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‘Vague and verbose’: Professor who failed Carter Page twice describes his memorably awful PhD thesis

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Carter Page (Photo: Screen capture)

When former Trump 2016 foreign policy advisor Carter Page’s Ph.D. thesis was twice rejected by a London academic committee, he accused them of being biased against his favorable views of Russia, said The Guardian on Friday.

Before he was an awkward, overly verbose figure on the national stage, Page was a “vague,” “verbose” Ph.D. candidate at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. In 2008, he submitted a thesis on Russia’s transition to capitalism to Professor Gregory Andrusz and Dr. Peter Duncan ahead of an in-person interview called a viva.

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Andrusz told The Guardian that he thought it would be easy to pass Page — who is the only student the professor has ever failed twice in his decades-long academic career — but it actually took “days and days” for him to wade through Page’s vague, repetitive writing.

Page’s work, Andrusz said, demonstrated that he knew “next to nothing” about social science and was “unfamiliar with basic concepts like Marxism or state capitalism.”

The face-to-face meeting — held at University College, London — didn’t go well.

“Page seemed to think that if he talked enough, people would think he was well-informed. In fact it was the reverse,” Andrusz said, adding that Page seemed “dumbfounded” when he was informed he’d failed the examination.

Page was told by Andrusz and Duncan that his thesis needed “substantial revision” before it could be reconsidered and he was given an 18-month deadline.

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He re-submitted his thesis in November of 2011 and the document was, Andrusz said, a “substantial improvement” but did not rise to the level of Ph.D. work nor would it merit publication in any “learned journal of international repute.”

After a four-hour viva, the professors informed Page that he had failed again, at which point he flew into a rage.

“He accused us of bias in our assessment of his work on the grounds that we were anti-Russian and anti-American. Actually, we are both old Moscow hands. We remain neutral and let the facts speak for themselves,” said Andrusz.

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“I started learning Russian more than 50 years ago, and have made more than 30 visits to Russia, from 1967 up to my most recent one this summer,” Duncan said.

In an email seen by The Guardian, Page accused his advisers of persecuting him, comparing himself to Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was arrested and sent to Siberia by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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“Your actions to date have been far more destructive than anything I have personally experienced in my 39 years on this planet,” wrote Page in an aggrieved tone familiar to anyone who has read his letters to the Department of Justice accusing the U.S. government of “human rights abuses” against him.

Both professors withdrew as Page’s advisers, saying that his accusation of bias would make future work together impossible. Page eventually did earn his Ph.D. but Andrusz and Duncan both declined to say who his academic advisers were. They questioned why Page would even pursue an academic career.

“Carter Page wanted to become a rich man. He hinted at having contacts in high places in Russia who were his informants,” said Andrusz.

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This week a Justice Department lawyer and a federal judge rebuffed Page’s attempt to block the merger of AT&T and Time-Warner in a self-aggrandizing amicus brief in which he claimed that he, personally, had been harassed and persecuted by a cabal of government and media interests and that the merger would only consolidate their power further.

“The collaborative role that the U.S. telecommunications-media oligopoly played in this debacle inflicted against American democracy in 2016 further underscores the structural inequality of the current system which is at risk of only becoming more egregious if the proposed AT&T transaction is approved,” wrote Page.

The court found that Page’s brief was “not meaningfully relevant” to the matters it is currently adjudicating.


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