Skip to main content

National barriers to the completion of doctoral programs at Russian universities

Abstract

Doctoral education has experienced dramatic changes all over the world in the last three decades. Currently, Russia is at the beginning of a doctoral education transformation to structured programs according to needs of knowledge-based economies. This paper aims to identify national-level barriers to PhD completion in Russian doctoral education. The data from the empirical study in highly selective Russian universities that participate in a special government program were employed. About 40% of all doctoral students participated in the Russian Federation study at these universities. The following problems were revealed and discussed in the research: (1) problems of transition to a structured model of doctoral education, (2) diffusion of doctoral education’s goals, (3) unpreparedness of Russian universities for the massive expansion of PhD education, (4) ineffective mechanisms of doctoral student selection, (5) a lack of funding and a need for doctoral students to have paid work, (6) excessive dependence on supervisors and (7) insufficient study time and skills for meeting the requirement for publications before the date of defence. Some problems correlate with the global challenges, but some are unique to the Russian institutional context. The relevance of the Russian case to understanding the worldwide transformation of the doctorate is discussed.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Notes

  1. Project 5-100 was launched in 2013 in accordance with the Presidential Decree of the Russian Federation ‘On measures to realize state policy in the sphere of education and science’. Under this project, 15 and later 6 more leading Russian universities received financial support in order to maximize their positions in the global research and education market. See http://5top100.com/ for more details.

  2. According to government statistics in 2016

  3. Sum of shares exceeds 100% because some students have more than one paid job.

References

  • Abedi, J., & Benkin, E. (1987). The effects of students’ academic, financial, and demographic variables on time to the doctorate. Research in Higher Education, 27(1), 3–14.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ahern, K., & Manathunga, C. (2004). Clutch-starting stalled research students. Innovative Higher Education, 28(4), 237–254.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Athey, S., Katz, L. F., Krueger, A. B., Levitt, S., & Poterba, J. (2007). What does performance in graduate school predict? Graduate economics education and student outcomes. The American Economic Review, 97(2), 512–518.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bair, C. R., & Haworth, J. G. (2005). Doctoral student attrition and persistence: a meta-synthesis of research. In J. C. Smart (Ed.), Higher education: handbook of theory and research (pp. 481–534). Amsterdam: Springer.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Baker, J. G. (1998). Gender, race and Ph. D. completion in natural science and engineering. Economics of Education Review, 17(2), 179–188.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bao, Y., Kehm, B. M., & Ma, Y. (2018). From product to process. The reform of doctoral education in Europe and China. Studies in Higher Education, 43(3), 524–541.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bednyi, B. I., & Mironos, A. A. (2008). Podgotovka nauchnykh kadrov v vyschey shkole. Nizhniy Novgorod: Sostoyanie i tendentsii razvitiya aspirantury.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bekova, S., Gruzdev, I., Jafarova, Z., Maloshonok, N., & Terentev, E. (2017). Portret sovremennogo rossiyskogo aspiranta [The portrait of Russian doctoral student]. Sovremennaya Analitika Obrazovaniya [Contemporary Education Analytics], 7(15), 1–60.

    Google Scholar 

  • Booth, A. L., & Satchell, S. E. (1995). The hazards of doing a PhD—an analysis of completion and withdrawal rates of British PhD students in the 1980s. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A-Statistics in Society, 158, 297–318.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Boud, D., & Lee, A. (Eds.). (2009). Changing practices of doctoral education. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bowen, W. G., & Rudenstine, N. L. (1992). In pursuit of the PhD. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Cave, M. (1997). The use of performance indicators in higher education: the challenge of the quality movement. London: Jessica Kingsley.

    Google Scholar 

  • Clark, B. R. (Ed.). (1993). The research foundations of graduate education: Germany, Britain, France, United States, Japan. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Clark, S. M., & Corcoran, M. (1986). Perspectives on the professional socialization of women faculty: a case of accumulative disadvantage? The Journal of Higher Education, 57, 20–43.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cyranoski, D., Gilbert, N., Ledford, H., Nayar, A., & Yahia, M. (2011). The PhD factory. Nature, 472(7343), 276.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ehrenberg, R. G., Jakubson, G. H., Groen, J. A., So, E., & Price, J. (2007). Inside the black box of doctoral education: what program characteristics influence doctoral students’ attrition and graduation probabilities? Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 29(2), 134–150.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ellis, E. M. (2001). The impact of race and gender on graduate school socialization, satisfaction with doctoral study, and commitment to degree completion. The Western Journal of Black Studies, 25, 30–45.

