College of Liberal Arts

PhD Completion Project

Thu, Jul 24, 2014

The PhD Completion Project is a seven-year study conducted by the Council of Graduate Schools in partnership with more than twenty universities. The project examines retention and attrition and seeks to evaluate and promote practices that improve completion rates for underrepresented minorities and women.

The Council of Graduate Schools has released four volumes on their preliminary findings. Their most recent publication, Ph.D. Completion Project: Policies and Practices to Promote Student Success, reports on activities that are improving completion rates in doctoral programs at participating institutions. Here are some of the “promising practices” they have identified by category:

Mentoring and Advising

Findings emphasize the importance of communication about expectations, milestones, and tracking student progress through annual reviews. Colleges and universities demonstrate their commitment to mentoring by pairing students with well-trained faculty and peer mentors, as well as by encouraging women and minority students to participate in programs outside of their departments.

Financial Support

Findings suggest that universities and colleges should prioritize financial support by offering more of the available funding to doctoral students over masters students, offering summer support and health insurance, and allocating more financial support to programs with high completion rates.

Professional Development

In addition to recommending programs that allow dissertation writers to connect and collaborate, the study recommends that colleges and universities guarantee that students will have opportunities to develop teaching skills.

-Lauren Apter Bairnsfather, Institutional Researcher

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