China could graduate nearly twice as many STEM PhDs as the United States by 2025, according to new analysis from Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology. China overtook the U.S. in PhD production in 2007 and has steadily increased its lead ever since. Based on current enrollment projections, it could graduate more than 77,000 STEM PhDs in 2025 to the United States’ 40,000.
China’s advances reflect the investment of the Chinese government in its educational capacity, the CSET researchers note. The Chinese Ministry of Education roughly doubled its spending on higher education between 2012 and 2021. Hundreds of new doctoral programs were started. And the number of students entering STEM doctoral programs at Chinese universities increased nearly 40 percent, from 59,670 in 2016 to 83,134 in 2019. American doctoral programs did not see a similar enrollment spike. Measuring degree production isn’t necessarily a sign of academic quality, but the researchers note that most of the recent and rapid growth has come at higher-quality Chinese universities. One other finding worth noting: If you compare Chinese PhDs to domestic U.S. students only, China will award more than three times as many STEM doctorates as America by 2025. That reflects the U.S.’s strength in attracting global talent, but it also exposes its potential vulnerability if international students cannot, or chose not to, study here.
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