topSkip to main content

Menu, Secondary

Menu Trigger


AAU Launches PhD Initiative with Pilot of Eight Universities

The following is a statement from the Association of American Universities to announce the launch of its PhD Education Initiative, a grant-funded program aimed at changing the culture surrounding doctoral education.

The Association of American Universities today announced it has begun to implement a new effort to improve the way universities prepare PhD students for diverse career pathways both within and outside of academia. Phase I of the AAU PhD Education Initiative will consist of work done by a group of eight AAU member campuses. The grant-funded initiative aims to change the culture surrounding doctoral education at AAU member institutions, making graduate education more student-centered, which places greater emphasis and focus on students as individuals with diverse needs and challenges.

The AAU PhD Education Initiative’s mission is to make diverse PhD career pathways visible, valued, and viable for all students and to foster increased inclusion of students from diverse backgrounds. This mission aligns with recommendations made in the 2018 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report Graduate STEM Education for the 21st Century. During Phase I of the initiative, the pilot group of eight member universities, representing 34 academic departments, will implement reforms within science, technology, engineering, math, social sciences, arts, and humanities PhD programs. These reforms will address the culture, behavior, policies, and practices necessary to create educational environments in which all PhD students feel a sense of belonging in their departments and have the support necessary to achieve their desired educational and professional goals.

The initiative will achieve this through identifying and advancing successful approaches for supporting career diversity for various contexts and student populations at both the institutional and departmental levels. Components of the initiative include:

  • Driving Institutional Change: Influence the culture and behavior at the department level to provide PhD students with the knowledge, skills, and ability to succeed in careers within and beyond academia.
  • Promoting Data Transparency: Identify institutional policies and practices to make PhD program data – including data about the career pathways and employment trends of their PhD alumni – widely available.
  • Implementing Effective Strategies: Highlight and encourage effective university, disciplinary society, and federal agency strategies and programs for improving PhD career pathways.

The initiative is funded through two grants AAU received earlier this year. A $300,000 grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is being used over four years to build AAU’s internal capacity to lead the initiative and provide resources to the pilot campuses. An additional $50,000 grant from the Charles Koch Foundation expanded the pilot to include departments in the arts and humanities.

“This effort by AAU will encourage diversity in career paths for PhD students and ensure not only that more PhD students benefit fully from their education, but that those in industries outside academia will benefit from their deep knowledge and expertise,” said AAU President Mary Sue Coleman.

The pilot campuses include Boston University; Duke University; Indiana University Bloomington; the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; the University of Iowa; the University of Missouri; the University of Texas at Austin; and the University of Virginia.

# # # # #

Founded in 1900, the Association of American Universities is composed of America’s leading research universities. AAU’s 62 research universities transform lives through education, research, and innovation.

Our member universities earn the majority of competitively awarded federal funding for research that improves public health, seeks to address national challenges, and contributes significantly to our economic strength, while educating and training tomorrow’s visionary leaders and innovators.

AAU member universities collectively help shape policy for higher education, science, and innovation; promote best practices in undergraduate and graduate education; and strengthen the contributions of leading research universities to American society.

Follow AAU on Twitter, on Facebook , and on LinkedIn.