Chinese PhDs vs US PhDs

Source: Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China (China), The Survey of Earned Doctorates, National Science Foundation (US)

There has been a lot of discussion about the rapid growth in the number of [PhD] graduates in China; a development which has raised a lot of concerns about the quality of tertiary education in the country. Chinese PhD graduates already outnumber the annual number of fresh Doctorates from the USA, which is traditionally the largest PhD producer in the world. The trend seems to be fostered by China’s ambitious goals: according to official information published on the website of the Chinese Ministry of Education, the country aimed to award 125,153 doctorates in 2011, which is about two and a half times more than the number of PhDs actually awarded in the previous year, according to the same website.

If we compare data for the US and China over the last 9 years, we will see that in 2010 China already had slightly more PhDs graduating than in the US. The graph above illustrates the enormous growth of the number of Doctorates in China since 2002: in 2002 only 14,368 PhDs were awarded in China (compared to 40,030 in the US in the same year), whereas two years later the number of Doctorates awarded had doubled (27,677 in 2005) and almost quadrupled by 2010 (48,987). The US demonstrated a much more modest growth (40,030 PhDs awarded in 2002 compared to 48,069 in 2010) and even experienced a slight decline in numbers in 2010 compared to the two previous years.

As of yet there is no official data available for 2011 and 2012, but it will be very interesting to see how close China came to the target set.

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