"A Fresh Look at Ph.D. Education"
The Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) and National Science Foundation (NSF) co-sponsored "A Fresh Look at Ph.D. Education," a full-day workshop on graduate education. According to reports in the Chronicle of Higher Education and Insider Higher Ed (report), the workshop began with a presentation of CGS Ph.D. completion and attrition data showing that only about 57% of doctoral students complete their Ph.D.s within 10 years.
Speakers described interventions taking place at their home institutions and made a number of additional recommendations, including:
- increasing per-student funding, fellowships, and access to child care;
- reducing the emphasis on GREs and GPAs in selecting students;
- informing students about the nature of the job market;
- tracking and posting data on completion rates, time to degree, and placement rates;
- providing transferable skills training; and
- improving the scientific content of graduate education.
Lewis Pyenson, dean of the graduate college at Western Michigan University, pointed out that many of the interventions described require significant investments of money and so are not applicable to the majority of institutions in the U.S. that are producing Ph.D.s under intense budgetary pressures.
To address concerns about Ph.D. completion rates, CGS initiated the Ph.D. Completion Project in 2007. This seven-year project provides grant funding in two phases to 29 major U.S. and Canadian research universities to create intervention strategies and pilot projects, and to evaluate the impact of these projects on doctoral completion rates and attrition patterns.
Professional Science Master's
The goal of Professional Science Master's (PSM) is to prepare students for science careers in business, government, and non-profit sectors by combining study in science or math with course work in business, management, policy, communications, law, or other fields. PSM programs, which have been developed with input from industrial employers, offer more science and math training than an MBA and more professional skills training than a Ph.D. or traditional master's.
There are 124 PSM programs at 61 institutions. Many of the programs are in biology-related fields, including areas such as microbial biotechnology, genetic counseling, biosecurity, drug analysis, and health care informatics. The programs appear to attract individuals who want a career in science, but who are not interested in pursuing a Ph.D.
The America COMPETES Act authorized the establishment of a pilot program at the National Science Foundation (NSF) to provide grants to institutions to create PSM programs. The Act authorized $10M for Fiscal Year 2008 (FY08), $12M for FY09, and $15M for FY10. On 4 January 2011, President Obama signed the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-358) into law.