Increase in entrants awarded PhDs within five years

Graduation rates for new entrants to third-cycle courses and programmes have risen over time. One explanation for this can be found in a reform in 1998, which included a requirement of guaranteed funding for the entire programme of study, in order to increase student completion rates.

Student completion rates in third-cycle courses and programmes indicate the extent to which students beginning third-cycle courses and programmes complete their studies and graduate and also how quickly they do so.

47 per cent awarded a PhD within 5 years

One measurement of student completion rates is offered by graduation rates, which reveal how large a proportion of new entrants to third-cycle courses and programmes graduate after a specific number of years.

Of the students beginning their third-cycle studies in 2009, 47 per cent had been awarded a PhD within five years. For third-cycle students beginning in 2005 the proportion of those awarded a PhD within five years was also 47 per cent, while 61 per cent had graduated within six years and 72 per cent within eight years.

Rise in graduation rates

Graduation rates for new entrants to third-cycle courses and programmes have risen over time. The number of these entrants awarded PhDs within five years has risen from 40 per cent in 1998 to 47 per cent in 2009.

One explanation for this rise in graduation rates can be found in the reform of third-cycle courses and programmes in 1998, which included, for instance, a requirement of guaranteed funding for the entire programme of study in order to increase student completion rates.

Comparision of gross and net period of study

Another way of measuring student completion rates is to compare the gross period of study with the net period of study. Net period of study measures the amount of time third-cycle students actively devote to their studies. Gross period of actively devote, on the other hand, the total length of these studies without taking levels of activity into account. For third-cycle students awarded PhDs during 2014 the median net period of study was 8.4 semesters while the gross period of study averaged 11.0 semesters.

This means that third-cycle students complete their programmes in just over the time they are intended to take (four years for a PhD). The reason why the gross period of study is longer than the net period is that many third-cycle students also teach while they are studying. There are also many third-cycle students who interrupt their studies for some reason, such as parental leave.

Both net periods of study and gross periods of study vary between those graduating in different subject areas. The median net period of study for those awarded PhDs in 2014 was shortest in medicine and health science (7.9 semesters) and longest in the humanities (8.9 semesters). Gross periods of study were also longest in the humanities at 15 semesters, followed by social science at 13 semesters. This can be compared with the median gross period of study in the other subject areas, which is 11 semesters.

Net study periods were more or less the same for women and men among those awarded PhDs in 2014. On the other hand the women who graduated had somewhat longer gross periods of study than the men (12 compared to 11 semesters).