According to a recent study, the Ph.D. attrition rate is estimated to be approximately 60% across multiple disciplines, meaning that more than one in every two students who start a Ph.D. program never finish. While some research puts that figure closer to 25%, the fact remains that attrition is a significant challenge for most graduate-level institutions, particularly where enrollment in advanced research programs continues to rise while attrition rates remain stable. 

Complex factors like job market behavior and unforeseen life circumstances are outside administrative control, but resolvable barriers within graduate programs can compound them. Studies of graduate student mental health show that one in two Ph.D. students have experienced psychological distress for reasons as wide-ranging as workload, difficult advisor relationships, and—critically for graduate institutions—lack of transparency about university processes. In addition, 63% of graduate deans feel that the struggle for students’ well-being has worsened in recent years.

Fortunately, that research also illuminated solutions that are well within universities’ grasp. In a call to action for graduate deans, the Council of Graduate Schools put forward an explicit recommendation for organizational transparency, stating, “Graduate programs best support students when they offer clear program guidelines, policies and expectations that help students understand what is required for success.”  

In this article, we’ll explore how your institution can gain transparency and save time by letting technology do the legwork. With comprehensive information management platforms designed specifically for graduate programs, organizations can support their students’ mental health through clarity of vision and process, improving the overall graduate experience for faculty, staff, and students.

Increase transparency through centralization

One of the biggest benefits technology offers is the ability to generate a central hub that all stakeholders can access with the click of a button. Well-implemented software can create a digital environment where everyone engaged in graduate programs gains real-time access to forms, data, schedules, and reports—whenever and wherever they need it.

With all of the critical details in one place, supervisors can quickly check on the progress of their graduate researchers and compare that progress against milestones like start dates and submission deadlines. They can review notes from past meetings and check on agreed-upon actions with their students without manually tracking these details for each researcher they advise. 

For their part, students can update and share training or research plans with their supervisors, indicating when core objectives are complete. They can also view annual progress reviews alongside recent meeting notes and overall program milestones to ensure they’re on track toward established goals.

Centralization increases transparency and ease of access for all involved. When everything is stored in one place—and easily searchable—all participants in the chain can quickly log in and view tasks requiring action or see who is responsible for moving the needle forward on documents requiring signoff.

Improve coaching and mentoring

With better tools to mentor graduate researchers, supervisors can provide a higher-quality experience. Faculty often struggle to keep abreast of student progress and provide proactive mentorship when they must manually track each student’s goals and timelines. 

A readily available digital history enables students and faculty to leverage a student record that continues throughout the lifecycle of their program, from start to finish. This record can include program-level milestones and student-specific goals, including established timelines, making it easy for supervisors to check progress and provide support. Anyone who needs to can see what steps come next and who is responsible for executing them.

Administrators can also better provide support by reporting on key metrics like event participation, student engagement, and time to completion. Digital tools can produce reports at the graduate researcher, supervisor, department, and university levels, simplifying the analysis of key metrics and reducing the overall administrative burden.

Streamline processes

Online forms lend themselves naturally to automated workflows, whereby the platform notifies users as soon as something is required of them. It’s easy to see where documents are within a workflow and who they’re sitting with, minimizing confusion and manual follow-up. 

Streamlined processes reduce barriers to completion. When graduate researchers and supervisors no longer need to navigate through a maze of emails, offline forms, and unclear processes, they are free to focus on the work at hand. And alongside increased focus comes an increase in completion rates.

Cayuse’s Graduate Education Manager (GEM) dramatically improves transparency in graduate education, improving processes and supporting students’ mental health throughout. Request a demo to learn how GEM can help you open the door to higher graduate completion rates.