Australian PhD Theses in Selected Professional and Academic Disciplines1987-2006 and the Implications for Future Research Capacity

By Terry Evans and Peter Macauley.

Published by Journal of the World Universities Forum

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

The authors (with colleagues) have conducted research into Australian doctoral education for over a decade. Two recent projects have produced as part of their outcomes: a database coded by discipline of all Australian PhD theses (dissertations) from 1987–2006. This paper commences with an overview of this work in terms of its purposes, research methods and outcomes. It is contextualised in terms of the current Australian and international debates about the nature, substance and impact of doctoral education on nations, societies, communities and economies.

The paper presents some analyses of trends in the 1987–2006 Australian PhD theses. The period 1987-2006 covers several major changes in university education in Australia from the impact of the establishment of the Unified National System in the early 1990s, through the implementation of the Research Training Scheme (RTS) from 2001, the deliberations and demise of the Research Quality Framework (RQF), the rise of Excellence in Research Australia (ERA), through to the review of research training and the research workforce in Australian universities by the House of Representatives.

The paper presents and tabulates a variety of trends from the bibliometric and bibliographic data, in particular those relating to the ebb and flow of PhDs in particular disciplines. The implications for national, institutional and disciplinary planners and policymakers with interests in the development and sustainability of research capacity are discussed.

Keywords: PhD Graduates, Doctoral Education, Research Capacity Building

Journal of the World Universities Forum, Volume 3, Issue 5, pp.103-116. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.023MB).

Prof. Terry Evans

Professor, School of Education, Deakin University, Geelong, Victoria, Australia

Terry Evans is a Professor of Education at Deakin University, Geelong Australia and was Associate Dean of Education (Research and Doctoral Studies) for thirteen years. He was a founding member of the Council of Australian Deans and Directors of Graduate Studies. He is Chief Investigator on two Australian Research Council Projects: Research capacity-building: the development of the Australian PhD programs in national and emerging global contexts (with M Pearson & P Macauley); Australian doctoral graduates’ publication, professional and community outcomes (with P Macauley), and an AusAID Australian Development Research Grant entitled, Identifying strategies to sustain professional learning communities for teachers in remote primary schools in Papua New Guinea (with E Honan, S Muspratt, A Kukari & P Paraide). Terry Evans has published widely on doctoral education, in particular he has edited (with C Denholm) Doctorates Downunder: Keys to successful doctoral study in Australia and New Zealand (Melbourne, ACER, 2006), Supervising doctorates downunder: Keys to effective supervision in Australia and New Zealand (Melbourne, ACER, 2007) and Beyond Doctorates Downunder: maximising the impact of your Australian or New Zealand doctorate (Melbourne, ACER, 2009).

Dr. Peter Macauley

Senior Lecturer, School of Business & Information Technology, RMIT University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Dr Peter Macauley is a Senior Lecturer and Program Director, PhDs in the School of Business IT and Logistics at RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia. Prior to his commencement at RMIT he had thirty years in public, special and university libraries. Over the past decade his research has focused on doctoral pedagogy, knowledge production, information literacy, scholarly communication and distance education. He is a Chief Investigator on an Australian Research Council funded Discovery Project: ‘Australian doctoral graduates' publication, professional and community outcomes’ (with Terry Evans). He was also a Chief Investigator on another ARC Discovery Grant: ‘Research capacity-building: the development of Australian PhD programs in national and emerging global contexts’ (with Terry Evans and Margot Pearson) and an ARC Linkage Grant: ‘Working students: reconceptualising the doctoral experience (with Evans, Pearson, and PhD candidates Kevin Ryland and Jim Cumming). He led the project ‘Classifying Australian PhD Theses by Research Fields, Courses and Disciplines: report on a study for the Research Excellence Branch, Australian Research Council’ (with Evans and Pearson). Peter is Chair of the Australian Library and Information Association National Research Committee and a committee member of ALIA’s Research and Publication Standing Committee.


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