Gas station without pumps

2013 February 21

Foreign national Ph.Ds in engineering

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 09:41
Tags: , ,

I just got some mail from the American Society for Engineering Education that gave some information about what colleges are awarding high and low percentages of PhDs in engineering fields to foreign nationals:

Doctorates Awarded to Foreign Nationals Remain the Same

In 2011, 54.2 percent of doctoral degrees in engineering were awarded to foreign nationals. This was the same percentage the year before in 2010. It is a slight retreat from the highpoint of 61.6 percent that was held for the 2006 and 2007 academic years.

Schools with the Highest Percentage of Engineering Doctorates Being Awarded to Foreign Nationals (Minimum of 25 doctoral degrees awarded, 105 schools fit this criterion.)

1. University of North Texas 85.3%
2. University of Cincinnati 83.7%
3. SUNY, Buffalo 81.8%
4. University of California, Riverside 81.5%
5. University of Texas, Arlington 79.2%
6. University of Connecticut 78.7%
7. Louisiana State University 78.6%
8. Stony Brook University 77.9%
9. Lehigh University 76.2%
10. Brown University 75.0%
10. Iowa State University 75.0%
10. Northeastern University 75.0%
13. Illinois Institute of Technology 74.4%
14. Florida International University 73.8%
15. New Jersey Institute of Technology 73.5%
15. Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst 73.5%
17. University of Houston 73.1%
18. Syracuse University 72.2%
19. FAMU-FSU College of Engineering 72.0%
20. Washington State University 71.9%

Schools with the Lowest Percentage of Engineering Doctorates Being Awarded to Foreign Nationals

1. University of Colorado, Boulder 21.5%
2. University of Notre Dame 29.1%
3. University of Pennsylvania 31.8%
4. University of California, Berkeley 34.1%
5. Wayne State University 37.0%
6. University of Iowa 37.1%
7. University of California, San Diego 40.7%
8. University of California, Santa Cruz 41.2%
9. Colorado School of Mines 41.7%
10. University of Washington 41.8%
11. Vanderbilt University 42.9%
12. University of Maryland, College Park 43.0%
13. University of Wisconsin, Madison 43.1%
13. Duke University 43.1%
15. University of Virginia 43.3%
16. George Mason University 44.0%
16. Southern Methodist University 44.0%
18. University of Missouri 44.2%
19. University of Utah 44.6%
20. Cornell University 45.5%

Source: ASEE Other data trends can be viewed at

I notice a few interesting things:

  • UC Riverside seems unable (or unwilling) to have California residents as grad students in engineering.  Given that many of the other schools with a very high foreign fraction are not notable engineering schools, I suspect that the reason is that UCR can’t attract Californians to their engineering program.  (There are some good engineering schools on the list, though, so there must be other reasons also.)
  • UC Berkeley, which gets a lot of flak for the number of foreign students, actually has one of the lowest rates in the country (though one can argue that 34% foreign is still too high for the good of the country, unless a large fraction of them immigrate after grad school).
  • UCSC, where I’m on the engineering faculty, also has a relatively low fraction of foreign PhD students. I think that our department pulls down this number, since we have generally less than 10% foreign students—they cost us more in grant funding, so we have a much higher standard for admission for them.  That might change as UC keeps jacking up the in-state tuition, though, as the differential is getting less significant.  An in-state student costs us $12.7k per quarter (not including overhead on the grant), an out-of-state student costs us $17.7k per quarter for the first year and $12.7k thereafter, and a foreign student $17.7k per quarter until they advance to candidacy.  Back when in-state tuition was nominal, the ratios were more like 2 to 1, rather than only 40% more for foreign students.  The difference is more like 33%, since we pay all grad students the same $7k during the summer, when there is no tuition (so $60k cost per year for foreign, $45k per year for California resident, plus overhead).
  • A foreign student costs about the same as a postdoc and is generally less productive for research, so Federal funding really encourages faculty to hire postdocs rather than train grad students.  I think that we need to get away from funding grad students through research grants, and switch over to a model more like the NSF fellowships, where the students are directly funded for their education, rather than as a byproduct of research funding.
  • I now see why UC Boulder struck me as so monochromatic—even their engineering school (which is usually the hotbed of internationalism on any campus) is only 21% foreign, and UC Boulder is not noted for domestic racial diversity either.
  • I think that one would get a very different picture if we looked at MS degrees in engineering, since the MS is the real working degree for most engineers.  The PhD is primarily for doing engineering research and college-level teaching, rather than for working engineers.  Foreign markets may assign a higher value to the PhD than the US labor market does, which would definitely skew the PhD pool more towards foreign students.

Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: