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意得輯觀點 Editage Insights - Where does China stand in the global PhD boom?
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論文撰寫
全球博士過剩,中國呢?


中華人民共和國目前儼然是全球出產博士最多的國家,甚至已經超越美國,雖然中國國內是在文革後才恢復高考,過去十年來博士生的人數急劇增加,2002年僅有14,368人被授予博士學位,但在2005年人數成長將近2倍(27,677),到2010年更是比2002年足足增加了4倍之多(48,987)。知識分子是推動國家經濟發展的關鍵,也無怪乎在經濟飛快成長的中國,政府積極投入教育發展與改革。根據教育部網站公佈的數據,2011年博士目標人數是125,153,幾乎是前一年度的2.5倍。

過去十年來,全球出現博士過剩的現象,但這在大部分的國家(如美國和日本)已經形成問題,因為學術單位的職位空缺無法吸收所有的博士,業界也無法負荷這個供給過剩的現象,結果這些博士們只好去做些無法完全發揮他們能力的工作。中國的狀況尚不算嚴重,大部分的博士都能夠在學術或產業找到適合的工作,國內快速發展的經濟和隨之而來的產能建設保障了就業機會。然而中國面臨的問題是博士素質以及對國內高等教育體系的不信任。

中國博士面對的是走向國際的困境,甚至在國內,擁有外國博士文憑被認為較具有優勢,一些頂尖大學或單位的高級職位會要求國外的培訓或博士後經驗,造成年輕學者出國留學的熱潮,可惜的是,許多人出去後在當地找到工作,就不回來了。這個惡性循環導致國內頂尖人才持續外流。

中國大學博士後素質低落的背後原因是什麼?許多人歸咎於匆促的博士課程;在中國只要3年就能拿到博士學位,反觀國外一般要5到7年,博士課程的報名人數自1982年開始的年增長率大概是23.4%, 但是具有足夠資格可以指導博士生的教授人數卻沒有等速成長,造成許多尚未合格的教授擔任博士指導教授,更令人擔心的是沒有一個品質控制系統,也沒有一個清楚的機制來淘汰不稱職的學生。更進一步動搖這個體系的是學術貪腐的事件層出不窮,像是官員或商人肆無忌憚的使用其金錢、權力或影響力來得到博士學位。

中國計劃招募更多海歸的學者來指導既有的項目案,希望通過這個方式解決素質問題,至於品質控管部分,大學與研究單位已開始著手成立論文委員會和輪流制度,確保體制內沒有階級存在,不會因為個人或群體影響力而改變決策。這些高等教育體制改革政策希望能夠在未來幾年讓中國不止在博士數量上領先,更以博士素質聞名全球。

Contributors
Where does China stand in the global PhD boom?


China is the top annual producer of PhDs in the world today, having surpassed even the US since 2008. Despite the fact that post-graduate programs in China resumed only in 1978 after being stopped completely during the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution, there has been an exponential growth in the number of PhD graduates in China. In 1978, only 18 students were enrolled for doctoral courses, but since then, the number has grown at an average rate of 24% per year, with the last decade witnessing an exceptional spurt of growth: in 2002, only 14,368 doctorates were awarded in China, but by 2005, the number had nearly doubled (27,677) and by 2010, it was four times of what it was in 2002 (48,987). Since an educated workforce is the key to economic development, it is no surprise that China, with its rapidly growing economy, has set ambitious plans for educational development and reform. According to official information published on the website of the Chinese Ministry of Education, the country aimed to award 125,153 doctorates in 2011, which is about two and a half times more than the number of PhDs actually awarded in the previous year.

There has been a PhD boom across the globe over the last decade. However, in most countries, such as the US and Japan, this is a growing cause of concern as academia does not generate enough jobs to absorb all the PhDs, and the industry sector is unable to accommodate the surplus. The result is that many PhD holders are bound to take up jobs that lack status or security, are poorly paid, and do not utilize their knowledge and experience.

However, the situation in China is not as alarming as in other countries as the country’s rapidly growing economy and consequent capacity building provide more employment opportunities. However, the trend in the recent years is somewhat disconcerting for the Chinese government as unemployment among new postgraduates was higher than for undergraduates from 2010-2012. The government is trying to address this problem by increasing the number of professional PhDs and by moving research from academia to industry.

The main cause of concern, however, is the low quality of Chinese PhD graduates and an increasing mistrust in the Chinese tertiary education system. Those with PhD from China have problems getting placed internationally. Even in their home country, a PhD degree obtained from a Western university tends to be regarded as superior, and the top positions in the leading universities and institutes require a training or postdoctoral degree from abroad. As a result, overseas study has become increasingly popular among China's young scientists. However, once they go abroad to study, most often, they get a job there and do not come back. This is a vicious circle which is leading to a continuous drain-out of the top talents in the country.

What are the reasons behind the poor quality of the postdocs churned out by Chinese universities? Many attribute it to the short duration of the PhD program. It takes just three years to get a PhD degree in China, as opposed to 5-7 years in the West. Additionally, the enrolment in PhD programs has increased by around 23.4% annually since 1982. However, the number of qualified professors needed to supervise such doctorate programs has not increased at the same rate. According to a recent study, on an average, the professor student ratio in doctoral programs in China is 1:5.7, which is much higher than the average ratio internationally. Moreover, many of the existing supervisors are not well-qualified. Also, there is no quality control system and no clear mechanism for weeding out incompetent students. The faith in the system has been further shaken by the rise in instances of academic corruption, such as officials or businessmen obtaining PhD degrees unscrupulously using money, power, or influence.

China is aiming to address the quality issue by recruiting more scholars from abroad to supervise the existing programs. In an attempt toward quality control, Chinese universities and institutions have also started to introduce thesis committees and the system of rotations. This will ensure that the system is not hierarchical and that no single person or group of persons can wield too much of influence over the system. Major initiatives are being taken to reform the tertiary education system. Hopefully, in the coming years, China will be the lead producer of PhDs in terms of quality as well.

Contributors