Pipelines or pipe dreams? PhD production and other matters in a South African dental research institute 1954-2006

  • ES Grossman
  • PE Cleaton-Jones
Keywords: Graduate study, academic persistence, research training, masters study, doctoral study, dentistry, dropout, health education, health sciences, completion rate


This retrospective study documents the Masters and PhD training of 131 Dental Research Institute (DRI) postgraduates (1954-2006) to establish demographics, throughput and research outcomes for future PhD pipeline strategies using the DRI database. Descriptive statistics show four degree-based groups of postgraduates: 18 PhDs; 55 MScs; 42 MDents and 16 dropouts. Postgraduate activity peaked in1981. Pipeline conversion from Masters to PhD was below 20% with MScs more likely to embark on a PhD than MDents. Nearly half of all postgraduates had prior published research experience before embarking on the degree. Acquired skills were predominantly thesis publication, teaching and conference presentation. Higher degrees were done for personal betterment (40%), specialist training (34%) or academic betterment (20%). The DRI intellectual climate and 50-hour research techniques course contributed to the 87% postgraduate completion rate. There is no incentive for DRI clinical researchers to complete a PhD unless on an academic career path.

Journal Identifiers

print ISSN: 0258-2236