Towards describing the Global Doctoral Landscape

Stan Taylor

Honorary Professor, School of Education, University of Durham and Honorary Life Member of the UKCGE

This paper, authored by Professor Stan Taylor explores existing published source materials to begin describing the global doctoral landscape

The doctorate is the highest degree awarded by higher education institutions, and it is earned by those who have made an original contribution to knowledge, practice and understanding in one or more disciplines and/​or in their professions. As such, doctoral graduates are in demand internationally because they have important roles to play as researchers in the knowledge economies both within academia and, increasingly, in the private, public, and not-for profit sectors.

However, relatively little is known about the global landscape of doctoral education: 

  • How many higher education institutions award doctorates?
  • How many candidates are studying for them?
  • How many doctoral graduates are being produced?
  • How do the answers to all of these questions vary between regions and countries?

The answers to these questions are of interest in themselves, but also in the context of providing a framework for the comparative study of doctoral education, for example, for sampling purposes.

The aim of the present paper is to see how far existing published source materials can shed light upon this landscape. The objectives are to look at the available evidence relating to the numbers of institutions offering doctorates, the numbers of students enrolled, and the numbers of doctoral graduates and to look at their distributions between regions and countries. The paper is organised in accordance with these three themes.

Regional distribution of doctoral enrolments 2017

Global RegionNumber of candidates%
Western Europe672,95323.4
North America443,44115.4
Middle East, Arabia and North Africa352,94212.2
Eastern Europe and Russia276,7779.6
Central and South America165,1055.7
Sub-Saharan Africa69,2942.4