The rise of the mobile PhD
In this special two-part series are accounts by academics and University World News journalists revealing how PhD students in more than two dozen countries face the challenges of completing their studies in another country – or, as in Greece, are fleeing economic disaster at home. The second set of reports will be published next week.
A diverse, worldwide research system has many benefits but it must not result in work being concentrated in a few global hubs. A more globalised and more diversified research setup will provide more opportunities for research collaborations and will widen the pool of talent. A bigger and more culturally diverse set of researchers can only be a benefit to all.
In “The Disposable Academic”, The Economist argued that "doing a PhD” was often a waste of time. However, this pessimism does not reflect the experience of all students, as evidenced by increasing numbers of doctoral students from the global South heading to the advanced economies of the North in the past 20 years.
The European parliament in 2008 backed the adoption of a ‘Blue Card’ as an EU-wide work permit that would attract high-skilled non-EU citizens to work and live in any country within the European Union, apart from Britain and Ireland.
One of the first acts of the socialist-led government when it came to power a year ago was to repeal an order by its predecessors that had tightened up residence and employment rules for non-European students and graduates in France.
As befits its high standing in the academic world, the UK draws postgraduate students from more than 150 countries, representing a high and steadily rising proportion of all students in British universities. Of 550,000 postgraduates enrolled last year, 210,000, or 38%, came from outside Britain.
Jan Petter Myklebust
Almost 17,000 foreign students are studying for PhDs in the five Nordic countries. These students comprise a significant proportion of the more than 70,000 foreigners enrolled in higher education, and their numbers have more than doubled since 2005.
Over the past two centuries large numbers of unskilled and semi-skilled Greeks have left the Aegean shores in search of a better future. Today’s emigrants are highly skilled professionals, with postgraduate qualifications, who are unable to function in the country’s depressing economic environment. But their leaving is also delaying – even preventing – Greece’s recovery.
Nowadays university campuses are full of international students pursuing different programmes with different interests. Students from Turkey are no exception and are among the very highly mobile student populations.
In a commentary last month, Philip Altbach wrote that the rich were stealing the brains of developing countries. But in the case of Spain, where doctorate production has grown exponentially, the evidence regarding the destination of foreign doctoral students does not support that view.
Although Canada has more than doubled the number of international PhD candidates studying here in the past five years, highly educated immigrants face worse job prospects than their Canadian-born counterparts. This is likely to cause many to leave the country in the long term.
Adolfo Albo and Juan Luis Ordaz Díaz
Migration from Mexico to the United States has been a historical process that has brought benefits to both countries. Mexican migration to the US is often thought to be a movement of people with low education and income levels, but emigration of highly qualified Mexicans is also significant.
India’s new science policy aims to position the nation among the top five global scientific powers by 2020. This cannot be achieved without qualified academics, researchers and scientists, yet India has to contend with large numbers of postgraduate students leaving to complete PhDs or postdocs – a majority to the US – and staying away to pursue a career.
In the 1850s, Chinese immigrants referred to the Australian gold fields as Xin Jin Shan, the New Gold Mountain, whereas the Californian gold rush was in decline and had become known as Jiu Jin Shan, the Old Gold Mountain. In the 21st century, a new group of Chinese has come to Australia seeking the gold that is linked to obtaining a degree.