Each year the National Science Foundation (NSF) conducts the Survey of Earned Doctorates. Each person who has earned a research doctoral degree that year is surveyed, and among the questions asked are the field in which the doctorate was earned, and the Baccalaureate institution that the recipient had attended. The doctoral-granting institution is responsible for submitting the surveys, and consequently NSF has very good data on this. These data are made available to the public through publications and online via NSF's Web Caspar.
The table below presents data for a recent 10-year window. Doctorates awarded between 2003 and 2012 to graduates of each baccalaureate institution are presented as a proportion of the number of bachelor's degrees awarded in a lagged (by nine year — 1994-2003) period.
Swarthmore produced doctorates at a rate of 20.5% overall (4th highest), and 13.1% in Sciences and Engineering (6th highest).
|Institution Name||All Disciplines||Science and Engineering|
|California Institute of Technology||36.7%||1||35.8%||1|
|Harvey Mudd College||24.6%||2||24.1%||2|
|Massachusetts Institute of Technology||17.0%||6||16.1%||3|
|University of Chicago||15.1%||8||11.1%||8|
|Bryn Mawr College||13.0%||15||8.3%||17|
|St John's College (Annapolis, MD)||11.9%||19||4.8%||72|
|Simon's Rock College of Bard||10.8%||24||7.3%||29|
A listing of the top 100 baccalaureate producers of doctorates in each of the 18 broad discipline fields during this period may be found here [pdf]. (Note, this document is 54 pages long.)
Researchers use the NSF data in various ways to reflect the "Baccalaureate Origins" of doctoral degree recipients. Sometimes raw numbers of doctorates awarded to graduates of an institution in a given year or years are presented. An example of this is "Doctorates Awarded to Graduates of Liberal Arts Colleges, FY 2010" [pdf] in Swarthmore's Fact Book. This table presents the numbers of doctorates earned in 2010, by field, by graduates of Liberal Arts institutions.
Sometimes, as in the table above, the figure is presented as a rate by dividing the raw number in a given time period by the number of bachelor's degrees awarded in an appropriate lagged time period. (This is sometimes called "weighted doctorates" because the doctorates are weighted by some measure reflecting the size of the baccalaureate institution.) For the presentation above, the Swarthmore College Office of Institutional Research extracted data files from NSF using the WebCaspar tool and merged them in order to perform necessary calculations to sum and weight doctorates overall and in the sciences. Numerous research projects and published articles have used this approach to demonstrate the strength of Liberal Arts Colleges in producing students who go on to earn doctorates. When the rate is calculated for all institutions and then ranked, the top of the list is dominated by Liberal Arts Colleges, such as Swarthmore, and not by the major research universities that one might expect. Swarthmore College often appears near the top of these ranked lists, the exact position depending on the time frame used, the weighting scheme, or the fields of study of interest. This means that Swarthmore produces a relatively high number of students who go on to earn doctoral degrees.