Nature looks at Ph.D. programs in countries across the world to assess what can be done to an education track that, while full of good intention, is struggling to adapt to changing conditions. In the U.S. and Japan, supply of Ph.D. graduates greatly outstrips demand; in China, while numbers of doctorates are skyrocketing, there is very little quality control; Germany has adapted its programs to cope with oversupply by encouraging students to leave the academy and pursue jobs in industry; India is looking for qualified candidates as it can barely fill its industry and academic ranks.
What’s the Big Idea?
Education reform in an increasingly homogenized world is proving difficult, particularly within the slow-to-change conservative institution of the University. Graduate students holding a Ph.D. in a hard science face dwindling career opportunities inside the academy while private sector positions are not advancing quickly enough to pick up the slack. But while the news is dreary in the Western world, the East is undergoing a boom. While the high-skilled labor base in India and China is expanding, the fact that quality control in their respective universities is lacking means opportunities may exist for outside candidates.