Women in STEM graduate education: case of the German Excellence Initiative

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Are public policies effective in enhancing gender balance in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) graduate education? Although the literature is rich in studies that prescribe micro-level interventions to promote gender balance in specific STEM areas or institutions, there are surprisingly few studies that quantitatively evaluate existing macro-level policies. Using Germany’s Excellence Initiative as an event study, I analyze changes in cohorts of doctorate recipients in STEM fields and investigate whether the Excellence Initiative’s
graduate school line of funding, which is a large-scale public policy that aimed to create and sustain STEM graduate programs also succeeded to increase women’s share among STEM doctorate recipients. Assessing difference-in-differences in natural sciences and mathematics doctorate recipients between 2000 and 2014, I find no statistically significant evidence that the Excellence Initiative led to any significant increase in women’s participation in STEM studies beyond already existing trends in these fields. I find, however, significant differences between
funded and not funded STEM graduate programs in their rate of internationalization, which was another major policy target of the Excellence Initiative.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHigher Education Quarterly
Early online date20 Feb 2024
Publication statusEarly online - 20 Feb 2024


  • gender
  • graduate education
  • natural sciences
  • public funding

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