Postgraduate education faces unprecedented challenges, yet retains great strengths’

Vice Chair releases report exploring International comparators of quality, access and employment outcomes in postgraduate education. 

Postgraduate education faces unprecedented challenges, yet retains great strengths’

Launching the International comparisons in postgraduate education’ report commissioned by HEFCE at the 2014 Vitae International Researcher Development Conference, UKCGE Vice Chair Gill Clarke concluded that all countries included in the study exhibit strengths and challenges in their postgraduate education systems, which are influenced by country-specific contexts including history, traditions, geo-political priorities and economic circumstances.

Exploring the three themes of quality, access and employment outcomes has demonstrated strengths such as high quality training and postgraduate achievements, together with national initiatives to address priorities such as access. Challenges faced by many countries include finding a balance between the demand for and supply of postgraduates and creating sustainable funding arrangements for postgraduate programmes’. In their research, Gill and her co-author, Professor Ingrid Lunt at the University of Oxford, compared postgraduate education in Australia, England, Germany, India, Norway, Scotland, Spain and the United States.

Gill said,

What stood out most was the similarity of the challenges faced globally in postgraduate education across the different countries, including whether numbers of graduates meet or exceed demand from the different perspectives of policy-makers, economists and also prospective graduates in each country. In our research, Ingrid and I found variation among countries in the extent to which postgraduates are valued, by employers and by society in general. For example in Germany and the United States, it is an expectation that those entering high level roles in industry and elsewhere, not just in academia, will be doctoral graduates.’

In the UK and in most countries, large numbers of students now embark on doctoral programmes with the specific aim of differentiating themselves in the job market and some of the evidence we refer to demonstrates to higher earnings for postgraduates overall. In parallel, some of our interviewees expressed concern about nurturing the next generation of academic staff in universities because of the shrinkage in academic positions available in universities.’

The purpose of the report is to explore the strengths and challenges of the various postgraduate education systems and to highlight initiatives that address a range of concerns.

The report will be presented at UKCGE’s International Conference on Developments in Doctoral Education and Training (ICDDET) in Oxford during March 2015.

A link to the report can be found here