Document Details

Title Getting what they came for - Can increased tracking and transparency improve doctoral graduate outcomes?
Author Rachael Merola, Sr Researcher - The OBHE


Doctoral graduates are key contributors to the knowledge economy, bringing knowledge and skills not found in other population sectors. The supply of PhDs in the US and Canada is growing: In the US, the most recent Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED) reported a strong upward trend in the number of doctorates awarded, with an average annual growth of 3.3%. In 2016, 54,904 doctoral degrees were awarded. Likewise, the Conference Board of Canada reported a 68% increase in the number of PhDs awarded between 2002 and 2011, with more than 6,000 new graduates each year.

Despite abundant supply, there is some evidence of a mismatch with demand. The SED notes that “between 1996 and 2016, all age groups saw an increase in the percentage with definite commitments during the late 1990s, followed by a gradual, though not steady, decline through the first decade of the 21st century and then a much steeper decline starting at the end of the decade.” In 2014, only 61% of graduates had lined up a “definite employment commitment” prior to graduation.

Though there is a clear need to follow employment outcomes closely, higher education sectors in the US and Canada have struggled to consistently and accurately track and disseminate data on doctoral graduate outcomes. Comprehensive tracking of outcomes would allow, among other things, informed decision-making among prospective students and a better alignment of program and labour market. Both of these would have a positive effect on the employment outcomes of doctoral graduates.

This article explores what information is available and what it tells us about doctoral outcomes.

Date 11/05/2018
Region(s) North America, All Regions
Countries Canada, United States, International

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