Graduate training: to increase or decrease the numbers?

For the past several months, in various contexts and various discussions, the question of what is the ideal numbers of graduate students to graduate in a year in a discipline keeps popping up; in most of the cases, the answer seems to be less — at least, if we continue training them the way we are training them now. It is also not clear to me if the numbers should depend on the local economy; nor, if the numbers are the same, then their contributions to the economy will be the same under different conditions.

Here is relevant history on this question:

It’s only taken 20+ years to recognize that graduate training promotes an outmoded, unrealistic (and, I would argue, unnecessarily narrow) set of career expectations. But maybe attitudes will actually start to change. Or perhaps graduate programs will just reduce their enrollments by 50%, to reflect the permanently reduced size of the academic job market, and to keep from having to change their way or working.

More specifically, I would love to see data on number of PhDs discipline-wise, the jobs that they take up, and, if possible, the ways in which their contribution to the economy can be quantified.


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