Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering: Fall 2001

Technical Notes

Survey Universe top

The data collected in the fall 2001 Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering[1] represent national estimates of graduate enrollment and postdoctoral employment as of fall 2001 in all academic institutions in the United States that granted doctorate or master's degrees in any science, engineering, or health-related field. Included are data for all branch campuses, affiliated research centers, and separately organized components such as medical or dental schools, schools of nursing, public health, etc. The survey universe consisted of 721 reporting units at 606 graduate institutions, including 242 master's-granting institutions and 483 reporting units associated with 364 doctorate-granting institutions.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has collected data on graduate science and engineering (S&E) enrollment and postdoctoral appointees since 1966. From fall 1966 through fall 1971, data from a limited number of doctorate-granting institutions were collected through the NSF Graduate Traineeship Program, which requested data only on those S&E fields supported by NSF. Beginning with the fall 1972 survey, this data collection effort was assigned to NSF's Universities and Nonprofit Institutions Studies Group and was gradually expanded from 1972 to 1975 to include additional S&E and health fields as well as all institutions known to have programs leading to a master's or doctoral degree. Due to this expansion, data for 1974 and earlier years are not strictly comparable with 1975 and later data. Technical table 1 shows the number of institutions, reporting units, and departments at each level included in the data, as well as the total enrollment reported for each year between 1966 and 2001. No attempt has been made to inflate the data for 1966–74 to reflect universe totals.

Beginning with fall 1984 academic year, master's-granting institutions were surveyed on a sample basis. From 1984 through 1987, the survey design was a stratified random sample, with all doctorate-granting institutions, all master's-granting historically black colleges and universities, and all land-grant institutions included in the certainty stratum. The remaining master's-granting institutions were divided into two sample strata on the basis of enrollment size. Data for sampled institutions for the years 1984–87 were reestimated in 1988 on the basis of 1983 and 1988 data. During the 1989 survey cycle, S&E field definitions were reviewed and some departments were deleted. Data for 1975–88 were adjusted to conform to the revised definitions.

The fall 1988 survey included the entire survey population for the first time since fall 1983. Since 1988, any institutions starting up S&E master's or doctoral programs have been added to the survey universe, and any that have closed all their S&E graduate programs have been deleted. (See "Survey Methodology," below.)

Technical tables 2 and 3 present data on departmental coverage by S&E field for doctorate- and master's-granting institutions for the last 8 years surveyed.

Survey Instruments top

The survey questionnaire on which data are reported in this publication is essentially the same as that used for the 2000 collection. In addition to the questionnaire proper, each survey package also included the following:

Survey Methodology top

The survey packages were mailed out by November 2, 2001. For the fourth year, schools had the option of reporting data using the NSF-NIH Graduate Student Survey Web-Based Data Reporting System; 467 schools elected to do so. The final survey universe consisted of 721 schools (reporting units) at 606 institutions.

In addition to the verification information cited above, the acknowledgment postcard also requested that institutional coordinators indicate how the data were collected, whether the data were maintained centrally or collected from individual departments, and whether they were derived from a computerized database or hand tabulated. Of the 721 reporting units surveyed, 98.5 percent have provided this information during the past 10 years. The majority of schools report a combination of sources for their data. Over the years, the use of computerized systems has shown a gradual but small increase, while the use of hand tabulation has slowly decreased.

Institutional coordinators were asked to review the departmental listing provided in the survey packet and to indicate any changes in their departmental structure such as departments newly formed, phased out, split, or merged; they were also asked to check off any departments that had neither graduate students nor postdoctorates and for which survey questionnaires would therefore not be submitted. The revised Form 811s were returned to NSF's data processing contractor for use as a checklist in tracking departmental responses.

A survey questionnaire was completed for each department either centrally or at the department level and was returned to the data processing contractor for data entry, editing, and tabulation. Arithmetic errors, inconsistencies between items, and sharp year-to-year fluctuations were referred to the institutional coordinators for correction or clarification.

Response Rate top

Of the 721 reporting units included in the fall 2001 survey, 710—or 98.5 percent—were able to provide at least partial data, distributed as follows.

At the departmental level, 11,852 departments responded, or 99.0 percent of the 11,967 departments surveyed. Of these, 10,121 departments, or 84.6 percent of the total, provided complete responses. A total of 115 departments, or 1.0 percent of the departmental total, required complete imputation; 1,731, or 14.5 percent, had one or more data cells imputed. Technical table 4 presents the department response rates for earlier years for comparison.

Missing data for partially nonrespondent departments were imputed using the departments’ previous year’s data, where available, or data from peer institutions in cases where data had not been reported the previous year. Data for nonrespondent departments (those that did not provide any data) were imputed using data from the previous year, where available. The number of departments in doctorate- and master’s-granting institutions that required total or partial imputation, and the numbers and proportions of full- and part-time graduate students and postdoctorates imputed, are shown in technical tables 5 and 6. Imputation rates by survey data item are provided in technical table 7.

Changes in Data Items top

Although NSF has attempted to maintain consistent trend data, some modifications in the survey questionnaire have been made to respond to changing issues over the past 25 years. As a result, some data items are not available for all institutions in all years.

Major changes in the data collected include the following:

Data Revisions top

During the fall 1988 survey cycle, the criteria for including departments in the survey universe were tightened, and all departments surveyed were reviewed. Those departments not primarily oriented toward granting research degrees were no longer considered to meet the S&E definition. As a result of this review, it was determined that a number of departments—primarily those in the field of "Social sciences, not elsewhere classified"—were engaged in training primarily teachers, practitioners, administrators, or managers rather than researchers; these departments were deleted from the database. This process was continued during the 1989–97 survey cycles and expanded to ensure trend consistency for the entire 1975–97 period. As a result, total enrollments and social science enrollments for all years were reduced. The net effect of adjustments over the years is shown in technical table 8.

In fall 1992, the survey methodology changed so that the institution's highest S&E degree in the current year would apply to all previous years in which that institution was surveyed. Since a number of master's-granting institutions have become doctorate-granting institutions over the years, the result has been a smaller decrease in enrollment at doctorate-granting institutions than at master's-granting institutions.

The definition of medical schools was revised during the fall 1992 survey cycle to include only those institutional components that are members of the Association of American Medical Colleges. Tables generated after the fall 1992 survey differ from—and therefore should not be compared with—their earlier year counterparts in that they exclude schools of nursing, public health, dentistry, veterinary medicine, and other health-related disciplines.

List of Technical Tables top

These tables are available in Excel (.xls) format and Portable Document Format (.pdf).
See Help for more information about viewing publications in different formats.

Table Table Name Excel Spreadsheet (.xls) Portable Document Format  (.pdf)
1 The NSF data collection series: 1966–2001 .xls .pdf
2 Number of science, engineering, and health departments in doctorate-granting institutions, by detailed field: 1993–2001 .xls .pdf
3 Number of science, engineering, and health departments in master's-granting institutions, by detailed field: 1994–2001 .xls .pdf
4 Original departmental response rates: 1975–2001 .xls .pdf
5 Imputation for nonresponse in doctorate-granting institutions, by field and enrollment status: 1999–2001 .xls .pdf
6 Imputation for nonresponse in master's-granting institutions, by field and enrollment status: 1999–2001 .xls .pdf
7 Imputation rates for all departments at all graduate institutions: fall 2001 .xls .pdf
8 Comparison of graduate enrollment data as originally published and as modified through the fall 2001 graduate student survey cycle: 1975–2001 .xls .pdf


[1] See for a more detailed discussion of the methodology used in this survey.

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