PhD problem

The US can rejoice.  PhDs trained in the US are likely to stay back in more cases than not.  In this article in the WSJ theres data to refute the contention that Chinese and Indian PhDs are moving back to their home countries where opportunities abound.

62% of foreigners holding temporary visas who earned Ph.D.s in science and engineering at U.S. universities in 2002 were still in the U.S. in 2007, the latest year for which figures are available. Of those who graduated in 1997, 60% were still in the U.S. in 2007

Specifically, 81% of Indians who completed their PhDs in 2002 were around in 2007 (chart below).  One of the interviewees puts it well

“One of the most important things with an academic background is the work that you do, and is it exciting? I’m not saying there is no exciting work in India. Many people have gone back and started companies.”

Apparently things haven’t changed that much since I finished engineering.  Want to excel in technology? Go to the US.  Want to stay in India?  Do an MBA.


Great for the US.  Not so good for India.  PhDs are critical to the process of innovation and advancement of knowledge.  We need to find a way to get them back, and a booming economy is not enough.

4 Responses to PhD problem

  1. bach says:

    good read. what about doctors ? Any idea ?

  2. psriblog says:

    Good thoughts. Personally, though, I’d blame our relative dearth of innovation, not on a paucity of phoren-returned PhDs, but on the primness of our primary school education system, and on a business culture that doesn’t reward risk-taking or forgive failure. I believe this is changing fast, at least in the cities, so maybe we WILL see more innovative entrepreneurship taking off in the next decade or so!
    And when it does, all the PhD’s and MBAs in the world will come flocking in…Innovation precedes the arrival of PhD’s, just as funding precedes the advent of MBAs!

  3. Raj Bhatt says:

    I think the retention of India-born PhDs in the US will decrease significantly going forward because of:

    1) Lousy overall US job creation numbers
    2) Pressure on US university funding, which affects academic job creation
    3) Flourishing offshore R&D centers of global corporates (IBM, Google, Yahoo, MS, Texas Instruments, HP, etc) which are contributing to innovation
    4) Significant scarcity of academic teaching talent in top Indian universities, and increasing ability to pay

  4. amtgrg says:

    Raj – I hope you’re right!

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