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Baccalaureate Origins of S&E Doctorate Recipients

NSF 08-311 | July 2008 | PDF format PDF  

by Joan Burrelli, Alan Rapoport, and Rolf Lehming[1]

Research universities (defined for purposes of this report as doctorate-granting institutions with very high research activity), though few in number (96), produce about 36% of U.S. science and engineering (S&E) bachelor's degrees (NSB 2008).[2] Baccalaureate colleges produce 13% of S&E bachelor's degrees, but they are important contributors to producing future S&E PhDs. Over the years, numerous reports (NSB 1986, Carrier and Davis-Van Atta 1987, Fuller 1989, NSF 1996, Research Corporation 2001) have called attention to the contribution of baccalaureate colleges to scientific research and to producing future S&E doctorate recipients.

This InfoBrief addresses the role of various types of colleges and universities as baccalaureate-origin institutions of S&E doctorate recipients. It examines trends by field of doctorate (total S&E, natural sciences, social and behavioral sciences, and engineering), Carnegie type of institution,[3] and institutional control (public or private). The analysis focuses on two types of output variables: the absolute number of S&E doctorates and the institutional yield—the number of S&E doctorates in a given year per hundred bachelor's degrees awarded in all fields 9 years prior to that year.[4] It covers all Carnegie groups of institutions, both public and private, includes all S&E fields as well as major field groups, and provides data through 2006.

Baccalaureate-Origin Institutions of S&E Doctorate Recipients

S&E doctorate recipients from U.S. universities completed their undergraduate education at a wide variety of types of institutions in the United States and abroad. A large proportion of individuals earning S&E doctorates from U.S. universities had undergraduate degrees from foreign institutions: 37% in 2006, up from 28% in 1997 (table 1). An additional 9% did not provide information about their baccalaureate institutions in 2006. Of those with known U.S. baccalaureate institutions, almost half (47%) earned their bachelor's degree from research universities. The remainder earned their bachelor's degrees from other doctorate-granting institutions (18%), master's-granting institutions (17%), or baccalaureate colleges (16%).

TABLE 1. S&E doctorate recipients, by 2005 Carnegie classification of baccalaureate institution: 1997–2006.

  Table 1 Source Data: Excel file

Baccalaureate-Origin Institutions of S&E Doctorate Recipients Normalized for Number of Bachelor's Degrees Awarded

Baccalaureate colleges graduate relatively small numbers of undergraduate degree holders compared to doctorate- and master's-granting institutions. However, when normalized by the number of bachelor's degrees awarded, the baccalaureate colleges as a group yield more future S&E doctorates per hundred bachelor's awarded than other types of institutions, except research universities (figure 1). A group of 50 small, private baccalaureate schools (the Oberlin 50[5]) was studied in the mid-1980s and was found at that time to contribute greatly to producing future S&E doctorates.[6] These schools have long outproduced (by yield) even the research universities. Over the 1997–2006 decade, the yield ratios of all of these types of institutions and the differences among types of institutions varied little, with slight drops in yield through 2002 reflecting declining numbers of S&E doctorates awarded.

FIGURE 1. S&E doctorates per hundred bachelor's degrees awarded in all fields 9 years earlier, by 2005 Carnegie classification and Oberlin 50: 1997–2006.

  Figure 1 Source Data: Excel file

Comparing just private institutions, however, the research universities have very similar institutional yields as the Oberlin 50 schools. Private institutions, whether research universities or baccalaureate colleges, outperform public institutions in the proportion of their bachelor's degree recipients becoming future S&E doctorate recipients. The number of 1997–2006 S&E doctorate recipients per hundred bachelor's degrees awarded in all fields 9 years earlier is higher among private research universities and the Oberlin 50 liberal arts schools. All private bachelor's colleges as a group have about the same yield as public research universities (figure 2).

FIGURE 2. S&E doctorate recipients per hundred bachelor's awarded in all fields 9 years earlier, by selected 2005 Carnegie group, Oberlin 50, and institutional control: 1997–2006.

  Figure 2 Source Data: Excel file

Baccalaureate-Origin Institutions of Natural Sciences, Social and Behavioral Sciences, and Engineering Doctorate Recipients

The patterns described above hold for social and behavioral sciences and natural sciences, but not for engineering, which produces strikingly different results (figure 3). The Oberlin 50 colleges have a higher yield in the social and behavioral sciences and about the same yield in the natural sciences but a far lower yield in engineering than the private research universities. All private baccalaureate colleges grouped together have a higher yield of future social and behavioral sciences doctorates and about the same in natural sciences doctorates as public research universities. In engineering, the research universities, both public and private, yield more future doctorates than either public or private baccalaureate colleges.

FIGURE 3. S&E doctorate recipients per hundred bachelor's awarded in all fields 9 years earlier, by broad field, selected 2005 Carnegie group, Oberlin 50, and institutional control: 1997–2006.

  Figure 3 Source Data: Excel file

Top Schools From Which S&E Doctorate Recipients Received Bachelor's Degrees

After normalizing for number of bachelor's awarded 9 years earlier, more than half of the top 50 baccalaureate-origin institutions of 1997–2006 S&E doctorate recipients were baccalaureate colleges, and most of the rest were private research universities (table 2). The top 5 baccalaureate-origin institutions in terms of number of S&E doctorates per hundred bachelor's awarded in all fields 9 years earlier were: California Institute of Technology, Harvey Mudd College, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Reed College, and Swarthmore College.

