Production of STEM PhD Graduates in the Philippines: First decade of the ASTHRD and ERDT Programs
The performance of the Advanced Science and Technology Human Resource Development Program (ASTHRDP) and the Engineering Research and Development for Technology Program (ERDT) in their first decade (2007-2018) of implementation is studied to identify the best practices and continuing challenges encountered in the production of new Filipino PhD graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The ASTHRDP and the ERDT were initiated in 2007 by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) in partnership with selected Philippine higher education institutions (HEIs) for the purpose of producing more STEM PhD and MS graduates through generous scholarships and national pooling of available faculty and laboratory resources. Out of the more than one thousand nine hundred HEIs in the country, the DOST initially identified ten (10) and eight (8) HEIs to partner with in the ASTHRDP and the ERDT, respectively. From 2008 (PhD: 302; MS: 956) to 2018 (893; 2,832) the total number of PhD and MS scholarships awarded per fiscal year both increased at an average annual rate of 18%. The PhD and MS scholarship packages enable an awardee to study fulltime for three and two academic years, respectively. From 2007 to 2015, a total of 662 ASTHRDP PhD scholarships were awarded and a total of 373 PhD graduates were produced from 2007 to 2018, representing a program graduation efficiency rate of 56.34%. The corresponding ERDT rate is 48.13% with a total of 268 PhD scholarships awarded and 129 PhD scholars graduated. The ASTHRDP partner institutions performed at varying individual efficiencies with the Visayas State University successfully graduating all of its sixteen PhD scholars. The University of the Philippines Diliman College of Science yielded a below-average graduation rate of 34.34% (34 out of 99 PhD scholars) while the University of the Philippines Los Baños trained the largest number of PhD scholars (247 or 37% of total) and managed to achieve a graduation rate of 65.59%. On the other hand, the University of the Philippines Diliman College of Engineering trained 40% of all ERDT PhD scholars from 2008 to 2015 and achieved an above-average ERDT graduation rate of 61.11%. There is sufficient room for improvement. The availability of more dissertation research supervisors is key towards improving the ASTHRD and ERDT PhD graduation rates. A number of recommendations are proposed with the aim of improving the program graduation efficiency and producing more highly trained scientists and researchers to serve the national interest.