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Redirecting Engineering Ph.D. Programs To Meet Job Demands

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1996 Annual Conference


Washington, District of Columbia

Publication Date

June 23, 1996

Start Date

June 23, 1996

End Date

June 26, 1996



Page Count


Page Numbers

1.371.1 - 1.371.5

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Paper Authors

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Merl Baker

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 3652


Merl Baker College of Engineering and Computer Science University of Tennessee at Chattanooga


Recent articles by John A. Armstrong, “Rethinking the Ph.D.” [1] and Phillip A. Griffiths, “Reshaping Graduate Education”, [7] prompt faculty and administrators responsible for graduate education to study and implement changes that are needed in our programs. An analogy is drawn between the issues proposed by these articles and deep-rooted problems targeted by Michael Hammer’s and Steven Stanton’s [10] in the “Reengineering Revolution” and Hammer’s and James Champy’s justifications for “Reengineering the Corporation” [9]. However, caution must be exercised not to erode the proven process. This alert is well justified by Norman R. Augustine. [2]

Arguments for Change

Armstrong and Griffiths make strong arguments for change in order to meet employer’s demands. Phillip Griffiths is Chair of the National Academies’, (NAS, NAE, NIM) Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy, (COSEPUP). His article reflects the deliberations of the Committee and the conclusions must not be ignored by academic leaders and employers. Griffiths argues,

Ph.D. training must change to prepare students for jobs they are likely to find. The U. S. system of graduate education in science and engineering is one of the nation’s great strengths. It has served as an international model --- -. But changes in the way science and engineering are conducted and funded are exerting stress on the traditional system of graduate education.

John A. Armstrong recently retired as IBMs Vice President for Science and Technology and his article reflects a strong corporate viewpoint. However, this industrial perspective is in good agreement with the COSEPUP report. Change is justified, but how can we change without eroding the quality of the traditional Ph.D?

Norman R. Augustine expresses this concern succinctly.

The seemingly effortless success of American technology, largely the result of university research, appears to have lulled us into the false assumption that the system is self sustaining.

Although in another paper at this conference, the need for change in graduate education is related to the concept of reengineering in industry, I recognize that Dr. Augustine concerns must be carefully calculated before advocating a dramatic restructuring of the macro process.

An increasing number of future Ph.D.s will be performing work which has not been available in the past. Redirecting the process is needed to produce the new types of Ph.D.s expected by the expanding base of present and future customers. If broad customer expectations and demands are not met adequately, many graduates of traditional Ph.D. programs will not find employment. The Nation must have an increasing number of highly-educated scientists and enginem, but their expertise has to be focused on strategic national needs rather than totally on traditional values.

Griffiths’ article was based on the COSEPUP report of the National Academies, and emphasized that to meet the expectations of most employers, many graduates have to be trained in broad areas, especially communications, team work,

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Baker, M. (1996, June), Redirecting Engineering Ph.D. Programs To Meet Job Demands Paper presented at 1996 Annual Conference, Washington, District of Columbia.

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