What is the latest information on PhD education?

In the spring of 2008, the ASHA Board of Directors established a Joint Ad Hoc Committee on the PhD Shortage in Communication Sciences and Disorders. The committee was charged with:

  • Reviewing the data collected from the Higher Education Data System (HES) to
    determine the status of PhD education in CSD;
  • Reviewing outcomes from the 2003-2008 shortage initiatives and their impact on PhD preparation to date; and
  • Identifying future strategies and developing a work plan to continue to address PhD preparation in the discipline.

Four ASHA members (Nancy Creaghead, Howard Goldstein, Colleen O'Rourke, and Brenda Ryals) and President-Elect of the Council of Graduate Programs in Communication Sciences and Disorders, Larry Small, served on the committee along with Vic Gladstone, Chief Staff Officer for Audiology and Liaison to Academic Affairs, and Loretta Nunez, Director of Academic Affairs, who served as staff liaisons to the committee. The Vice-President for Academic Affairs, Elizabeth McCrea, chaired the committee.

Data on the awarding of research doctorates from the HES as well as data from the 2006 National Opinion Research Center Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED) and from the Council of Graduate Schools were analyzed. Data from the HES were incomplete, with approximately 50% of programs reporting; however, data that were submitted indicate that a total of 163 students were enrolled in the first year of doctoral study in 2005-2006. In that same year, a total of 72 research doctorates were awarded. SED data from 2006 indicated that 119 research doctorates were awarded as compared to 97 in 2005 and 100 in 2002. Despite this overall positive trend in both the HES and SED data, the HES data indicate that only about 50% of PhD graduates go on to assume faculty positions. At a time when some faculty searches continue to fail and faculty retirements are likely to increase, it is reasonable to conclude that the vigor of the academe continues to be at risk.

In response to these data and their analyses, the Joint Ad Hoc Committee developed a 3 year strategic plan (2009-2011) to continue the momentum built earlier in this decade. This plan is fully aligned with the ASHA Strategic Pathway to Excellence and indentifies nine performance measures that will continue to address doctoral research degree generation in the discipline as well as the collection of the data necessary to fully understand the dynamics of doctoral research degree preparation. ASHA, Council of Academic Programs in Communication Sciences and Disorders (CAPCSD) and academic programs will collaborate and coordinate activities in support of the plan and will share responsibility for implementing it.

The full report of the work of the Joint Ad Hoc Committee may be found on the ASHA Web site.

This article first appeared in the February 2009 issue of Access Academics and Research.

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