Dr. Mom, My Adventures as a Mommy-Scientist

Discussion of my journey from grad school to postdoc to tenure with two kids, a husband, (and a bit of breast cancer) in tow.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Does this bother anyone else?

Top Ph.D. Feeder Schools Are Now Chinese

Jeffrey Mervis

A new study has found that the most likely undergraduate alma mater for those who earned a Ph.D. in 2006 from a U.S. university was China's Tsinghua University.

Full story


At 10:12 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! Thanks for sharing this. Well, I wouldn't be too alarmed if most of the foreign PhD recipients were to stay in the US after graduation and contribute to the nation (in industry or the academy). But the trend in the last few years show that more foreign PhD recipients return to their country of origin.

I wonder if this trend is due to, as the author suggests, better job opportunities for Bachelors and Masters in the US... or if it is due: 1) to the anti-intellectual culture in the US that discourages students from pursuing graduate degrees, or 2) the fact that foreign students are better prepared to be admitted and succeed in graduate school than US students. What does this tell us about the interests and preparation of college graduates in the US?

Either way, somebody (policymakers and researchers) should take a closer look at this trend and consider what the implications are for the future development of this country.

At 10:28 AM , Blogger Super Babe said...

As someone who got her undergrad and masters degrees outside of the US and then a PhD in the US, I have to say that another reason for people not staying in the US after getting the PhD is that as a foreigner it is a lot harder to get a teaching job, given that there's the whole issue about getting a costly work visa.

I do believe that many of the students that were best in my program were either Chinese or Indian. They were highly motivated to get results and certainly wasted less time than the rest of the American students...

At 10:37 AM , Blogger Allison said...

This seems to be a strange way to organize the data. If the Chinese undergrads are concentrated in one or two schools, while the US undergrads are more spread out, then each school in China will send more students to grad school than each school in the US.

Perhaps the downturn in the US schools shown represents students from a greater number of undergraduate institutions completing PhDs.

At 12:14 PM , Blogger PhD Mom said...

Good point Allison about how Chinese undergrads could potentially be clustered in 1-2 schools, but I doubt this is the root of the problem. Most schools in my field have 50-75% foreign students, with most coming from India or China, so it is not that there are a bunch of domestic students spread out across different universities. It seems to be that they just aren't applying.

I also agree with SuperBabe that the most motivated students are usually international. I attributed this to the fact that they are far from home and have an incentive to finish quickly and return to their families. Many students from China and India will leave spouses and even children behind. Can you imagine many domestic students doing that?

At 12:08 PM , Blogger ScienceGirl said...

About 80% of grad students in my field are foreign, and many started going back home after graduation.

On motivation: being from a foreign (poor) country myself, I have always suspected that starting at the bottom and having so much potential to move up is a great motivator in itself when compared to the entitlement and complacency of many young Americans.

At 12:34 PM , Blogger Janus Professor said...

Tsinghua is a great university. I had classmates from there that were fun to be around and very intelligent.

Question: Prior to Tsinghua, what U.S. school was the top feeder? I imagine it would be a big state school like Ohio State, U. Mich., or U. Tx.

At 9:07 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

According to the article it was Berkeley. Also, even with all them foreigners leaving to their home countries its not like there's an overabundance of permanent academic jobs for Americans...

At 1:36 AM , Anonymous Caetano said...

Personally, this does not bother me at all. First, I don't think americans are having their spots in grad school taken away by foreigners by any means. Unless someone can tell me of several americans who applied to grad school and did not get in and it turns out a bunch of international students got the spots I'll continue to think so. I just don't think it's the case. Rather, what I think happens is that american graduates simply go to the market, where they can get much better pay than in grad school. To foreigners, it is a different story because they come from countries where a grad student stipend is a lot of money! I sepak from experience, I am a foreigner and got my PhD in the US and I could live comfortably with my grad student stipend and even help family back home. Grad school in the US is a very attractive opportunity for foreigners. As far as them leaving the country, I agree that americans should be concerned. After all, you guys invest a lot of money training people and most of them don't stick around. I don't think it is a total loss obviously because you are also getting work done for your country while the student is actually in grad school. But let me tell you, the issue here is immigration. I know for a fact that there are lost and lots of very well educated and trained foreigners who would like to start their careers in the US. They just can't! Immigration laws are making it tougher and more expensive to get VISAs, let alone becoming a permanent resident. In fact I have heard from a couple of very talented people who got their PhDs in the US that they moved to Canada because they would like to stay around and Canada's immigration laws are much more reasonable.

At 11:26 AM , Anonymous MScGirl said...

This is a wee bit late...

I'm an international student (in Canada), and I am so frickin' motivated to finish and get back to the US and my SO that I gave my professor an ultimatum (I'm the retiring type, so I phrased it fairly delicately) and I am outa here at the end of August NO MATTER WHAT and I will finish writing my thesis back home. He wins because he doesn't have to cover my tuition any more. In my department, 1/3 or less of the grad students finish their course of study on time (I'll finish about 6 months late) and there is a certain subset of domestic masters students who have been here for 3 and 4 years, eating up resources.

My department is about 50% domestic (there's only 4 Americans out of 100 grad students) and they're pretty happy with that. The engineering department that essentially overlaps with mine, however (I'm in a physial science), is a different story. One of the professors was complaining that they don't have a SINGLE Canadian grad student starting in the fall.

The industry that hires folks from the departments is taking everyone it can (unfortunately, this is only a local boom) so there's no incentive for domestic students to go into academia when they can earn piles of money with a BS.


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