The scale of doctoral programs has increased in several world regions, particularly Europe, Asia, and the Americas. This capacity building in doctoral S&E education is linked to national policies to develop an S&E infrastructure that more explicitly links universities to innovation and economic development. (See sidebar, "Graduate Reforms in Europe, Asia, and Latin America." at the end of this section.) By broad world region, Western Europe produces more doctoral S&E degrees than North and South America (the Americas) and Asia. In 1997, doctoral degrees awarded in S&E fields by Western European institutions totaled 40,000about one-fifth higher than the number of such degrees earned in the American region and more than twice as many as the number recorded for Asian countries. (See appendix table 4-27 and figure 4-18.)
Considering broad fields of science, the largest number of natural science doctorates are earned within Western European universities, while the largest number of social science doctorates are earned within universities in the Americas. In contrast, in engineering, each region produces about one-third of the doctoral-level degrees.
By individual country, the United States has the highest number of doctoral degrees earned in S&E fields. In 1997, U.S. universities awarded about 27,000 S&E doctoral degreesmore than twice the number of S&E degrees awarded in any of the other major industrial countries. (See figure 4-19.) However, the combined doctoral S&E degrees of the three largest European countries (Germany, France, and the United Kingdom) recently surpassed the number of U.S. earned degrees. (See figure 4-19.)
S&E doctoral degrees in Germany grew faster than non-S&E doctoral degrees between 1975 and 1997. The number of S&E degrees increased 4.3 percent annually, engineering increased 5.0 percent annually, and non-S&E doctoral degrees increased 2.8 percent annually during this 22-year period. (See appendix table 4-28.) France undertook a reform of doctoral studies in 1988 in an effort to double the number and improve the quality of S&E doctoral degrees awarded within eight years. The effort has largely succeeded: the number of S&E doctoral degrees awarded in France increased from 5,000 in 1989 to 9,000 in 1997more than an 83-percent increase (Government of France 1998a). In contrast to Germany, doctoral S&E degrees in the United Kingdom have not grown as fast as non-S&E doctoral degrees: S&E doctoral degrees grew 2.6 percent annually in the past two decades, while non-S&E fields grew 5.0 percent annually.
The scale of graduate education in Japan has been small by international standards. Until recently, most doctorates in NS&E in Japan were earned by industrial researchers after many years of research within Japanese companies. Doctoral reforms of 1989 called for the expansion and strengthening of graduate schools and the establishment of a new type of university exclusively for graduate study. The government has sharply increased support to universities to improve facilities and accelerate doctoral programs in NS&E fields. In 1994, Japanese engineers earned more doctoral degrees for research within university laboratories than within industrial research laboratories53 percent and 47 percent, respectively (NSF 1997).
Asian graduate education reforms are also strengthening and expanding doctoral programs in China, Taiwan, and South Korea. (See figure 4-20.) In 1997, S&E doctoral degrees earned within major Asian countries (China, India, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan) reached more than 18,000, representing a 12-percent average annual increase from 1993 to 1997. In contrast, such degrees earned by Asian students (from these five countries) within U.S. universities peaked at 6,900 in 1996 (representing less than a 5-percent average annual growth rate from 1993 to 1996) and declined in 1997. (See figure 4-21.)
China has invested heavily in graduate education to "embrace the era of knowledge economy" (Nature 1998). While still using the U.S. higher education system to absorb the rising demand for graduate education, Chinese universities have expanded graduate education to be able to absorb a larger proportion of the students seeking advanced S&E degrees. Although the number of S&E doctoral degrees earned by Chinese students within U.S. universities showed a decade-long increase until 1996, the number of such degrees earned within Chinese universities continues to increase, and at a faster rate. (See figure 4-22.) By 1997, Chinese students earned more than twice as many S&E doctorates within Chinese universities as within U.S. universities.
Other Asian countries are also increasing their capacity to provide S&E graduate education. In the 1980s, the Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology was established to increase support for postgraduate training within the country. South Korean universities awarded almost 2,200 doctoral degrees in S&E in 1997, up from 945 such degrees in 1990. (See appendix table 4-29.) More recently, South Korea announced its plan, called "Brain Korea 21" to further strengthen graduate education in the natural sciences and provide university research funds for interdisciplinary programs such as biotechnology and materials science (Baker 1999).
Universities within five Asian countries are now producing more engineering doctorates than universities within the United States. The gap is even larger, since half of the U.S. degrees are earned by foreign students, the majority of whom are Asian. (See figure 4-23.)
As the world’s countries recast themselves as "knowledge-based" economies and attempt to build up "national innovation systems,"[*] interest in doctoral educationparticularly in S&Eis increasing around the globe, occasioning a reexamination of its aims and structure. Reforms in doctoral programs in Asia, Europe, and the Americas are aimed at similar concernsto strengthen and expand doctoral education and to develop the capacity for high quality or "breakthrough" research that would lead to technological innovation. No national assessments are available on how graduate reforms are improving economic competitiveness. There are, however, initial indicators of S&E capacity building: contributions to the world’s scientific literature (see chapter 6) and patents and high-technology trade (see chapter 7). Forces for graduate education expansion and reform include demographic, economic, technological, and social changes.
