International competition, limitations of the domestic talent pool, and the current state of economic distress all bring into question whether the doctoral programs of today will be sustained so that the US remains the premier location for doctoral education. What do schools need to do to provide for a successful doctoral education?
Deborah Stewart, President of the Council of Graduate Schools, spoke at the AAAS Science & Technology Policy Forum and offered these as the top 5 elements:
1.Every doctoral program must be staffed by faculty who are engaged in research.
2.The institution must be clear about the intended goals and expectations for the students. Traditionally, prestige has been determined by institutional hierarchy. Students at highest-level institutions in the hierarchy get research positions. This is despite the fact that institutional capacity is the same at most institutions (no matter the rank or the geography). In all institutions (and for decades), almost all graduates take their next jobs outside of academia.
3.Institutions need to be more intentional about training students for the jobs they will get after graduation, rather than preparing all students for a career as academic faculty.
4.Institutions need to implement the reforms that are known to lead to greater student success such as mentoring, and curriculum enhancements. These reforms come from the 45 major research universities with 10 years of experience in offering “Preparing Future Faculty” programs and preparation for other professional positions.
5.Over the next decade, our universities must embrace rigorous assessment of doctoral programs, and act on assessments to bring about educational improvements. Minimally, that means tracking and reporting on time to degree for all students. We must also know where students go after they get their degrees. The NSF Star Metrics program is a good start at supplying the data that is needed to make informed decisions.
These activities will not be enacted unless there is political will on campus. Even well-intentioned institutions may not engage in such activities unless they know that they will continue to receive support from their state and federal government if they do.
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What do you think are the most critical elements? Do you agree with these or do you suggest others?