    Google Scholar 

  • Enders, J. (2004). Research training and careers in transition: a European perspective on the many faces ofthe PhD. Studies in Continuing Education, 26(3), 419–429.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Evans, T., & Kamler, B. (2005). The need for counter-scrutiny: taking a broad view of doctoral education research. Higher Education Research and Development, 24(2), 115–118.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fox, M. A. (1997). Graduate students: too many and too narrow? In R. Ehrenberg (Ed.), The American university: national treasure or endangered species? (pp. 100–114). Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Froumin, I., Kouzminov, Y., & Semyonov, D. (2014). Institutional diversity in Russian higher education: revolutions and evolution. European Journal of Higher Education, 4(3), 209–234.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gardner, S. K. (2008). ‘What’s too much and what’s too little?’: the process of becoming an independent researcher in doctoral education. The Journal of Higher Education, 79, 326–350.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gardner, S. K. (2009). Student and faculty attributions of attrition in high and low-completing doctoral programs in the United States. Higher Education, 58(1), 97–112.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gardner, S. K. (2010). Contrasting the socialization experiences of doctoral students in high- and low-completing departments: a qualitative analysis of disciplinary contexts at one institution. The Journal of Higher Education, 81(1), 61–81.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gellert, C. (1993). The German model of research and advanced education. In B. R. Clark (Ed.), The research foundations of graduate education: Germany, Britain, France, United States, Japan (pp. 5–44). Berkeley: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Geven, K., Skopek, J., & Triventi, M. (2017). How to increase PhD completion rates? An impact evaluation of two reforms in a selective graduate school, 1976–2012. Research in Higher Education, 1–24. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11162-017-9481-z.

  • Gibbons, M., Limoges, C., Nowotny, H., Schwartzman, S., Scott, P., & Trow, M. (1994). The new production of knowledge: the dynamics of science and research in contemporary societies. London: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gilbert, R., Balatti, J., Turner, P., & Whitehouse, H. (2004). The generic skills debate in research higher degrees. Higher Education Research & Development, 23(3), 375–388.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Girves, J. E., & Wemmerus, V. (1988). Developing models of graduate student degree progress. The Journal of Higher Education, 59(2), 163–189.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gokhberg, L. M., & Sagieva, G. S. (2007). Rossiyskaya nauka: bibliometricheskie indicatory. Foresight, 1(1), 44–53.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Golde, C. M. (2001). Questions to ask when thinking about pursuing a Ph.D. Madison: Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

  • Green, B. (2009). Challenging perspectives, changing practices. In D. Boud & A. Lee (Eds.), Changing practices of doctoral education (pp. 239–248). Abingdon: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Green, H., & Powell, S. (2007). Introduction. In S. Powell & H. Green (Eds.), The doctorate worldwide. Berkshire: Society for Research into Higher Education & Open University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gumport, P. J. (1993). Graduate education and organised research in the United States. In B. R. Clark (Ed.), The research foundations of graduate education: Germany, Britain, France, United States, Japan (pp. 225–260). Berkeley: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hagedorn, L. S., & Nora, A. (1996). Rethinking admissions criteria in graduate and professional programs. New Directions for Institutional Research, 1996(92), 31–44.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Halse, C. (2007). Is the doctorate in crisis? Nagoya. Journal of Higher Education, 7, 321–337.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hunter, K. H., & Devine, K. (2016). Doctoral students’ emotional exhaustion and intentions to leave academia. International Journal of Doctoral Studies, 11, 35–61.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jiranek, V. (2010). Potential predictors of timely completion among dissertation research students at an Australian faculty of sciences. International Journal of Doctoral Studies, 5(1), 1–13.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Johnes, G., & McNabb, R. (2004). Never give up on the good times: student attrition in the UK. Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, 66(1), 23–47.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Johnson, M. S. (2008). Historical legacies of Soviet higher education and the transformation of higher education systems in post-Soviet Russia and Eurasia. The Worldwide Transformation of Higher Education, 9, 159–176.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Juniper, B., Walsh, E., Richardson, A., & Morley, B. (2012). A new approach to evaluating the well-being of PhD research students. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 37(5), 563–576.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kearns, H., Gardiner, M., & Marshall, K. (2008). Innovation in PhD completion: the hardy shall succeed (and be happy!). Higher Education Research & Development, 27(1), 77–89.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kehm, B. M. (2006). Doctoral education in Europe and North America: a comparative analysis. Wenner Gren International Series, 83, 67.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kemp, D. A. (1999). Knowledge and innovation: a policy statement on research and research training. Canberra: Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kyvik, S., & Olsen, T. B. (2014). Increasing completion rates in Norwegian doctoral training: multiple causes for efficiency improvements. Studies in Higher Education, 39(9), 1668–1682.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lee, A. (2012). Successful research supervision. New York: Routledge.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Lee, A., Brennan, M., & Green, B. (2009). Re-imagining doctoral education: professional doctorates and beyond. Higher Education Research & Development, 28(3), 275–287.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lott, J., Gardner, S. K., & Powers, D. A. (2009). Doctoral student attrition in the STEM fields: an exploration of event history analysis. The Journal of College Student Retention, 11, 247–266.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lovitts, B. E. (2005). Being a good course-taker is not enough: a theoretical perspective on the transition to independent research. Studies in Higher Education, 30, 137–154.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Maloshonok, N. (2016). Doctoral students’ reasons to pursue a PhD as a cause of low completion rate of Russian PhD programs. Higher Education in Russia and Beyond, 3(9), 18–20.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nerad, M. (2004). The PhD in the US: criticisms, facts, and remedies. Higher Education Policy, 17(2), 183–199.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nerad, M. (2006). Globalization and its impact on research education: trends and emerging best practices for the doctorate of the future. Quality in postgraduate research: knowledge creation in testing times (pp. 5–12). Canberra: ANU.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nerad, M. (2010). Increase in PhD production and reform of doctoral education worldwide. Research Institute for Higher Education Hiroshima University, 7, 769.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nerad, M., & Evans, B. (Eds.). (2014). Globalization and its impacts on the quality of PhD education: forces and forms in doctoral education worldwide. Rotterdam: Sense.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nettles, M. T. (1990). Success in doctoral programs: experiences of minority and white students. American Journal of Education, 98(4), 494–522.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Neumann, R., & Tan, K. K. (2011). From PhD to initial employment: the doctorate in a knowledge economy. Studies in Higher Education, 36(5), 601–614.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Noble, K. (1994). Changing doctoral degrees: an international perspective. Buckingham: The Society for Research into Higher Education and Open University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Park, C. (2005). New variant PhD: the changing nature of the doctorate in the UK. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 27(2), 189–207.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pearson, M. (2005). Framing research on doctoral education in Australia in a global context. Higher Education Research & Development, 24(2), 119–134.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pearson, M., Evans, T., & Macauley, P. (2008). Growth and diversity in doctoral education: assessing the Australian experience. Higher Education, 55(3), 357–372.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Powell, S., & Green, H. (2007). The doctorate worldwide. Berkshire: Society for Research into Higher Education & Open University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Price, J. (2006). Does a spouse slow you down?: Marriage and graduate student outcomes. Unpublished manuscript.

