhD at long last has been a Really Big Thing.  Much alcohol, champagne, cards, emails, texts, messages, flowers and gifts have come my way from my very delighted friends and colleagues and it has been quite overwhelming, although greatly appreciated.  But it still hadn't sunk in.

Promoted by Migeru

Now I see that I am one of 37 Deaf PhD holders in the UK, not Deaf graduates this year but all together one of 37.  Quite possibly I'm the only Deaf person in the whole of the UK being awarded a PhD this year?

What kind of an education system is this?  That against all the odds only 37 Deaf people have made it to this level of education.  

There are 9 Million deaf and hard of hearing people in the UK according to the RNID. A quick trawl finds stats on the Gallaudet website

Great Britain

    * "Deaf population 909,000 to 3,524,725 (1998)."
          -- (Ethnologue, http://www.ethnologue.com/show_country.asp?name=United+Kingdom)

    * "About 62,000 people over age 16 have very severe hearing problems, and about 2.3 million have some degree of hearing difficulties" (2004).
          -- (Encyclopedia of Deafness and Hearing Disorders, p.211.)

Prevalence: "profound prelingual deafness...estimated to be between .8 and 1.5 per 1,000 live births" (2004).
    -- (Encyclopedia of Deafness and Hearing Disorders, p.211.)

Sign language users:

    * No figure for total number of users; up to 30,000 deaf people in the UK have been educated via BSL (1986).
          -- (Gallaudet Encyclopedia, vol.3 p.62.)

    * "Approximately 30,000 people use British Sign Language as their main method of communication" (2004).
          -- (Encyclopedia of Deafness and Hearing Disorders, p.211.)

Scotland only

    * About 4000 profoundly deaf people known, total number is certainly higher. (1986)
          -- (Gallaudet Encyclopedia, vol.3 p.5.)

    * "...an estimated 4,000 deaf adults in Scotland, with another 2,000 students receiving help for some form of hearing loss" (2004).
          -- (Encyclopedia of Deafness and Hearing Disorders, p.184.)

I'm just wondering how many people hold PhDs in the UK and what the breakdown of it is - some information here but I haven't come across a quick and easy summary of numbers of PhD holders.

So even given the smaller proportion of d/Deaf people say under the age of 30, to only have 37 holding a PhD is astonishingly low.  Given my own experiences of how inaccessible academia has been, this doesn't surprise me but it does anger me.  The world is so far from equal, it's appalling.  

I have to dash now but many thanks to everyone for the support and good wishes and messages, it's been appreciated!

[editor's note, by Migeru] Earlier entries in the Being Deaf series:

Some figures for science are in here

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Apr 13th, 2008 at 07:07:44 AM EST
Using 30,000 as a lower bound, d/Deaf people [BTW maybe I missed this in earlier discussions, but what is the significance of upper-casing?] would be 0.05% of the UK population.

According to Figure 4.1.1 on page 181 (pdf page 192), in 1999, there were 164,040 researchers in the UK. So if education would be fair, even using a lower bound, there should have been 82 d/Deaf researchers. And that doesn't consider non-researcher PhD holders.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Apr 14th, 2008 at 03:52:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
what is the significance of upper-casing?

Nevermind, I found the answer in the first diary from 2006.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Apr 14th, 2008 at 05:42:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Congratulations!  It must feel like a huge achievement.  I had no idea the numbers were so small.  With "qualification inflation" it seems that you need a degree nowadays, where an A level would have sufficed a generation ago, and post graduate qualifications are now the norm where a degree would have sufficed before.  I'm considering registering for a PhD in Confliction Resolution myself, but it would very much have to be a labour of love rather than a career move - so I am thinking long and hard about it.  It seems like an awful lot of work, and academia has never been my favourite game. I hope your PhD opens up some good career opportunities for you, and that all the hard work will have been worth it.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Apr 13th, 2008 at 07:39:57 AM EST
Seconded... hoping the same.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Sun Apr 13th, 2008 at 03:24:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That is so shocking.  I had no idea things were as bad as that, though I suppose I could have guessed.

My cousin is Deaf and in his late thirties. His post-16 education seems to have been proscribed by others' ideas as to What Deaf People Can Manage.  First a specialist catering college, then an ICT degree.  I don't think he was ever especially interested in either, or that anyone ever asked him what he'd like to learn or do.

