Doctoral graduates are key players for research and innovation. They have been specifically trained to conduct research and are considered the best qualified for the -creation and diffusion of scientific knowledge.
While only a small proportion of students obtained advanced research degrees in 2009, the share showed an upward trend in all countries over the last decade. In -Switzerland and Sweden, graduation rates reached 3.4% and 3.0%, respectively. The relative increase was largest in the Slovak Republic and Portugal.
The increasing presence of women in doctoral programmes partly explains the overall increase in doctorates over the past decade. In 2009, women received 46% of the OECD average of total doctorate degrees awarded. However, they remain underrepresented in science and engineering (S&E), accounting for only 34% of all degrees in these subjects. Exceptions are found in Iceland (64%) and Portugal (49%).
The largest share of new doctorate degrees is in S&E -followed by the social sciences for men and by health and welfare for women. While absolute numbers of S&E doctorates have increased significantly since 2000, their relative share has been declining in a majority of OECD countries. Nonetheless, nearly 39% of doctoral graduates in the OECD area obtained a degree in S&E fields in 2009 and more than 55% in Chile, France and China.
A focus on the top ten countries with the largest shares of S&E doctorates shows that the United States is the largest single contributor of new doctorates with more than a quarter of the nearly 89 000 OECD total in 2009. It is -followed by Germany, the United Kingdom and France. The 20 EU countries combined account for more than half of the total number of OECD doctoral degrees in S&E.
Doctoral graduates have attained the second stage of university education and obtained a degree at ISCED Level 6. They have successfully completed an advanced research programme and gained an advanced research qualification, e.g. Ph.D. Science degrees include: life -sciences; physical sciences; mathematics and statistics; and computing. Engineering degrees comprise: engineering and engineering trades; manufacturing and processing; and architecture and building. Graduation rates represent the estimated percentage of an age cohort that will complete the corresponding level of education during their lifetime. These are calculated as net graduation rates (i.e. as the sum of age-specific graduation rates). Gross
graduation rates are used for countries that are unable to provide more detailed data. The number of graduates, regardless of their age, is divided by the population at the typical graduation age.
Graduation rates are computed on the basis of annual data jointly collected by UNESCO-UIS/OECD/Eurostat. This data collection aims to provide internationally comparable information on key aspects of education systems, specifically on participation and completion levels for education programmes in more than 60 countries worldwide.
A graduate from a programme is defined as a student who has successfully completed all requirements of that programme. Because of national differences regarding what is understood as graduation, the international comparability of "successful graduation" is a major issue. Avoiding double-counting of individuals graduating from several programmes in the same year, or remaining at the same educational level over time, are other measurement challenges.
In contrast to the flow of new graduates in a given period, the number of graduates at a point in time is a stock measure which is often part of an analysis of the educational attainment of the population. Attainment data are typically computed from labour force or other household surveys, whereas graduation rates are mainly based on administrative records from educational organisations and authorities.
Indicator in PDF
Graduation rates at doctorate level, 2000 and 2009
Science and engineering graduates at doctorate level, 2009
Science and engineering graduates at doctorate level, by country of graduation, 2009