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Beryl Lieff Benderly

Report Finds Rapid Worldwide Growth in Science Doctorates, International Collaboration, and Research Capacity Building

In countries around the world, doctoral education, especially in science, engineering, and technology, is growing rapidly, with many countries looking to international collaboration as a means of enhancing their research capacity, finds a report issued in September as part of the CODOC project of the European University Association. Titled CODOC–Cooperation on Doctoral Education Between Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe, the report culminates a two-year international effort.

Doctorates awarded rose by half in the European countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) during the first decade of this century, but they doubled in Brazil and quadrupled in China during the same period, writes the report’s author, Thomas Ekman Jørgensen in an article about the report at University World News. China is now the world’s second largest producer of Ph.D.s after the United States, and Brazil’s output matches that of France. In 2008, China awarded more than 43,000 Ph.D.s and in 2009 Brazil awarded more than 11,000. The great majority of the Ph.D.s awarded in the three non-OECD regions studied are in scientific and technical disciplines (including social sciences)–83% in Asia, 78% in Latin America, and 58% in southern Africa, according to the report.

For many developing countries, the report notes, national development strategies include research and innovation, and doctoral education is a significant element of that. Building capacity for research and graduate education is essential to achieving those goals, as is creating a critical mass of well-qualified scholars for a vigorous research culture. Many countries are thus working to increase the percentage of the people in their research and teaching institutions who hold doctorates. In southern Africa, institutions included in the study predicted that the percentage of their research personnel and faculty holding Ph.D.s will rise over the next 3 years from the current total of 33% to 41%. For Asia and Latin America, the predictions for rises over the same period were from the current 49% to 62% and from the current 31% to 40%, respectively. 

The drive to increase the numbers and enhance the qualifications of research and faculty personnel has created significant employment opportunities for Ph.D.s in those regions, in contrast to the situation in the United States and Europe, where academic posts are highly competitive. In the countries covered in the study, “The career prospects of doctoral graduates are wide-ranging and quite good. They usually take up senior positions appropriate to their skill level, with roughly the same proportions entering government, the private sector, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the universities. This also implies that universities face a challenge in achieving their intended growth in numbers of staff with doctorates,” the report states. 

This challenge occurs because, as we’ve reported previously in this space, newly established or remote universities and colleges in countries with rapidly expanding higher educational systems often have difficulty providing salaries, facilities, working conditions, locations, and scholarly cultures that doctorate holders find attractive. This is especially the cade with the many Ph.D.s who have studied or worked in Europe or the United States. 

As the report notes, training and working conditions vary considerably among the various countries and regions studied. It’s clear, however, that the push toward increased doctoral education as a means of building the “knowledge society” is likely to continue in many countries around the world.

You can find the report here.