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Indicators 2002
Introduction Overview Chapter 1: Elementary and Secondary Education Chapter 2: Higher Education in Science and Engineering Chapter 3: Science and Engineering Workforce Chapter 4: U.S. and International Research and Development: Funds and Alliances Chapter 5: Academic Research and Development Chapter 6: Industry, Technology, and the Global Marketplace Chapter 7: Science and Technology: Public Attitudes and Public Understanding Chapter 8: Significance of Information Technology Appendix Tables
Chapter Contents:
Highlights
Introduction
U.S. Higher Education in Science and Engineering (S&E)
Undergraduate S&E Students and Degrees in the United States
Graduate S&E Students and Degrees in the United States
Increasing Global Capacity in S&E
Conclusion
Selected Bibliography
 
Sidebars
Appendix Tables
List of Figures
Presentation Slides

Click for Figure 2-25
Figure 2-25


Click for Figure 2-26
Figure 2-26


Click for Figure 2-27
Figure 2-27


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Figure 2-28


Click for Figure 2-29
Figure 2-29


Click for Figure 2-30
Figure 2-30


Click for Figure 2-31
Figure 2-31


Click for Figure 2-32
Figure 2-32


Click for Figure 2-33
Figure 2-33


Click for Figure 2-34
Figure 2-34


Higher Education in Science and Engineering

Increasing Global Capacity in S&E
International Comparison of First University Degrees in S&E Fields
International Comparison of Doctoral Degrees in S&E Fields
International Comparison of Stay Rates

This section places data from the United States in an international context, including comparisons of bachelor’s (first university) degrees, participation rates in S&E degrees, doctoral degrees, the level of foreign student enrollment, and the percentage of foreign students earning S&E doctoral degrees in major host countries. Information is provided on reforms to improve the quality of expanded doctoral programs in Europe and Asia and the stay rate and return flow of foreign doctoral recipients in a few other major host countries (the United Kingdom and France).

In regard to doctoral degrees, the proportion of S&E degrees earned outside the United States is shifting, which may eventually translate into a corresponding shift in research capacity, scientific output, and innovative capacity. See chapter 4, "U.S. and International Research and Development: Funds and Alliances," and chapter 5, "Academic Research and Development." The United States needs to devise effective forms of collaboration and information exchange to benefit from, and link to, the expanding scientific capabilities of other countries and regions. For example, increased international coauthorship may indicate that the United States is staying in touch with expanded research abroad. See "Scientific Collaboration" in chapter 5.

International Comparison of First University Degrees in S&E Fields top of page

In 1999, more than 2.6 million students worldwide earned a first university degree in science or engineering.[8] (Note that the worldwide total includes only countries for which recent data are available, primarily the Asian, European, and American regions, and is therefore an underestimation.) Approximately 900,000 degrees were earned in fields within each of the broad categories of natural sciences, social and behavioral sciences, and engineering. (See appendix table 2-18.)

From among reporting countries, more than 1.1 million of the 2.6 million S&E degrees were earned by Asian students at Asian universities. Students across Europe (including Eastern Europe and Russia) earned almost 800,000 first university degrees in S&E fields. Students in North America earned more than 600,000 S&E bachelor’s degrees. Students in Asia and Europe generally earn more first university degrees in natural science and engineering (NS&E) than in social sciences, whereas the converse is true for students in North America. (See figure 2-25 figure.)

Trend data for bachelor’s degrees show that the number earned in the United States remained stable or declined in the 1990s in all fields except psychology and biology. The number of engineering degrees earned in the United States declined from 1986 to 1991, remained nearly stable at the 1991 level for several years, and declined again in 1998. The number of computer science degrees declined from 1986 to 1990, remained essentially flat throughout the 1990s, and increased in 1998. In contrast, trend data available for selected Asian countries show strong growth in degree production in all S&E fields. At the bachelor’s level, institutions of higher education in Asian countries produce approximately six times as many engineering degrees as do institutions in the United States. (See figure 2-26 figure.) The number of degrees earned in NS&E fields in a country is reflected in the skill level of the labor force and may explain some of Asia’s increased capacity in high-technology manufactures and exports. See chapter 6, "Industry, Technology, and the Global Marketplace."

