Thursday, 4 November 2010

Graduate education

There’s a brilliant paper by Professor John Briscoe (of Harvard University) in the Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management [American Society of Civil Engineers, 2010: 136 (4), 409−411]: Practice and Teaching of American Water Management in a Changing World. He makes the point that decades ago students came from all over the world to American universities to be well trained at Masters level in water resources and sanitary engineering. Briscoe notes that, while the world has changed (and still is changing), the courses haven’t (at least not sufficiently) and therefore the US is losing its place in the world of graduate education: what happens now in the US simply isn’t relevant any more to the needs of middle- and low-income countries; similarly what’s needed in most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa is not wholly relevant to the needs of most countries in Latin America.

I suspect this sorry state of educational affairs also occurs in most other industrialized countries – in the UK, for example, you can easily count on the fingers of one hand the universities who offer appropriate graduate training in environmental health engineering for warm-climate countries (you might need both hands if you wanted to include western Europe).

►See also Declining by degree in The Economist of 4 September.