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One-third fewer PhD students in 2017?

Laurent Cousin

Population forecasts regarding changes in the number of PhD students are very pessimistic: in 2017, there may be one-third fewer than there are today. 

The drop in the number of those recently passing the baccalaureate and their increasing disaffection for university studies could soon have serious consequences on the production of doctoral theses in France. According to Ministry of Higher Education and Research forecasts, the number of PhD graduates, all disciplines included, will plummet by around 32% between 2007 (70,000) and 2017 (47,000).

All disciplines will be affected, with the significant exception of law:  -45% in economics and social sciences (4,900 PhD graduates in 2007, 2,700 in 2017), -48% in literature and humanities  (dropping from 25,000 to 13,000) and -33% in the sciences (from 30,000 to 20,000). The law PhD population will increase by 10% (from 8,800 to 9,700).

“Forecasts for the number of students in higher education for the 2008-2917 academic years”, circular no. 08.32, November 2008, Evaluation, Forecasting and Performance Department, Ministry of Higher Education and Research.