Setting a new record for itself, the University of Wisconsin ranked third in the nation for the number of Ph.D.s awarded in 2015, which experts say could lead to an increase in enrollment and research.
According to the Survey of Earned Doctorates released January, UW awarded 836 doctorate degrees in 2015. This placed the university second in the country for physical and earth science doctorates, fourth in life science doctorates and in the top 15 for doctorates in all other fields.
UW Graduate School Dean William Karpus said this record will have a “tremendous” impact on faculty as graduate students are responsible for furthering education in more than 100 programs ranging from African languages and literature to zoology. Having a record like this would both reflect their success and encourage them to keep going.
“[Large number of programs] coupled with a large research enterprise composed of faculty and staff who value the role of graduate education in advancing knowledge production and discovery contributes to an outstanding environment for education, the next generation of researchers and thought leaders,” Karpus said.
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Data from the survey showed UW also ranks highly among Big Ten Conference schools, second only to University of Michigan.
Noel Radomski, director of Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education, said UW’s success can be attributed to the large number of colleges and schools it houses. He said it is uncommon for private and public schools to have separate schools for medicine, law, business and agricultural sciences, to name a few. Having this many schools is bound to generate and attract more graduate students, who then go on to earn Ph.D.s.
“It would be expected that we’d be in the top, if not the top,” Radomski said.
Graduate students are not only responsible for working on their own degrees, but also play a key role in undergraduate education, Radomski said. Many are teaching assistants and research assistants to professors, which keeps UW’s research enterprise running.
UW’s research enterprise, in turn, makes UW attractive to outsiders as well. According to the survey, 75 percent of Ph.D. recipients had secured or were negotiating employment when graduating. This puts UW considerably higher than the national average of 62 percent.
Radomski said UW’s ranking could also encourage students to pursue Ph.D.s, but increases in enrollment are still subjective. He said the job market is a stronger influence on students looking to complete doctorates rather than UW’s high ranking. With rising higher education costs and a lack of income while studying , students will probably think twice before deciding to pursue a Ph.D.
While the rank will not affect students’ decisions to do a Ph.D., it could affect how prospective Ph.D. students perceive UW, Radomski said.
“It’s good that UW is doing quite well and hopefully will be good sign for prospective grad students to look at UW,” Radomski said. “Without grad students, our undergraduate students and research enterprise would be hit quite hard.”
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Radomski said the next step for UW and other research universities will be to offer enough assistantships with adequate salaries and benefits to graduate students.
Karpus said graduate student application numbers have been relatively stable recently, and departments and programs base their number of enrolled graduate students on a number of factors including, but not limited to, finance, availability of faculty to serve as research mentors and career outcomes.
“With this much research and educational activity on campus, it serves as a magnet for the recruitment of graduate students and faculty,” Karpus said.
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