He's also frequently assumed to have learning difficulties.  I imagine it's pretty corrosive to the educational engagement and prospects of Deaf children and adults when they're widely treated as less able if their speech isn't clear, or they don't understand because their needs haven't been taken into account.

It's such a terrible waste.  I remember training with someone who was Deaf, and the teaching staff were just awful.  They spoke in profile.  They summarised slides in a few words and then whisked them away.  I used to loan him my notes, but he was only getting half a training, and was frustrated and humiliated at having to rely on a fellow student for that.  He didn't finish the course.  

by Sassafras on Sun Apr 13th, 2008 at 10:27:18 AM EST
In that sense, I think In Wales is right that putting the emphasis on mainstreaming and BSL interpreters is maybe less effective that training Deaf specialist teachers for various subjects.

For instance, In Wales might be a more effective Chemistry teacher for Deaf students than a hearing teacher with all kinds of technological aids and an interpreter who doesn't know chemistry.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Apr 13th, 2008 at 10:36:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Educational translation, at least as far as I've seen it in practice, is a real talent, and very few people are any good at it.

It's one thing to translate an existing concept.  It's quite another to transmit a new one.

by Sassafras on Sun Apr 13th, 2008 at 03:13:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's exactly the problem and it stops people from reaching their potential, like they aren't allowed to aspire to be anything.  I was lucky to have an excellent science teacher who spent time encouraging me and teaching me one to one - I dedicated my thesis to him.

Were it not for that, I largely heard things like 'oh you won't be able to do this type of job, no point doing this kind of qualification' blah blah.  I was forced to stay after school to learn how to touch type because that would be all I was capable of, typing up notes and doing admin. Childcare, that was ok too.

Amazing how many people have had such similar experiences to me and how few are making it through the system in one piece.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Sun Apr 13th, 2008 at 03:47:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In Wales:
I largely heard things like 'oh you won't be able to do this type of job, no point doing this kind of qualification'

My mother was a very severe asthmatic, who was called into her headmistresses study when she was about 14 to be told that they were calling her in to tell her that they weren't going to enter her for any exams, as there was no point as she was not going to ever be able to get a job. to which she answered that  she'd meant to come in anyway to say she was leaving as she already had a job.

They were fairly insistant that the only thing that she'd ever be capable of was cooking and cleaning.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Apr 13th, 2008 at 04:18:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, I grew up hearing older members of the family opine on What Should Be Done About T.

An uncle who was a builder should be able to sort him out with a labouring job.  An aunt with a shop should employ him to run errands. I once heard it suggested that Tesco ought to be grateful to have him collect trolleys as part of their (quote) "cripple quota", seeing as he (quote) "only looks retarded".

And it doesn't end there, does it?  Despite his degree, he's not employed.  It's a source of sickening, smug little comments by those who always said spending money on his education was a waste, and who are too stupid to see that they and their kind are his only real disability.

by Sassafras on Sun Apr 13th, 2008 at 06:00:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The UK's Higher Education Statistics Agency only seems to offer stats for £££s, so I tried Eurostat.

Not much there either, but I got numbers for total PhDs awarded in the UK in 2004 and 2005, also for those in Physical Science (no specific Chemistry item), and a gender breakdown. Small mercies etc...


All PhDs:
Male:  8682 (57%)
Female:  6575  (43%)

Physical Science:
Male: 1503 (66%)
Female: 777 (34%)


All PhDs:
Male: 8949 (57%)
Female: 6829 (43%)

Physical Science:
Male: 1536 (66%)
Female: 798 (34%)

Numbers vary, proportions remain the same.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Apr 13th, 2008 at 11:41:22 AM EST
Numbers from Wales in 2003


Wales is home to 13 higher education institutions (HEIs) ranging in size from over 24,000 students at Cardiff University (around 70% full-time) to 7,000 at University of Wales, Lampeter (where a large majority are part-time students). Figures from HEFCW and NECTW for 2002/03 state that 5,085 students were enrolled on research degree programmes and that 605 doctorates were awarded


