Doctoral degrees up at UAF

Posted: Monday, May 12, 2003

FAIRBANKS (AP) The University of Alaska Fairbanks granted 36 doctorates Saturday, the largest number ever. The 36 Ph.D's were among more than 900 students receiving diplomas.

We typically averaged about 23 to 25 over the last five years,'' said Joseph Kan, dean of the graduate school.

Enrollment in the university's doctorate programs grew steadily during the 1990s, said Provost Paul Reichardt. Most of the doctoral students are in science and engineering.

What you will see is that from like 1989 to 1999, there is basically a doubling in Ph.D students,'' Reichardt said. The average length of study for doctoral students nationwide is six to eight years, so some of the students recruited in the 1990s are now graduating.

The provost attributes part of the growth to a university-wide drive to increase the number of doctoral students.

As for Kan, the dean, he says his focus has been on increasing Ph.D enrollment and productivity over the decade he's been in the job.

Four years ago, the school established a fellowship aimed at students seeking doctorates, he said.

The support is good for two years,'' Kan said, and helped faculty recruit doctoral students.

That two years of financial support allows students to progress far enough in their research to have some tangible findings, he said, which they can use to get external funding.

A large number of doctoral students is good for the university, says Reichert, the provost.

Rightly or wrongly, granting significant numbers of Ph.Ds is seen as a badge of prestige for an institution,'' Reichardt said. It can also have financial benefits, he added.

There are some specific financial opportunities that are tied to your status as a doctoral-granting institution. There are certain programs ... for which only doctoral-granting institutions are eligible,'' Reichardt said.

When you have more Ph.D students, then your faculty members become more productive and more competitive for the external research dollars,'' said Kan, the dean. They go into kind of an upward spiral.''

Increased research money also helps to pay for more doctoral students in research assistantships, Kan said.

It is the Ph.D student that is most helpful to the faculty, to the university, to bring in research dollars,'' he said.

Reichardt expects the number of doctoral students to keep growing.

I think that we will, over the next six to eight years, see at least some modest growth in the number of Ph.D students,'' he said. I say that because we recently received infrastructure-building grants in several key areas.''

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