Volume 11, Number 6 October 31, 2003

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Survey finds many PhD grads leaving Canada

OTTAWA - The Ottawa Citizen reported Oct. 26 that a new Statistics Canada study shows one in five newly minted professors at Canada's largest universities took their PhD and left the country to work this fall.

The Survey of Earned Doctorates, released Oct. 25, asked new doctoral graduates at the University of Toronto and Universit¨¦ de Montr¨¦al about any "definite plans" after graduation: Of the 521 who responded, 111 said they had already secured employment or postdoctoral research fellowships outside of Canada, mostly in the United States, and 283 had found work in Canada. The remaining 127 respondents did not have definite plans.

The Citizen story by reporter Sarah Schmidt says the survey news may not bode well for Canadian universities, already facing an acute shortage of professors while the number of PhD graduates is declining.

Statistics Canada recently reported that universities awarded only 3,800 doctorates in 2000, a 4.9-per-cent decline in one year and the lowest level in five years.

Andrea Rounce, chair of the National Graduate Caucus of the Canadian Federation of Students, said the number of new PhD graduates opting to leave Canada indicates "the federal and provincial governments aren't investing enough money in university renewal."

The Carleton University PhD political science student said recent graduates report tenure-track positions vacated by retiring professors are often replaced with low-paying, short-term contract posts.

"You don't have any security. You obviously get some experience, but it's poorly paid experience. It's not the kind of job most PhD-completers want to have. It's the impermanence and the overwork associated with it," said Ms. Rounce.

Contract academic staff at Canadian universities are often paid by the course; the pay ranges from $3,200 to $6,000 a course.

The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) estimates that 40,000 new teaching posts will be required by 2011, which includes replacing some 20,000 retiring professors and an equal number of new positions to meet mounting enrolment pressures.

The association says the institutions will require a larger pool of PhD graduates as well as an increase in the share of PhDs who remain in Canada after graduation.

Without enough academic staff, universities may have to turn away qualified applicants.

The preliminary survey also found that the average number of years to complete a doctoral degree is 5.7, ranging from 4.8 years in the physical sciences to 6.5 in the humanities.

The survey was conducted by Statistics Canada from November 2002 to June 2003. It was distributed to all graduates earning a doctoral degree at the University of Toronto and Universit¨¦ de Montr¨¦al between July 2002 and June 30, 2003. The response rate was 62.4 per cent.

Statistics Canada plans to expand the survey next year to include the more than 40 institutions granting doctoral degrees in Canada.

For more information, contact communications.office@usask.ca

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