  • Pyhältö, K., Toom, A., Stubb, J., & Lonka, K. (2012). Challenges of becoming a scholar: a study of doctoral students’ problems and well-being. ISRN Education, 2012.

  • Ramsden, P. (1991). A performance indicator of teaching quality in higher education: the course experience questionnaire. Studies in Higher Education, 16(2), 129–150.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ray, M., Garavalia, L., & Murdock, T. (2003). Aptitude, motivation, and self-regulation as predictors of achievement among developmental college students. Research and Teaching in Developmental Education, 20(1), 5–21.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rhoads, R. A., Zheng, M., & Sun, X. (2017). The methodological socialization of social science doctoral students in China and the USA. Higher Education, 73(2), 335–351.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rigg, J., Day, J., & Adler, H. (2013). Emotional exhaustion in graduate students: the role of engagement, self-efficacy and social support. Journal of Educational and Developmental Psychology, 3(2), 138.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rockinson-Szapkiw, A., Spaulding, L. S., & Bade, B. (2014). Completion of educational doctorates: how universities can foster persistence. International Journal of Doctoral Studies, 9, 293–309.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rothstein, M. G., Paunonen, S. V., Rush, J. C., & King, G. A. (1994). Personality and cognitive ability predictors of performance in graduate business school. Journal of Educational Psychology, 86(4), 516.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sadlak, J. (Ed.). (2004). Doctoral studies and qualifications in Europe and the United States: status and prospects. Bucharest: UNESCO-CEPES.

    Google Scholar 

  • Smolentseva, A. (2003). Challenges to the Russian academic profession. Higher Education, 45(4), 391–424.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Spaulding, L. S., & Rockinson-Szapkiw, A. J. (2012). Hearing their voices: factors doctoral candidates attribute to their persistence. International Journal of Doctoral Studies, 7, 199–219.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Spronken-Smith, R., Cameron, C., & Quigg, R. (2018). Factors contributing to high PhD completion rates: a case study in a research-intensive university in New Zealand. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 43(1), 94–109.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Stubb, J., Pyhältö, K., & Lonka, K. (2011). Balancing between inspiration and exhaustion: PhD students’ experienced socio-psychological well-being. Studies in Continuing Education, 33(1), 33–50.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Van Ours, J. C., & Ridder, G. (2003). Fast track or failure: a study of the graduation and dropout rates of PhD students in economics. Economics of Education Review, 22(2), 157–166.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wao, H. O., & Onwuegbuzie, A. J. (2011). A mixed research investigation of factors related to time to the doctorate in education. International Journal of Doctoral Studies, 6, 115–134.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Welsh, I. M. (1980) The postgraduate student: progress and problems, PhD thesis, University of Aberdeen.

  • Wisker, G. (2012). The good supervisor. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Wright, T., & Cochrane, R. (2000). Factors influencing successful submission of PhD theses. Studies in Higher Education, 25(2), 181–195.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

The authors express gratitude to Elena Kobzar (Head of the Office of Doctoral Studies, National Research University Higher School of Economics) and Ivan Gruzdev (Director of the Centre for Institutional Research, National Research University Higher School of Economics) for the help in the data collection process and in the administration of the survey.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Natalia Maloshonok.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Maloshonok, N., Terentev, E. National barriers to the completion of doctoral programs at Russian universities. High Educ 77, 195–211 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-018-0267-9

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-018-0267-9

Keywords

  • Doctoral programs
  • PhD completion
  • Barriers
  • Project 5-100