The Hazards of Doing a PhD: An Analysis of Completion and Withdrawal Rates of British PhDs in the 1980s
The paper examines UK PhD completion and withdrawal rates, in a competing risks framework, using the 1986 National Survey of 1980 Graduates. The statistical problem of thresholding of completion data is also addressed. We argue that our results suggest that there are problems with the use of PhD completion rates as performance indicators for academic departments. The principal results of the analysis are as follows. First, research council funding significantly increases only the male completion rate. Second, male and female completion rates are highest where the subject area of research is in the sciences or engineering. Third, ability increases the completion rate for men, but for women increases both the withdrawal and completion rates. Finally, a significant maternal role model effect is observed for female completions.
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