Foreign competition. Disinterested American students. Teaching assistants who feel mistreated. Money woes. The list of issues facing graduate education is long and growing.
In an effort to promote more research about these and other problems, the Council of Graduate Schools has announced "Graduate Education 2020," a program that will sponsor a significant research project on graduate education each year through 2020. The effort was announced Saturday at the council's annual meeting, in Palm Springs.
"I think so many deans have to focus so much of their time on day-to-day issues that it's easy not to pay attention to the bigger issues," said Debra W. Stewart, president of the council. In the effort, the council will create an advisory board that will commission a study each year on one of the top issues facing graduate schools. The hope is that these studies can help individual campuses plan and change policies were appropriate.
Stewart said that the focus of the studies each year would vary. Some topics will focus on how graduate schools can respond to outside forces and demographics. Others will zero in on specific problems at graduate schools, such as the need to help more students finish their doctorates in a reasonable time frame. She also said that she hoped the effort would help graduate school officials get the attention needed from university leaders.
"There is a general feeling that graduate education's time has come," she said.
The series of studies come at a time when both graduate students and institutions are talking about problems facing graduate schools or reform efforts for them. In January, graduate students at the University of California at Berkeley released a study noting alarmingly high percentages of graduate students had contemplated suicide  or experienced serious mental health issues.
And Stanford University  recently completed the first stage of what is expected to be a multiyear effort to improve graduate education. Among the ideas under consideration at Stanford are the creation of a new position to supervise graduate education, new programs to encourage interdisciplinary work in graduate school, and new funds to encourage the graduate student body.