Recruitment pools for graduate education are rising from the so-called massification of higher education programs in industrialized countries (that is, the enlargement of the proportion of the population that undertakes a university degree). Across Europe, participation rates of the college-age cohort in first university degrees have more than doubled in the past 20 years, from 7 to 17 percent. Japan has more than one-quarter of its young people completing bachelor’s degrees, and the United States about one-third.
Among economic forces for reform in the United States and Europe are pressures from national and state funding sources and industry to produce graduate students who are better trained to contribute to economic development. In addition, students are demanding career information and broader skills for employment beyond academia. Asian countriesgiven their conviction that economic growth is dependent on S&T knowledge and its connection to productionare accelerating their within-country capacity to educate scientists and engineers at the doctoral level.
The pace of technological change is increasing in industrial R&D, and incremental improvement of products and processes (a particularly strong suit of Japanese industrial labs) is sometimes rendered ineffective by breakthrough innovations creating new commercial products. As current products and processes become obsolete more quickly, industries are motivated to partner with each other and with graduate research programs that augment their innovation capacity. Many inventions are increasingly linked to public science conducted in universities and national laboratories, and industry is increasing its investment in basic research performed in universities. Although still a small proportion of the total, industry is investing in graduate education to have access to some of the best students and encourage them into industrial careers.
The growing demand for public accountability of governmental and academic institutions is forcing the introduction of assessments into higher education. Assessments are directed toward the quality of research and teaching, a reexamination of the balance between faculty research and teaching, the role of graduate students as research assistants, and how the mode of graduate support might affect the breadth of graduate education and the time to degree.
Within Latin America, countries such as Mexico, Chile, and Argentina have only recently begun to expand the scale of their doctoral programs. (Brazil greatly expanded the scale of its graduate programs in the 1980s to foster graduate S&T programs as a key instrument for knowledge creation and dissemination.) These developing Latin countries are motivated by a desire to have more of their university faculty trained at the doctoral level. For example, within Mexico, about 80 percent of the higher education faculty have only a first university degree (NSF 2000).
Europe and the United States
The criticism by industry of traditional graduate programs as too long, too narrow, and too campus-centered is particularly expressed in the United States, France, and Germany. With the expansion of graduate education and an ever-greater percentage of students who enter careers outside academia, the larger labor market is demanding broader training. For example, Germany is discussing shortening the time to degree and orienting doctoral recipients to industrial research, because doctoral recipients are considered too old to begin working in industry.
Within Europe and the United States, discussions of reform for broadening doctoral programs include providing off-campus internships and opportunities for interdisciplinary research experience, teaching skills to prepare future faculty, and increasing awareness of career opportunities in industrial research and management. Reforms also relate to lessening time-to-degree and to restraining costs from public funding sources of enlarged graduate programs. Within the United States, lessening time-to-degree is discussed more in terms of institutional accountability and varies by field.
Within Asian developing countries, reforms are motivated by the belief that universities could be the engines of economic growth through research and innovation leading to high-technology products. Reforms are focused on establishing quality graduate schools, building university facilities and research infrastructure, and acquiring highly trained S&E professors, either at home or abroad. These attempts to expand graduate education and improve its quality are more accelerated in Asia than in Latin America and involve the building of whole new S&T universities. In Chinese Hong Kong and in South Korea, the establishment of S&T universities has been supported primarily by private industry. Chinese (People’s Republic) research universities are expanding through more self-support from close alliances with, or ownership of, high-technology industries and through international loans (NSF 2000).
In Japan, industry for the most part had traditionally trained its own doctorate-level researchers. Japan is now concerned that such industrially trained scientists and engineers are not contributing breakthrough research for new and emerging industries. Japan is convinced that industries of the 21st century will require within-country or domestic innovation capacity. As part of its efforts to support future innovation through basic science, Japan is greatly expanding and reforming graduate education within its universities. By 1997, about one-third of Japanese students entered graduate school directly after completing a bachelor of science degree. (See figure 4-24.) Increased allocations for doubling the government’s science budget are on schedule and will go mainly to universities to improve the environment for basic research. Institutional changes such as the integration of the Science and Technology Agency and the Ministry of Education (Monbusho) are also a response to this needed reform. Japan is greatly augmenting fellowships and traineeships for graduate students, and funding top-level foreign researchers to come to Japanese universities to upgrade basic research.
[*] See, for example, recent journal articles on economic development through S&T by a member of the German parliament (Merkel 1998), by the French Minister of Education (Allègre 1998), and by the Chinese State Science and Technology Commission (Nature 1998).