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AAU Proposes Major Initiative on Doctoral Education

Almost two decades ago, the AAU Committee on Graduate Education identified the following challenges to graduate education:

  • Overproduction of PhDs;
  • Narrow training; emphasis on research over teaching;
  • Use of students to meet institutional needs at the expense of sound education; and
  • Insufficient mentoring, career advising and placement assistance.

The challenges that graduate education faced then remain unchanged today.

AAU's PhD Education Initiative seeks to prioritize the educational experience of doctoral students. In recognition of the diverse career pathways available to PhD graduates, the overall objective of this new effort will be:

to influence the culture at AAU universities so that PhD education shifts to be more student-centric and the broad array of future career pathways available to PhD graduates are encouraged by faculty advisors, departments, and university-wide offices.

Support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and momentum generated by AAU’s Chief Academic Officers statement on doctoral education data transparency provide a starting point for the PhD Initiative. 

The Sloan Foundation grant will provide support for AAU to collaborate with Dr. Chris Golde, Assistant Director, Career Communities – PhDs and Postdocs, BEAM, Stanford Career Education and to convene an Advisory Board to help advance the Initiative.

The Mellon Foundation grant will allow AAU to include humanities experts on the Initiative’s Advisory Board and to help ensure projects aimed at addressing critical issues in the discipline are represented at a forthcoming AAU workshop on PhD Program and Career Outcome Data Transparency.

AAU believes that collaborating with member campuses to support data collection efforts can help inform institutional discussions about PhD student experiences and career pathways as well as the structure of doctoral programs.

Data collection alone does not spur action, but reliable, accurate, and transparent data inform sound decision making and can impact how students experience and navigate PhD programs.