For the past three decades in the United States, overall S&E degrees awarded represented about one-third of the total number of bachelor’s degrees. Among some Asian countries and economies, S&E degrees represent a considerably higher proportion of total degrees. In 1999, S&E degrees represented 73 percent of total bachelor’s degrees earned in China, 45 percent of total bachelor’s degrees earned in South Korea, and 40 percent of total bachelor’s degrees earned in Taiwan.

International Comparison of Participation Rates in University Degrees and S&E Degrees

Most countries agree with the notion that a shift to a technology-based economy brings national advantage and that the ability to do so depends on highly educated citizens. Especially important are people educated in science, mathematics, and engineering (Greenspan 2000). A high ratio of the college-age population earning university degrees correlates with better public understanding of science, and a high proportion of the college-age population earning NS&E degrees correlates with the technical skill level of those entering the workforce.

Traditionally, the United States has been a world leader in providing broad access to higher education. The ratio of bachelor’s degrees earned in the United States to the college-age cohort is relatively high—35 per 100 in 1998. However, other countries have expanded their higher education systems, and the United States is now 1 of 10 countries providing a college education to approximately one-third or more of their college-age population. In more than 16 countries, the ratio of natural science and engineering (NS&E) first university degrees to the college-age population is higher than that in the United States. The ratio of these degrees to the population of 24-year-olds in the United States has been between 4 and 5 per 100 for two decades and reached 6 per 100 in 1998. South Korea and Taiwan dramatically increased ratios of NS&E first university degrees earned by 24-year-olds, from 2 per 100 in 1975 to 9 per 100 in South Korea and almost 8 per 100 in Taiwan in 1999. At the same time, several European countries have doubled and tripled the ratio of young people earning NS&E first university degrees to between 8 and 10 per 100. (See figure 2-27 figure.)

International Comparison of Participation Rates by Sex

Among Western countries for which degree data are available by sex, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States show relatively high participation rates for both men and women in first university degrees. Among these countries, women in the United Kingdom have the highest participation rate in first university degrees. In 1999, the ratio of women-earned first university degrees to the female 24-year-old population was 41 per 100, slightly higher than the ratio in the United States and Canada (38–40 per 100). Women in the United Kingdom and Canada also show high participation rates of NS&E first university bachelor’s degrees earned. In 1999, the ratio of NS&E degrees earned by women in the United Kingdom to the female 24-year-old population was 7.5 per 100, still far less than the rate for U.K. men. Participation rates for men and women in Canada are more similar. (See text table 2-13 text table and appendix table 2-34.)

In Asian countries, women earn first university degrees at a rate similar to or higher than those in many European countries. However, only in South Korea do women have high participation rates in first university NS&E degrees. In 1998, the ratio of women-earned degrees in these fields to the female 24-year-old population was 4.9 per 100, higher than the participation rate of women in other Asian countries, Germany, or the United States. (See text table 2-13 text table.) Among all reporting countries, women earned the highest proportion of their S&E degrees in natural and social sciences. (See appendix table 2-34.)

International Comparison of Foreign Student Enrollment in S&E Programs

Despite a decline in foreign graduate student enrollment in the United States from 1994 through 1996, the current flow of foreign S&E students to the United States and other industrialized countries is increasing. Some of the factors that have fostered this flow to advanced countries are an increasing focus on academic research and declining college-age populations. See "Demographics and Higher Education." The policies of the European Union (EU) to foster comparable degrees and transferable credits augment the inter-European mobility of students and faculty (Koenig 2001b). The group of traditional host countries for many foreign students (United States, France, and United Kingdom) is expanding to include Japan, Germany, Canada, and Australia. This section compares foreign student enrollment in S&E programs in some of these countries.

