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The supremacy of a foreign PhD—fact or fiction?

South African researchers who obtained their PhD abroad have fared better in the National Research Foundation’s ratings exercise than those who stayed home.

The finding is published in a paper in the June edition of Research Policy. However, the paper says that the benefits associated with a foreign PhD could be partly due to selection bias—the expectation that a foreign PhD is better—rather than the quantity and quality of the individual’s work.

The authors, affiliated to universities in France, the Netherlands and South Africa, examined a group of more than 1,100 active, senior researchers in South Africa based on their ratings between 2002 and 2012. The group was overwhelmingly white, largely male, and had obtained their PhDs between 1960 and 2003.

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