supply and demand for US PhDs

I saw article in Inside Higher Ed on a new paper on the “Internationalization of U.S. Doctorate Education”. From the abstract:

Students from outside the U.S. accounted for 51% of PhD recipients in science and engineering fields in 2003, up from 27% in 1973. In the physical sciences, engineering and economics the representation of foreign students among PhD recipients is yet more striking; among doctorate recipients in 2003, those from outside the U.S. accounted for 50% of degrees in the physical sciences, 67% in engineering and 68% in economics.

Anyone in an engineering program (graduate or undergraduate) knows that there seem to be more foreign grad students than domestic students, but I didn’t really know the numbers until now. The paper claims that these increases can be explained by factors such as the expansion of undergraduate programs in the rest of the world and how

… the size of the college-aged population in the U.S. peaked in the mid-1970s and declined through the early ’90s. So while the fraction obtaining undergraduate degrees in science and engineering rose by about 2 percent a year in the 1980s and early ’90s, according to the paper, the raw number of science and engineering B.A.’s barely budged.

It’s a bit of a long paper (I haven’t had the time myself, but I might on the way back from Hong Kong), but seems important to read for those of us interested in academic engineering research programs.

2 thoughts on “supply and demand for US PhDs

  1. Hm, it’ll be interesting to see if this changes in a few years as the “second baby boom” (which I think peaked in terms of college admissions last year) makes its way into grad school.

  2. I’m at CUHK right now, and one thing people have been talking about here is trying to attract more international students for graduate study. It will be interesting to see if the development/improvement of graduate programs outside the US will make US graduate programs seem less attractive.

    Another thing which has come up in conversations is that the undergraduate population of engineering majors is predominantly children of (recent) immigrants and naturalized citizens. Is that demographic sustainable?

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