A quarter of doctoral students drop out early

A quarter of PhD students recruited at Dutch universities stop working before completing their thesis, according to a Rathenau Institute report. Many PhD students drop out, especially in legal sciences.

About 40 percent of lawyers with a Ph.D. do not eventually finish their thesis. In one year there were more dropouts, and in the next year fewer, but twice as many dropouts as lawyers in economics, agriculture, technology and the natural sciences. Only 20 percent stopped there prematurely.

© HOPS. Source: Rathenau. Starting in 2011, the reference year 2018.

PhD students learn to conduct independent research. A PhD is the first step on the academic career ladder, although not all PhD holders can (and do not want to) continue in academia in any way.

More than 36 thousand people work on thesis in the Netherlands, about half of them work in universities or academic hospitals. The rest will earn their Ph.D. on their own time or with external funding. There are also students who received a scholarship instead of a stipend.

The appointment as a doctoral candidate is usually for four years, but in general, doctoral candidates take about five years to complete their thesis. On average, they are 33 years old when they earn their Ph.D.

The Rathenau Institute is looking at New fact sheet Just for the numbers available and it hasn’t been checked why so many PhD students drop out. The difference in PhD success between Dutch and foreign PhD students is also not visible.

The number of Dutch doctoral students assigned to universities has remained somewhat the same over the years, while the number of foreign doctoral students is increasing. Most of these international PhD students come from outside Europe.

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© HOPS. Source: Rathenau Institute.

The number of doctoral holders at universities increased from 6,500 to 9,400 between 2005 and 2020. That’s without MD students, by the way, because UMCs don’t have good data on them.

There were more doctoral students (an additional 58 percent) in technology and the natural sciences in particular. “Language and culture” grew by only 2 percent.

© HOPS. Source: Rathenau Institute.

Incidentally, the fact sheet from the Rathenau Institute confirms that for the first time more women received their Ph.D. degrees, such as the HOP at the beginning of May. mentioned† The difference is only six promotions, so the institute talks about “the same number of women as men.”

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