Higher education institutionFinal year PhD numbers
Cardiff University215
University of Wales, Swansea135
University of Wales, Bangor90
University of Wales, Aberystwyth75
University of Wales College of Medicine35
University of Glamorgan25
University of Wales Institute, Cardiff10
The University of Wales, Lampeter10
University of Wales College, Newport5
The North-East Wales Institute of Higher Education5

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Apr 13th, 2008 at 11:59:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks afew and ceebs for digging this out, I didn't have a chance earlier.  A friend suggested that around the graduation ceremony time that I put out a press release about it, to see if other people are around who the researcher haven't found yet, and I suppose to raise awareness of the inaccessibility of the education system.  It could make a nice story for the Echo!
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Sun Apr 13th, 2008 at 03:35:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The difficulty was finding publicly available figures.  

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Apr 13th, 2008 at 06:42:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's crazy, especially as I'd imagine that the obstacles posed by deafness decline as you move up the educational ladder since the learning is increasingly reading based. Assuming a translator  deafness should also pose only a minor obstacle in academic work.
by MarekNYC on Sun Apr 13th, 2008 at 05:12:41 PM EST
I assure you that is not the case, and overcoming the obstacles prior to PhD level is hard enough.

It's impossible to be taken seriously and to network and collaborate which is needed if you want to have an academic career. Assumptions about capability prevail.  Plus for very specialised topics finding an interpreter who can handle terminology is really hard.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Sun Apr 13th, 2008 at 05:42:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
here are a few thoughts of mine:

  •  I am reminded of a blind woman who started at the same university as I but lasted all of 2 weeks before her parents decided to pull her out.  She had made friends quickly and we were walking her back and forth from her classes, etc but that wasn't good enough for her parents.  My, how frustrated she must have been!

  • Despite the fact that I graduated in the latter half of the 20th century, I was one of the first 10 women to graduate with a Bachelor's degree, from my department!  the university is well known, and the department not that archaic.
by zoe on Sun Apr 13th, 2008 at 06:28:50 PM EST
Sorry if I sound stupid, but what exactly did you get your Ph. D. for?

Sincerest Congratulations.  

Make everyone call you doctor too.  If anyone is offended just say, "I am not into titles but I figure if I don't insist, folks might mistakenly believe I am not as smart as Henry Kissinger"

Or not.  ;-)

"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"

by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Tue Apr 15th, 2008 at 03:43:28 PM EST

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Apr 15th, 2008 at 03:46:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As DoDo said, chemistry.  I work in the trade union movement now and a few months ago a regional officer was telling me that when I pass I must use my title because there are not many doctors within the union movement and it adds credibility to be able to boast such a title!

But I am also looking forward to being able to use it to take a swing at anyone who treats me as though I am stupid when they notice I am deaf. Sweet revenge.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Tue Apr 15th, 2008 at 03:58:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
on the downside there will be a few poisonous individuals who will always reckon that you've been given your degree because of your disability, rather than understanding the extra effort involved.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Apr 29th, 2008 at 04:26:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah that has always been the case and I was worried that my examiners would do that (and to avoid me trying to sue the university) but given that I have very few amendments to make to the thesis, it gives me confidence that they do believe I deserve the PhD award.

So I guess as long as I know that, who gives a shit what any other idiot may say about it.  Some people on a Deaf email list congratulated me and then another person piped up to say it is easy to get a PhD these days.  I asked him if he had a PhD and it seems that he doesn't!

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Tue Apr 29th, 2008 at 04:45:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
well it is easy (apart from all the work, and abandoning five years of your life and all the tedious thinking). after all there's nowhere near as much physical effort as stacking shelves in Tescos

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Apr 29th, 2008 at 05:18:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
for what deaf persons are able to accomplish given the obstacles placed before them. Moreso for ones who have been deaf from birth or from a very young age. Let me tell you why.

Back in 1974 I travelled from Albuquerque NM to San Diego CA with a friend of mine who wanted to see her boyfriend. She didn't want to travel (hitchhiking) alone, and I didn't want her to have to, so I volunteered to go with her.

When we got to SD it turned out that her boyfriend's father was President of the Southern California Deaf Persons Association. She, her boyfriend and all his siblings knew sign language and could therefore converse with the father. I didn't know any sign language, so when they got to "talking" amongst themselves, it seemed like the one who was "deaf" was actually me.

