The average humanities doctoral student takes nine years to earn a Ph.D. At least that's what I read was said at the annual convention of the Modern Language Association. Richard E. Miller, an English professor at Rutgers pointed out that those students finishing dissertations now probably started them before Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Kindles, iPads and many other technologies existed.
That's what I was reading in the article "Dissing the Dissertation" by Scott Jaschik. I have had my own discussions with colleagues and students (I teach in a graduate program) about the value of dissertations (especially those in the humanities) which almost always sound like a book written a long time ago in an educational galaxy far away. Do these dissertations prepare students to work in this century in any place other than academia?
The discussion at MLA seems to have centered around not only the time required to complete a dissertation but also the topics and format. Is it possible that digital projects and publishing, and "public scholarship" may actually become alternatives? That stone wheel turns very slowly...
The MLA actually issued a report back in 2006 about promotion and tenure practices that had also questioned this monograph (or "proto-book") production process.
It's one thing to diss dissertations but it would be a whole other thing to actually see schools ditch dissertations. Still, the discussions in places like the MLA adds further fuel to the movement towards another kind of University 2.0 that I think institutions will be pushed towards harder by the workplace and students.