The United Kingdom has traditionally educated numerous foreign students, many of whom have come from Britain’s former colonies in Asia and North America (particularly India, Malaysia, and Canada). In the 1990s, the proportion of foreign students studying S&E fields in the United Kingdom increased at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. From 1995 to 1999, foreign undergraduate students in S&E increased from 8.8 to 11.6 percent. Engineering received a higher concentration of foreign students as undergraduate enrollment in engineering in U.K. universities declined from 113,000 in 1995 to 100,000 in 1999. At the same time, the enrollment of foreign students in engineering rose from 16,000 in 1995 to 21,000 in 1999, representing 21 percent of all undergraduate engineering students in U.K. universities in 1999, up from 14 percent in 1995. (See text table 2-14 text table and appendix table 2-35.)

During the same period, U.K. universities also increased enrollment of foreign students within their graduate S&E departments. Foreign S&E graduate student enrollment rose from 28,848 in 1995 to 36,631 in 1999, an increase of 27 percent. Concurrently, U.K. universities increased the percentage of foreign S&E students at the graduate level from 28.9 to 31.5 percent. Percentages of foreign students differ by field. In 1999, foreign student graduate enrollment reached 37.6 percent in engineering and 40 percent in social and behavioral sciences. (See figure 2-28 figure and appendix table 2-35.)

European countries are receiving more students from within EU countries. By 1999, at U.K. universities, the number of foreign graduate students from other EU countries was three times higher than the number of foreign students from Britain’s former colonies (Malaysia, Hong Kong, and India). (See text table 2-15 text table and appendix table 2-35.) Graduate students from EU countries represent approximately 7 percent of the graduate students in sciences in U.K. universities and approximately 11 percent of the graduate engineering students. Chinese students, who represent about one-third of foreign S&E graduate students at universities in the United States, make up only 4 percent of S&E graduate students at U.K. universities. (See appendix tables 2-21 and 2-35.) Students from Greece have traditionally attended other European universities and universities in the United States for graduate education. After Greece, however, German students account for the second highest number of foreign graduate students at U.K. universities.

Foreign students also are attracted to France for graduate programs in S&E. French universities have a long tradition of educating foreign students and have a broad base of countries of origin of foreign doctoral students (more than 150), primarily developing countries in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. Approximately 15 percent of the foreign students in French doctoral programs come from neighboring European countries. In 1998, most of the 17,000 foreign doctoral students who entered French universities enrolled in S&E fields. (See appendix table 2-36.) Foreign students enrolled in S&E doctoral programs represent about 26 percent of S&E doctoral enrollment, somewhat smaller than the proportion of foreign students in U.S. graduate enrollment. (See figure 2-28 figure.)

Japan and Germany also are attempting to bolster their enrollment of foreign students in S&E. Japan’s goal of 100,000 foreign students, promulgated in the 1980s, has never been met but is once again being discussed as a serious target. In 1999, 55,000 foreign students enrolled in Japanese universities, mainly at the undergraduate level (34,000) and concentrated in social sciences (13,000) and engineering (3,000). In that year, about 22,000 foreign students enrolled in graduate programs in Japan, mainly from China and South Korea, representing 10 percent of the graduate students in S&E fields. (See appendix table 2-37.) Germany is also recruiting foreign students from India and China to fill its research universities, particularly in engineering and computer sciences (Grote 2000; Koenig 2001a).

International Comparison of Doctoral Degrees in S&E Fields top of page

The development of increasing institutional capacity to provide advanced S&E education through the highest levels is indicated in trend data for earned doctorates in selected countries of Europe and Asia. Japan has doubled its S&E doctoral degree production within the past decade. Developing Asian countries, starting from a very low base in the 1970s and 1980s, have increased their S&E doctoral education by several orders of magnitude. China, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan have established new institutions for graduate education in S&E and expanded their S&E graduate programs in existing national universities. China now has the largest capacity for S&E doctoral degree production in the Asian region (see figure 2-29 figure) and ranks fifth in the world. In Europe, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom have almost doubled their S&E doctoral degree production in the past two decades, with slight declines in 1998. (See figure 2-30 figure.) All of these countries are engaged in reforms to improve the quality of doctoral research programs. See sidebar, "International Efforts in Doctoral Reform."

