一美国教授给清华机械PhD申请者的拒信

好像是几年前的事儿了。教授抱怨说中国学生来了美国后拿到硕士就找工作走人,决定以后不找中国学生了。我的一点儿想法。
 
The ME professor should think about a deeper question: why he and all other ME professors cannot retain their PHD students. This actually does not only happen to Chinese students, but also students from other countries to my knowledge. Chinese students account for a large portion of all PHD students. So you observe more Chinese students quit than students from other countries. I don’t know if this is also true based on percentage.
 
Anyway, come back to the question I just proposed: why he and all other ME professors are having a difficult time to retain their PHD students. One obvious reason is that the premium for a PHD degree over a master’s is not high enough. It is rational for people to quit from a program that cannot justify the cost. It is very uncommon for a Finance PHD candidate to volunteerly quit from his/her program. The same is also true for top econ departments. If you can double or even triple your pay after recieving your degree, why not spend another three years to finish?
 
Now the question is, Why PHD holders in ME cannot get enough premium for their degrees? The answer is simple: because the universities granted too many PHD degrees, much more than the market can obsorb. So the solution to this problem is to reduce the size of the PHD program of ME. This will push up the pay for PHds in ME and give people more incentives to finish. But the ME professors will definitely vote against this proposal. The reason is that their output (publications) critically depends on how many PHD students work in their labs. As a result, ME professors have much stronger incentives to over-supply the market than fiance or econ professors, whose output is adversely affected by the number of their PHd students in most cases.  So rather than complain about students, the ME professors should blame themselves for over-flooding the PHD market. So long as the extra time and efforts cannot be justfied by the benefits that the degree brings, a rational person will quit, no matter which country he/she comes from.
 
 
Below is the letter;
 
Dear xxx:

      I would like to inform you of the situation relevant to Chinese graduate
students here, at least at our department, which makes it very difficult for
us to accept graduate students from China in the future.

       Over about one year period, we have had 6 Chinese Ph.D. students quit their
RAship and Ph.D. studies. The reason for them to leave was not that they
could not continue, it was rather because they want to have a job now (a
higher salary, with a hope that the companies will apply for their green
card status). They came with thier promises to pursue their Ph.D. degrees,
we paid tuition for them to take courses for their Master degree, and we
taught and helped them in their research capabilities. Once they got their
M.S. degree in Mechanical Engeering, because of the excellent job market in
the U.S. at this time, it is relatively easy for them to find a job. In a
way we felt that we were used as a step for those Chinese students to come
here, and get their master’s degree, then get their jobs. We pay
approximately $45-50 K/year for each Ph.D. student, including the tuition,
health insurance, various fees, lab and computer fees, and monthly salary,
we also put a lot of time and efforts for them. They (most of them) also did
good research work as assistants. However, we don’t get credit because we
don’t produce PH.D’s, which is one of our major purposes as an institution
of high education. On the other hand, they have their particular interests
which are also understandable, for example, financial pressure, and wishes
to have their green card applications on the way asap.

       This situation also happened to my Chinese Ph.D.student. He is very talented
and did a good job in research. However, after he got his M.S. in M.E., he
resigned very recently. We still let him stay here presently (with salary)
for one more month, otherwise he will have to repay his tuition, which is
over $10K. Although we are very considerate for those students, the
consequencies are obvious:

       (1) It greatly degraded the reputation of Chinese graduate students who
apply for admission. Some professors address those as "very unethical", "you
really cannot trust them when they promise you to pursue their Ph.D. degrees
under your supervision", " you feel you are so stupid as cheated by your own
student". It really created some resentment. Actually, I know, as of this
time, there are a couple of more students looking for a job or already got a
job offer, but not telling their advisors. They will quit at the last minute
before they leave. This situation will certainly get backfired, and the
damadge will mostly be transferred onto the future applicants from China.

       (2) Some professors or research scientists have already made their decisions
not to consider Chinese student applications. Although it should not and
cannot be a policy, it is the individual’s decision in selecting future
Ph.D. students with preference, and in my opinion, with good reasons. It
will make it much more difficult for us to bring in Ph.D. students from
China. For example, as you know, I was looking for one or two Ph.D. students
later this year, and I have a vacancy for a Ph.D. student now. But I will
not consider Chinese applicants. At the same time I feel truely sorry, for I
know, especially many graduate students from Tsinghua University of very
high qualifications sent email applications to me (and to other professors),
including yourself. Now I have to inform you that please try your
applications elsewhere, or other professors.

      In our department, many Chinese graduate students know me and we have a very
friendly relationships. The faculty members know that too. One told me: "You
try to help them, then they screw you up!"

      I spent time to write this email message, for your information and
considerations, as to how this situation may be somehow alleviated. You may
discuss this with your close friends and classmates, I am not sure you
should broadly propagate this message. But I did present a fact and an
opinion

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One response to “一美国教授给清华机械PhD申请者的拒信

  1. VERY INTERESTING

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