LAC department size versus selectivity: PhD productivity

<p>Evidently, at LACs, department size is more important than overall selectivity in producing PhDs. For example, the higher the PROPORTION of chemistry graduates the greater the chem PhD production. And, the higher the NUMBER of chemistry graduates the higher the chem PhD production. On the other hand, US News ranking and SAT 75th percentile matter little.</p>

<p>I started with the top 25 chemistry PhD producers 1986-1995 among LACs (excluding women's colleges because of their different nature). I recorded their US News rankings in that time span (1993, 1994 mostly) and their 1993 SAT 75th percentile. I also recorded the number of chemistry bachelors grads in 1993 and the proportion of chem grads out of the total graduating class.</p>

<p>The correlation between the proportion of chem grads and PhD production was very high (.7). The correlation between the number of chem grads and chem PhD production was also very high (.62).</p>

<p>In contrast, US News ranking and SAT 75th percentile had lower correlations with chem PhD production (.47 and -.40, respectively).</p>

<p>The inverse relationship between SAT and chem PhD production suggests the possibility that more students enter professions (medicine?) rather than PhD programs at the elite schools.</p>

<p>To put it another way, over half of the explanation for PhD production in chemistry is the relative size and the absolute size of the chemistry department at LACs.</p>

<p>Departmental size increases when the program is excellent and decreases when the program is inferior (relative to the overall size of the school). One way to tell which schools have great programs in a particular major is the relative size of the department. Not foolproof, but it is a valuable clue.</p>

<p>Thanks for sharing this. I assume that it would translate for other majors as well.</p>

<p>That is very interesting and relates to a recent post on here asking about chem majors at various schools and my being surprised how few students went onto a PhD in chemistry from a great school like Amherst, while other less regarded LACs produced so many more. How do you have SAT data for 1993?</p>

<p>shedevil-
I would gues that it would apply to other majors</p>

<p>gellino-
I have the US News Best Colleges from 1993</p>

<p>How did you define chem PhD production? Is that % of chem majors who receive a chem PhD, or % of all grads?</p>

<p>catfish-
The number of PhDs earned 1986-1995 by graduates of various LACs is available in a document called Baccalaureate Origins of PhD Recipients or something like that. It is not a percent but a raw number.</p>

<p>number of graduates who earned a PhD in chem 1986-1995
number of bachelors degrees awarded in chemistry in 1993
proportion of total bachelors degrees awarded in 1993 that were in chemistry</p>

<p>three different pieces of information that I have found to be related</p>

<p>Maybe I'm misunderstanding you, but if you're just comparing raw numbers, this seems really obvious. The more total chem majors a school has, the more chem PhD's they will have.</p>

<p>Using the WebCaspar database:</p>

<p><a href="http://caspar.nsf.gov/%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://caspar.nsf.gov/&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>It is possible to be very precise in looking at specific colleges.</p>

<p>For example, the IPEDS Completions Survey provided the following number of Chemistry major graduates from four selected LACs from the 10 year period 1989 - 1998:</p>

<p>118 Amherst College
117 Reed College
70 Swarthmore College
238 Williams College</p>

<p>The NSF PhD database shows the following total Chemistry PhDs from these schools for the offset 10-year period 1994-2003:</p>

<p>14 Amherst College
40 Reed College
22 Swarthmore College
30 Williams College</p>

<p>Thus, the percentage of Chemistry majors going on to receive a PhD in Chemistry from each school:</p>

<p>12% Amherst College
34% Reed College
31% Swarthmore College
13% Williams College</p>

<p>I would note that Chemistry is a major that may not be that cut and dried because of the overlap with other sciences, especially biochemistry.</p>

<p>Catfish-
It isn't too surprising that the greater the number of chemistry bachelors degrees, the greater the number who go on for a PhD. The interesting thing is that the PROPORTION of bachelors degrees granted in chemistry is related to the NUMBER of PhDs in chem. The PROPORTION is adjusted for absolute size.</p>

<p>
[quote]
shedevil-
I would gues that it would apply to other majors

[/quote]
</p>

<p>That's a big assummption. There are lots of possibilities. It could be true of the sciences and not the social science and humanities, for instance. I personally reserve judgement.</p>

<p>collegehelp, I see what you mean. I would expect there to be an auto-correlation between raw total of chem majors and total PhD's. I also would think that the proportion would also correlate, since a higher proportion means that there are more total majors. From these factors alone, however, I would expect the proportion to be less correlated than the raw total. Since the proportion correlates better than the raw total, I think your theory about better department -> more majors is pretty accurate, but we need more data. Is the pattern similar for large universities?</p>

<p>Catfish-
I suspect the correlation betwenn relative size and PhD production would hold true at larger universities. But, it would be more difficult to get the relevant numbers of total bachelors for large universities. Universities have professional schools (e.g. music, business, communications, agriculture, engineering, and so on) from which very few would be seeking PhDs in chemistry (or psychology, history, physics...). So I would have to determine the number of total bachelors graduates in the arts, humanities, social sciences, sciences excluding the professional schools.</p>

<p>It would take more time, but it is do-able. And, you are right, we need more evidence. Maybe chem was a fluke, as DRab said.</p>

<p>Perhaps I can check some other major, maybe using the more up-to-date data that interresteddad mentioned.</p>

<p>I'll do this when I have a chance.</p>

<p>By the way, you are right, there is a correlation between proportion of chem grads and number of chem grads - about .8 as I recall.</p>

<p>One reason for the high correlation at LACs between the number of chem grads and the proportion of chem grads is that LACs are more or less uniform in size, ranging in enrollment from 1200 to 2800 approximately. If total size is constant then increases in number of majors = increases in proportion of majors.</p>

<p>One thing I just thought of, it's probably better to compare with PhD's per major rather than raw total. This would eliminate the inherent bias of more majors -> more opportunities for a PhD.</p>