SAN FRANCISCO U.S. engineers are holding their own, at least for now, compared with their counterparts in China and India. So concludes Duke University testimony presented this month to Congress’ Committee on Education and the Workforce.
The testimony supports a controversial study released in December challenging the assumption that China and India are leagues ahead of the U.S. in engineering graduates.
The stats on 2004 graduates often have been given as 352,000 for India and 600,000 for China. The government’s National Academies pegs U.S. numbers at 70,000. India has three times more people than the U.S., and China, four times.
But the numbers don’t work in apples-to-apples comparisons, according to Vivek Wadhwa, executive-in-residence and adjunct engineering professor at Duke. “It’s contrary to what everyone else is saying,” said Wadhwa. China and India include graduates of two and three-year programs in their statistics. And, particularly in China, the term “engineer” is used more loosely than in the U.S.
Looking at all computer science and information technology degrees from four-year schools in 2004, Duke originally came up with 137,437 engineering graduates for the U.S., compared with 112,000 for India and 351,537 for China.
When a visiting Chinese scholar told researchers the actual numbers were much higher, they directly contacted 200 of the 400 Chinese engineering schools to get a clearer picture.
Most couldn’t give detailed information. The 30 larger universities that provided 2004 data said they had a total of 29,205 graduates in fields they classified as engineering.
The only clear conclusion reached was that Chinese engineering numbers are increasing, Wadhwa said.