By Meghan Chua
As prospective graduate students plan their educational pathways, accessible data about graduate institutions is increasingly valuable to inform those decisions.
A new, interactive tool from the Graduate School now makes existing data available in a user-friendly format. The Graduate School Explorer provides an informative and interactive visualization of graduate program data for prospective students and the public to explore.
Publishing the Explorer is a step toward not only making data interactive but also improving transparency about student experiences and employment outcomes.
Amidst shifting career paths for graduate students, institutions around the world have faced a call to better identify the types of jobs that PhDs secure and to provide data that can help prospective students, current students, and postdoctoral scholars make informed career decisions.
UW–Madison has engaged in this call with a variety of data sharing projects, including participation in the Coalition for Next Generation Life Science, and the Council of Graduate Schools’ long-term study of PhD career pathways.
The Explorer includes data on admissions, enrollment, student funding, degrees awarded, time to degree, and completion rates, while allowing viewers to filter by demographics or specializations. Previously, data were only available as static reports on individual programs.
“The data visualization is a dynamic way to explore data at the program level,” said policy and planning analyst Peter Kinsley. “If students are interested in enrollment, funding, or outcomes by gender or by race and ethnicity, they can explore those things in this visualization.”
In recognizing the need to provide more data to students and postdocs, the leaders of the Coalition for Next Generation Life Science noted that institutions also may fear suffering a competitive disadvantage if they adopt transparent data measures while their peer institutions do not.
However, they emphasized that public data will enable prospective PhD students and trainees to make better decisions about their education and careers based on actual data – not anecdote.
For instance, the data visualization can help prospective students weigh their options when applying for or accepting admission. Students who apply to multiple UW–Madison graduate programs can compare time to degree or student funding between those programs.
“The Graduate School Explorer is an easy way to get information on Graduate School programs and the experiences of students enrolled in those programs,” Kinsley said. “Over time, we also plan to add information on the career outcomes of program graduates.”
Furthermore, the coalition authors – including UW–Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank – noted that open and transparent data will facilitate more responsible stewardship, encouraging institutions to make evidence-based reforms for more effective curriculum, training, mentoring, and career development programs.
For questions about the data visualization, contact Kinsley at firstname.lastname@example.org.