Modern societies are committed to fostering economic growth through
scientific and technological innovations developed by an educated
workforce trained in institutions of higher education. In the United
States and around the world, such institutions have expanded to
enroll and graduate increasing numbers of students in science and
engineering at all levels.
Scientific, technological, and demographic changes are altering
the face of higher education. As science changes to become more
interdisciplinary and mathematical, higher education must adapt
to demands for new skills. Information technology (IT) facilitates
new, more flexible modes of delivering higher education and, by
making scientific data more readily accessible to students, opens
new possibilities for learning. Demographically, college-age cohorts
have grown smaller in the major industrialized countries. Young,
native-born males, typically a prime source of S&E graduates,
are a smaller proportion of the college population. In the United
States, higher education increasingly serves women and minoritiesgroups
that are historically underrepresentedand older students, among
S&E graduates. Colleges and universities confront the challenge
of training students from these hitherto underrepresented groups.
Foreign students are playing an increasing role in higher education
throughout the industrialized world. U.S. higher education has benefited
from an influx of foreign S&E enrollees, who play a large role
in graduate education and as research and teaching assistants on
U.S. campuses. Many of them remain in the United States and become
part of the workforce. Whether more stringent security measures
in the wake of the events of September 11, 2001, will affect the
role of foreign students is yet unknown.
This chapter describes some characteristics
of the U.S. institutions that deliver higher education, paying special
attention to new and emerging practices and institutional forms.
It then profiles the students who enroll in higher education and
receive degrees, especially in S&E, disaggregating the data
by sex, field of study, race/ethnicity, and citizenship at the various
levels of education. Because doctoral-level scientists and engineers
are so important to science and technology (S&T) innovation
and competitiveness, a section is devoted to the flow of doctoral
students to the United States and back to their countries of origin.
The chapter closes by considering patterns and trends in degree
production in other countries, especially those that are advanced
and rapidly advancing.