The Path Forward: The Future of Graduate Education in the Pharmaceutical Sciences: The Report of the 2010-2011 Research and Graduate Affairs Committee

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According to the Bylaws of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP), the Research and Graduate Affairs Committee (RGAC) shall provide assistance to the Association in developing its research, graduate education, and scholarship agenda. This assistance may include facilitating colleges and schools in formulating and advancing legislative and regulatory initiatives, and nurturing collaborative activities with organizations sharing an interest in issues related to the pharmaceutical sciences.

President Rod Carter presented the following charge for the 2010-11 RGAC: Utilizing the report titled "The Path Forward: The Future of Graduate Education in the U.S."1 from the Commission on the Future of Graduate Education, critically examine the current status of graduate programs in colleges and schools of pharmacy across the spectrum of pharmaceutical sciences and recommend actions by AACP and/or its member colleges and schools that would allow pharmacy graduate programs to flourish in this envisioned future. President Carter further recommended that the Committee consider key past reports, including those of former Research and Graduate Affairs Committees, AACP task forces and council reports.

The Committee met in person in Crystal City, Virginia, in October 2010 and communicated subsequently by conference calls and other electronic communication. During the October meeting the committee was fortunate to have Patricia McAllister, Vice President of Government Relations and External Affairs from the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) and staff for the "Path Forward" report, meet with the Committee to summarize the issues and recommendations contained in this April 2010 analysis of graduate education. The Committee also considered the recently released report from the National Research Council which offers a data-based assessment of doctoral programs in 62 fields in the United States. (2)

BACKGROUND: THE PATH FORWARD

"The Path Forward" report focused on graduate education as defined by master's and doctoral programs and did not examine first-professional degrees, including the Pharm.D. degree. It was a joint effort of the Educational-Testing Service and the Council of Graduate Schools aimed at examining critical issues associated with the structure and well-being of graduate education in the U.S. It was undertaken at a point of great controversy regarding U.S. competitiveness on a global economic stage and the role of education at all levels in assuring the country's continuing competitive position. A fundamental premise of the report is that U.S. competitiveness "hinges on our ability to produce sufficient numbers of graduate-degree holders--people with the advanced knowledge and critical-thinking abilities to devise solutions to grand challenges such as energy independence, affordable health care, climate change and others."

Graduate education in the United States gained world class status during the 20th century, attracting the most talented students from across the globe. Our programs are among those top ranked by several ranking systems and it is notable that from 1997 to 2009 more than half the Nobel Prize winners in chemistry, physics, medicine and economics received their graduate degrees in the U.S. Graduates of master's and doctoral programs enjoy higher rates of employment and higher lifetime earnings than individuals with lower levels of education.

According to the report there are key points of vulnerability to the dominant U.S. position in graduate education, including:

1. Competition from graduate education in other countries as governments in both developed and emerging economies work to strengthen their programs thereby attracting students who might otherwise have sought graduate degrees from U.S. programs;

2. Demographic trends in the U.S. indicate the greatest future growth in the population among those racial and ethnic groups who have historically been the least likely to pursue graduate education;

3. …