Academic journal article International Journal of Doctoral Studies

Who Are the Job Seekers? Explaining Unemployment among Doctoral Recipients

Academic journal article International Journal of Doctoral Studies

Who Are the Job Seekers? Explaining Unemployment among Doctoral Recipients

Article excerpt

Introduction

There has been increased attention for issues specific to doctoral education in recent years, with analyses that focus on doctoral training (Bleiklie & Hostaker, 2004; Enders & de Weert, 2004) or stages of the doctoral trajectory (Grover, 2007), academic employment and mobility (Enders, 2001; Huisman, de Weert, & Bartelse, 2002; Musselin, 2004) and studies that focus on structural inequalities, such as gender differences (England et al., 2007; Mastekaasa, 2005; NRC, 2010). Several studies are also available that address doctoral education across specific disciplines, such as science and engineering (Lee, Miozzo, & Laredo, 2010), economics (Siegfried & Stock, 1999), history (Brailsford, 2010; Sclater, Rudd, Morrison, Picciano, & Nerad, 2008), the biomedical sciences (Knobil, 1996) or sociology (Dotzler & Koppel, 1999). In addition, there has been increased attention at the international level for the need for more detailed data and cross-country comparisons of doctoral education outcomes, as organizations such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the European Union's statistical Organization EUROSTAT have pushed for an internationally coordinated collection of data on doctoral recipients (EUROSTAT/UNESCO / OECD, 2006). A phenomenon that has received decidedly less attention is the unemployment of doctoral recipients, which is the focus of this article.

Given the low rate of unemployment among doctoral holders (Eurostat, 2006), the absence of studies in this area seems unsurprising. A small number of older studies can be found in this area, for example, a study about higher unemployment rates among doctoral holders during the recession of the 1980s (Tuckman & Tuckman, 1984) or perceived dissatisfaction in finding employment after obtaining a PhD (Stoneman, 1997). More recent studies remain absent. Again, this may seem unsurprising. Unemployment among doctoral holders is much lower than unemployment in the general population (Eurostat, 2006; Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2011; Stoneman, 1997). In addition, doctoral holders have significant labour market advantages as a result of their education and training in comparison to unemployed individuals who lack secondary or tertiary educational qualifications. However, the lack of attention for this phenomenon means that important patterns can be overlooked. In this article, we take a closer look at these unemployed doctoral graduates in the Netherlands, explaining a much under-studied phenomenon. The participants in our study were approached at the moment of registering for the PhD defence and have, therefore, not yet officially received their doctorate degree. While one could argue they are not doctoral recipients per se, given the structure of the Dutch doctoral education system, it is possible for us to refer to candidates registered for the defence as doctoral recipients. We provide a full explanation of this assumption in the methodology section. We introduce our data and methodology before moving on to a descriptive analysis of employment and unemployment among Dutch doctoral recipients. Following, we put the spotlight on the job seekers, those doctoral recipients who did not have a job at the time of graduation but are seeking employment. In the final section, we discuss the broader applicability of these results for other countries and make some suggestions for further research.

Data and Methodology

We rely on survey data about Dutch doctoral recipients gathered between February 2008 and June 2009 in the Netherlands at four universities. Respondents were approached after registering for the doctoral defence through the university office in charge of organizing the doctoral defence. Following registration, we e-mailed possible respondents and invited them to participate in the survey. …

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