For personal reasons that are too boring to detail, I've taken on the editing of a PhD thesis on the side of my job. (I have done a fair bit of editing in my time). I work on the arts/hums-social science interface, with experience on both sides of that divide. I'm part-time.
I'm honestly appalled by what I'm reading. I've been employed to sort out a language issue, but this thesis isn't even up to the level of an undergraduate thesis in an intellectual sense. It's not theoretically or conceptually sound in any way. It doesn't contribute to knowledge empirically either; every finding within it is utter common sense. I would honestly fail it at MA level.
Yet it's being submitted for a PhD at a RG uni in a weak field of the social sciences, and I understand that it may well pass (provided "friendly" examiners are chosen). I really, hand-on-heart do not think it would pass in a RG arts and humanities faculty, I doubt it would pass in a stronger social science one either.
I know that standards have been sliding - and that this isn't necessarily the fault of candidates, but of the changing nature of the beast that is a thesis. But if this is what can now pass - a thesis that shows no reading, and makes no contribution - then the PhD is being rendered all but worthless. It also strikes me as unfair that candidates in one field are expected to deliver something that is of so much higher quality than candidates in another (though I suspect this is not a new feature of the university landscape).
Apologies for the rant. I'm finding this a completely thankless, miserable editing job and I wish I hadn't taken it on!
If you edit it into looking superficially reasonable, you are making the job of the examiners who need to fail it and defend their decision in the face of whoever the student goes to next much harder. Don't do it!
Just edit it as best you can and submit it. My Masters supervisor offered to write a few chapters of my thesis for me. He was quite offended when I said no. Apparently he wrote most of another students thesis. Some of the final thesis presentations were shocking, no original research in them at all but they still passed.
I also think the editing may be the scandal. On a side note DD started Uni in September, severely dyslexic, no support as yet as assessment isn't until this Thursday! She is most surprised to be getting high B's. We talked about it over the weekend and both agreed whilst her concepts are great her essays read like a series of poorly connected bullet points.
That's not the issue - I'm being paid to drop this into good English, not to sort the ideas. The issue is that this department (and supervisor) actually think this thesis is passable. And I know from past practice that really terrible theses in this field ARE passing, all the time. It's unfair that vastly higher standards of scholarship are expected in one field and not another for the same degree.
If the examiners are kind I suppose they could pass the thesis, but subject to major revisions (to elicit an argument and a contribution one would hope). If this happened, would you be asked to edit the revisions? Sounds like it could be extremely frustrating and could continue for months.
Grade inflation is ripping through the sector, so it's inevitable that it would go higher up the foodchain and crappy PhDs would start getting passed. I think RG is particularly responsible here - they constantly go on about being "world-class" (whatever that means) but there is also a pressing need for them to recruit internationally and now they are dropping their standards to take students away from the perceived "lower" unis. In this case, it sounds like an international student has been admitted without the requisite English language skills to help fill up the institutional coffers.
I think you have that spot on user. But it's not just that they lack the language skills. Sometimes you can tell that someone has great ideas, but is struggling to express them. This person, however, just isn't meeting the intellectual level required - the thesis isn't just badly expressed, it's basic. It shows little reading, and still less engagement with that reading; the entire project is poorly conceptualised and poorly written up; the theoretical sections are utterly laughable. I am not exaggerating when I say that this falls below the standard of a 2:1 at undergraduate level.
I'm not paid to get the thesis passed - I'm paid to drop it into better English. Once I've done that, my task is finished. The lack of content is not my problem. What I'm shocked about is the fact that I genuinely don't think this would pass in another field, and I shrewdly suspect it will pass in this one (but we shall see).