TABLE 2. Top 50 baccalaureate-origin institutions of 1997–2006 S&E doctorate recipients, by S&E doctorate recipients per hundred bachelor's degrees awarded in all fields 9 years earlier, institutional control, and 2005 Carnegie classification.

  Table 2 Source Data: Excel file

This finding contrasts sharply with the baccalaureate origins of the absolute number of S&E PhDs. The top 50 known U.S. baccalaureate-origin institutions of 1997–2006 S&E doctorate recipients are almost all research institutions with very high research activity, and more than half are public institutions (table 3). Two (Brigham Young University and College of William and Mary) have high research activity. None are baccalaureate colleges. The top 5 baccalaureate-origin institutions of 1997–2006 S&E doctorate recipients are: University of California Berkeley, Cornell University, University of Michigan Ann Arbor, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

TABLE 3. Top 50 baccalaureate-origin institutions of 1997–2006 S&E doctorate recipients, by institutional control and 2005 Carnegie classification.

  Table 3 Source Data: Excel file

Notes

[1]  Joan Burrelli, Science and Engineering Indicators Program, Division of Science Resources Statistics, National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 965, Arlington VA 22230 (jburrell@nsf.gov; 703-292-7793).

Alan Rapoport, Science and Engineering Indicators Program, Division of Science Resources Statistics, National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 965, Arlington VA 22230 (arapopor@nsf.gov; 703-292-7811).

Rolf Lehming, Science and Engineering Indicators Program, Division of Science Resources Statistics, National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 965, Arlington VA 22230 (rlehming@nsf.gov; 703-292-7810).

[2]  In this report, science and engineering includes health fields.

[3]  The 2005 version of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching's Basic Classification scheme for colleges and universities categorizes academic institutions on the basis of highest degree conferred, level of degree production, and research activity. Doctorate-granting universities are institutions that award at least 20 doctoral degrees per year. These have three subgroups: very high research activity, high research activity, and doctoral/research universities, based on level of research activity. Master's colleges and universities are institutions that award at least 50 master's degrees and fewer than 20 doctoral degrees per year. Baccalaureate colleges are institutions that award fewer than 50 master's degrees or 20 doctoral degrees per year and at which baccalaureate degrees are at least 10% of all undergraduate degrees. See http://www.carnegiefoundation.org/classifications/ for more information on the Carnegie classification scheme.

[4]  Nine years was the median time from bachelor's-to-doctorate receipt for S&E doctorates received in 2006. Time to degree was somewhat shorter in physical sciences (7.7 years) and in engineering (8.1 years) than in life sciences (8.6 years) and social sciences (9.6 years). Explorations of the data with 8- and 10-year lags produced similar results.

[5]  The Oberlin 50 institutions are: Albion College, Alma College, Amherst College, Antioch University, Barnard College, Bates College, Beloit College, Bowdoin College, Bryn Mawr College, Bucknell University, Carleton College, Colgate University, Colorado College, Davidson College, Denison University, DePauw University, Earlham College, Franklin and Marshall College, Grinnell College, Hamilton College, Hampton University, Harvey Mudd College, Haverford College, College of the Holy Cross, Hope College, Kalamazoo College, Kenyon College, Lafayette College, Macalester College, Manhattan College, Middlebury College, Mount Holyoke College, Oberlin College, Occidental College, Ohio Wesleyan University, Pomona College, Reed College, Smith College, St. Olaf College, Swarthmore College, Trinity College (CT), Union College (NY), Vassar College, Wabash College, Wellesley College, Wesleyan University, Wheaton College (IL), Whitman College, Williams College, and College of Wooster. Two of these institutions (Hampton University and Manhattan College) are now Carnegie master's-granting institutions.

[6]  The schools met twice (in June 1985 and June 1986) at Oberlin College. The report of these conferences argued that baccalaureate colleges had been prolific sources of scientists and called for more federal and nonfederal support for research at undergraduate institutions (Carrier and Davis-Van Atta 1987).

References

Carrier SC, Davis-Van Atta D. 1987. Maintaining America's Scientific Productivity: The Necessity of the Liberal Arts Colleges. Oberlin, Ohio: Oberlin College.

Fuller C. 1989. Baccalaureate Sources of 1975–1986 Doctorates Earned by American Indian, Asian, Black, Hispanic and White Men and Women Adjusted for Institutional Size. Ann Arbor, MI: Great Lakes Colleges Association.

Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium. 2006. Weighted Baccalaureate Origins Study. Lancaster, PA.

National Science Board (NSB). 1986. Undergraduate Science, Mathematics and Engineering Education. Washington, DC: National Science Foundation.

National Science Board (NSB). 2008. Science and Engineering Indicators: 2008. Vol. 1. NSB 08-01. Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation.

National Science Foundation, Division of Science Resources Studies. 1996. Undergraduate Origins of Recent (1991–95) Science and Engineering Doctorate Recipients. NSF 96-334. Arlington, VA.

Research Corporation. 2001. Academic Excellence: The SourceBook. A Study of the Role of Research in the Natural Sciences at Undergraduate Institutions. Tucson, AZ.


National Science Foundation, Division of Science Resources Statistics
Baccalaureate Origins of S&E Doctorate Recipients
Arlington, VA (NSF 08-311) [July 2008]


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