I’m in the midst of reading through a pile of applications for the Analysis Studentship. There are some impressive looking candidates. But I’m frankly not too impressed with some of my colleagues in various universities who are writing references. Indeed I’m pretty damned irritated. For two reasons.
First, the advert for the Studentship plainly says the “the successful candidate will have a CV which would make him or her a strong contender for a Junior Research Fellowship”. How come then that too many colleagues are agreeing to write references for people they must know perfectly well wouldn’t haven’t a snowball in hell’s chance in a JRF competition. They should just have the honesty to say straight out “Sorry, you are batting out of your league here; I don’t think you should waste your time or the time of the Studentship Committee in applying; so I can’t support you on this.”
Second, it can’t be that every PhD student is one of the top 5% of students the referee has taught, etc. , etc., etc. The inflationary guff that you get in too many references is now just ridiculous. And prompts in this reader the sceptical response “Oh yeah?”, so is in fact counterproductive. Irritating your reader is not a good way to promote your students.