The growing capacity of some developing Asian countries and economies (China, South Korea, and Taiwan) for advanced S&E education decreases the proportion of doctoral degrees earned by their citizens in the United States. (See figure 2-31 figure.) For example, in the past five years, Chinese and South Korean students earned more S&E doctoral degrees in their respective countries than in the United States. Taiwanese students have also become less dependent on the United States for advanced training; in 1999, for the first time, they earned more S&E doctoral degrees at Taiwanese universities than at universities in the United States.

In 1999, Europe produced far more S&E doctoral degrees (54,000) than the United States (26,000) or Asia (21,000). Considering broad fields of science, most of the doctorates earned in natural sciences, social sciences, and engineering are earned at European universities. The United States awards more doctoral degrees in natural and social sciences than Asian countries. (See figure 2-32 figure.)

Trend data for NS&E doctoral degrees (excluding social sciences) show that Asian universities educated more students at the doctoral level in these fields than universities in the United States in the late 1990s. (See figure 2-33 figure.) In 1999, Asian universities awarded more engineering doctoral degrees but fewer natural science degrees than universities in the United States. (See appendix tables 2-39 and 2-40.)

Considering the proportion of S&E doctoral degrees by sex, women in Europe and the United States earn a higher proportion of such degrees than women in Asia. Women in France and the United States earned more than a third of S&E doctoral degrees in their respective countries in 1999. Women in Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea earned about 10 percent of such degrees. (See appendix table 2-43.)

International Comparison of Foreign Doctoral Recipients

Like the United States, the United Kingdom and France have a large percentage of foreign students in their S&E doctoral programs. In 1999, Germany was the top country of origin of foreign S&E doctoral degree recipients in the United Kingdom, China was the top country earning S&E doctoral degrees in the United States, and Algeria was the top country of origin of foreign students studying for S&E doctoral degrees in France. (See appendix tables 2-32, 2-36, and 2-44.) In 1999, foreign students earned 44 percent of the doctoral engineering degrees awarded by U.K. universities, 30 percent of those awarded by French universities, and 49 percent of those awarded by universities in the United States. In that same year, foreign students earned more than 31 percent of the doctoral degrees awarded in mathematics/computer sciences in France, 38 percent of those awarded in the United Kingdom, and 47 percent of those awarded in the United States. (See figure 2-34 figure.) In addition, Japan and Germany have a modest but growing percentage of foreign students among their S&E doctoral degree recipients. (See appendix table 2-45.)

International Comparison of Stay Rates top of page

Data similar to the data on "plans to stay" in the annual SED are available on the first destination of foreign doctoral students in the United Kingdom and France after earning their degree. Data from the U.K. Higher Education Statistics Agency show that, in 1998, most foreign S&E doctoral degree recipients at U.K. universities returned home after earning their degree. In fact, among the 10 top countries of origin, all doctoral recipients from Malaysia and Turkey returned to their home country. Ireland is the only exception, with 45 percent of doctoral recipients returning to Ireland as their first destination after receiving their degree. (See text table 2-12 text table.)

Doctoral survey data from the French Ministry of Education, Research, and Technology show that the return rate for foreign S&E doctoral recipients is lower in France than in the United Kingdom. Data are not available on the return rates of French foreign doctoral recipients by countries of origin, but return rates are available by S&E field of study. In 1998, the overall return rate of foreign doctoral recipients from France to their countries of origin was 28 percent in natural sciences and 20 percent in engineering fields. (See text table 2-16 text table.)






Footnotes

[8]  A first university degree refers to the completion of a terminal undergraduate degree program. These degrees are classified as level 5A in the International Standard Classification of Education, although individual countries use different names for the first terminal degree (for example, laureata in Italy, diplome in Germany, maitrise in France, and bachelor’s degree in the United States and in Asian countries).

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