Dear Commons Community,
More than 600 graduate-school deans and administrators gathered in San Diego last week for the annual meeting of the Council of Graduate Schools. The major issues discussed centered around growing concerns about an academic job market that offers less hope of tenure-track positions, issues of diversity, and student debt. According to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, the major issue was post-graduation employment:
“A session about tracking down the employment of former Ph.D. students drew a standing-room-only crowd. Speakers at another session laid out how they had garnered resources to help prepare graduate students for future careers. And a Stanford University professor urged attendees to reconsider what professional success looks like in the academy.
Against that backdrop, the council announced that it would conduct a one-year study to determine the feasibility of a large-scale, systematic approach to tracking the career pathways of graduates in the humanities, social sciences, and STEM disciplines—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The council, with grant money from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, plans to survey its 500 member institutions to find out how they track alumni, and will produce a white paper that explores the demand for longitudinal placement data. It will also hold a two-day workshop for graduate deans, Ph.D. students, and researchers.
“For several years we’ve been hearing from deans that they want more information about outcomes,” said Debra W. Stewart, president of the Council of Graduate Schools. “We know without question that in the aggregate the graduate degree pays off. But people don’t go to graduate school in the aggregate. What we don’t know is what people actually do over time with their degrees.”
That kind of data on a program level would give graduate schools the information they need to understand the full range of job opportunities for Ph.D. holders and to improve programs to make students more employable, Ms. Stewart said. Students could also make more-informed decisions about whether attending graduate school is the right move.
The feasibility study will conclude in December 2014 with a report from the council that recommends next steps.”
For those of us teaching in doctoral programs, employment of our graduates is indeed emerging as a major issue. Here at the CUNY Graduate Center, the long-range plan called for a reduction in admissions in all doctoral programs by about 14% by 2015, in anticipation of a more limited job market.