Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

PhD Schemes Must Be More Worldly Wise

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

PhD Schemes Must Be More Worldly Wise

Article excerpt

Overseas students boost global links and image with employers, conference told. Holly Else writes

Internationalising the doctoral training process could help to overcome negative perceptions about the employability of PhD students outside academia, a conference has heard.

Universities in several countries are beginning to think of new ways to cater for the rising number of overseas doctoral students, speakers at the European University Association's annual meeting on doctoral education told delegates in Liverpool.

International doctoral students offer a "cost-effective" way for institutions to build international links. But problems surrounding complex visa rules, falling domestic student numbers and the cost of running international joint doctoral programmes remain.

The number of domestic doctoral candidates at Australia's University of Queensland started dwindling in 2008, according to the head of its graduate school, Alastair McEwan. To compensate, the school has enrolled international students, who now comprise about 40 per cent of the doctoral student body.

The shift is "most dramatic" in engineering, architecture and IT, where departments are "heavily reliant" on overseas students, he said. He added that the university is investing in this area because PhD students "are absolutely critical" to research output and are "a very cost-effective way to promote international linkages".

Professor McEwan said that the benefits international doctoral candidates bring to the institution "cannot be overestimated". Their presence offers students a "breadth of knowledge about other cultures".

"That is an important transferable skill that should be part of a student's employability development. Internationalisation of the PhD, or international interactions, could help us overcome some of the negative perceptions about the employability of PhD students outside academia," he added. …

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