Let me tell you it was an eye-opening experience. I became the one with a "handicap" while all those around me were unaffected. I had never before thought about the complications a deaf person must experience on trying to live in a hearing world. The experience had a profound effect on my thinking, making me realize how much I took for granted and even more of which I was completely ignorant.

So let me say to you now, my hat is off to you for what you've accomplished. Simply obtaining a PhD is a great accomplishment. To have done it with the added drawback of being unable to hear is, to me, a testimony to your perseverance and a tribute to the capabilities of all who suffer from hearing loss.

Kudos to you.

by scoff on Tue Apr 29th, 2008 at 09:23:01 AM EST
Thanks for the contribution.  It is always an eye opener to find yourself surrounded by people signing and to realise how complete everything is with it.
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Tue Apr 29th, 2008 at 09:48:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Congrats on the PhD.

I have no doubt that a deaf person striving for a high level qualification will find more obstacles in their path. That's probably part of the explanation as to why the figures for deaf PhD holders are so low in comparison to hearing PhD holders.

I assume the figure of 37 only records those who achieved their PhDs as deaf students, and not those who hold PhDs who later became deaf. Also, do these figures only cover people who are profoundly deaf, or do they also include the hard-of-hearing?

It's just that 37 seems like such a low number, it is necessary to know how big a group of people the researcher is looking at. The numbers of deaf people who have become deaf in later life would skew he figures, moreso because older people are less likely to hold PhDs anyway. One of the quotes you give says:

* No figure for total number of users; up to 30,000 deaf people in the UK have been educated via BSL (1986).
          -- (Gallaudet Encyclopedia, vol.3 p.62.)

Which would seem to indicate the base figure of how many people are in the potential pool of deaf students who could earn or could have earnt a PhD. (Though the figure is quite old.) That would make people who are or were 'deaf students' to be 0.05% of the UK population, which is think is the percentage that DoDo gave.

According to Social Trends 38 from the ONS, 16,250 people were awarded doctorates in 2005/06. This is one for every 3,692 people in the general population (all of whom we'll assume were students at some time or another). For the deaf population to equal that, there would have to be about 8 to 9 doctorates awarded to 'deaf students' every year.

But there is also a high comorbidity of 'additional educationally relevant conditions' among deaf people:
Gallaudet 2006/07 Summary, Page 10. Similar conditions among the general population are about 10%, though the statistics do vary considerably. Which means that the percentage of deaf students which can be expected to be capable of PhD level study may be lower than the general population. Trying to factor in these differences also is pretty much impossible for me to do, but I think it will bring the number down to about 5 to 6 PhDs a year to be equal.

I've probably made some pretty egregious error or terrible assumption somewhere, I'm sure. Feel free to slaughter me.

Member of the Anti-Fabulousness League since 1987.

by Ephemera on Tue Apr 29th, 2008 at 11:52:21 AM EST
I don't know exactly what the definition is that they use - it would not include hard of hearing later in life but nor would it include only those educated through the medium of BSL - simply because most people who are born deaf (such as myself) do not have access to BSL until their 20's.

My guess is that they include d/Deaf people who require additional forms of support such as interpreters, notetakers, radio aids and so on (whether this provision is made adequately or not).

My guess is that the number is higher than 37 simply because the researchers seem to find out about people via word of mouth and through deaf people knowing each other through social networks. You won't catch everybody that way.

As you allude to - poor access to education at primary, secondary and tertiary level will reduce the number of deaf people who are capable of studying to such a high level.  

Given that there is no one definition of deaf/hard of hearing or any one method of collecting statistics on how many d/Deaf people and BSL users there are in the UK, your guess is as good as DoDo's is as good as anybody else's!  Which in itself highlights a major gap in terms of tracking the outcomes and life chances of children who are born deaf or become deaf at a young age.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Tue Apr 29th, 2008 at 01:40:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Congratulations In Wales. You'll be owed much more respect around here now that you've added a PhD to your qualifications as a great diarist and photographer!

Strangely, I never thought of deafness as being a limiting factor for you - but now I am reminded of the always present human factor and my admiration grows.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears

by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Tue Apr 29th, 2008 at 12:24:56 PM EST
No Exit - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"Hell is other people."

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Apr 29th, 2008 at 01:14:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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