The Shaping of China's Postdoctoral Community

Stith, Andrea Lynn; Li Liu; Yibin Xu
January 2011
Chinese Education & Society;Jan/Feb2011, Vol. 44 Issue 1, p58
Academic Journal
During its brief twenty-five-year history, and under the close management of the central government, the postdoctoral training system in China has grown rapidly into a permanent element of the Chinese science and technology research system. Although designed to be attractive to elite Chinese Ph.D. talent both living abroad and in China, it turned out not to be. Over the years, Chinese students have demonstrated their preferences for foreign doctoral degrees, and return rates have been low. All the while, continued investment in science and technology has fed steady demand for postdoctoral researchers. Those who opt to return have commanded generous compensation packages for prestigious permanent positions, rather than settling for meagerly paid and temporary postdoctoral positions. For those who remain, a postdoctoral stint has evolved into a requirement for progressing along a research career path; however, their careers are often stymied by institutional preferences to hire returnees. As a result, the effectiveness of the postdoctoral system to boost the development of domestically trained talent is also not fully manifest. Although it is likely that the continued return of foreign talent will indeed ultimately boost the quality of research at Chinese institutions, the problem is the possible evolution of the cohort of domestically trained scientists into a subclass of highly trained scientists. In light of this, the continuing growth of the postdoctoral community in China is of concern, and significant change must be considered. To examine this question, we review the origins, structure, and governance of the postdoctoral system and examine the diversity and employability of postdoctoral scholars.



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