Lost in Translation: The Flow of Graduate Education Models Between Germany and the United States

  • Anne J. MacLachlanEmail author


This paper examines the origins and current system of doctoral education in both Germany and the United States emphasizing the extent to which each country has mythologized the contribution of the other. In the United States it is widely believed that “the” German university in the 19th century was the model for the creation of US doctoral programs. Today in Germany under the Bologna Agreement and the Excellence Initiative it is believed that both of them are modeled on the American higher education system, particularly on the research university. The argument made here is that there is a broad lack of real knowledge about the systems in the model country as well as significant historical, legal, and social reasons why the ability of either to copy from the other is limited. The discussion is comparative including the different origins of the research university, home of the doctoral degree, a short summary of the post World War II period, how and why doctoral education developed in both countries up to now, and significant current issues. Greater weight is given to discussing the US, however, because of its diverse universities, the variety of doctoral programs, and the way they are run. Emphasis is given to internal evaluation of the success of US doctoral training by doctoral students versus how it seems to be viewed in Germany.


Doctoral Student Doctoral Program Doctoral Education Doctoral Training Excellence Initiative 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Senior Researcher, Center for Studies in Higher EducationUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA

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