Quite a few of them do, as highlighted in BYU News recently. I am not very impressed with the BYU News article, but the number is still good news to me.
The BYU News article is a bit goofy, actually. It compares the absolute number of undergrads from various schools who went on to receive PhDs between 1995 and 2004. In that period, 2,116 people with bachelor’s degres from BYU received PhDs. That puts BYU at number 10 for sheer number, just edging out, for example, MIT at 2,036. Of course, the article does not mention the huge disparity in total number of undergrads at these institutions. It highlights that “BYU came in ahead of universities such as MIT, Yale and Stanford,” but BYU (at 27,000) has four times as many undergraduates as Stanford (6,700), five times as many as Yale (5,300) and almost seven times as many as MIT (4,000). So, what the numbers actually indicate is that, for example, BYU grads are seven times less likely to get PhDs than MIT grads. If one is looking for an indication of the quality of undergraduate education, the number of PhDs per capita among BYU grads would be the number to compare.
Even correcting for institutional size, though, BYU compares reasonably well. It is a bit bizarre to compare BYU directly with MIT, or even Yale, given the differences in institutional goals and, say, the price tag. A more sensible comparison would be with big schools like UT-Austin (37,000 undergrads) or Berkeley (22,000 undergrads). While Berkeley grads turn out to be over twice as likely to get PhDs than BYU grads by these numbers, BYU grads are slightly more likely to get PhDs than UT-Austin grads, even though UT-Austin is generally perceived to be an academically more impressive place. For what it’s worth, UT is ranked #52 by U.S. News compared with BYU’s #71.
So while the BYU News article doesn’t do a good job of making the case, these numbers are in fact “hard evidence”, as John Tanner puts it, that BYU is succeeding in its key goal of providing a quality undergraduate education. The numbers may be even more impressive than they seem, given the difficulty of combining other goals BYU hopes its grads will have, with PhD work. I have learned from personal experience, and close observation, how challenging it can be to combine grad school with LDS goals of marriage and children. A still better measure of BYU’s success, by its own standards, would be the number of PhDs per capita who are married with at least one child, and I would bet that BYU blows away all competition on that score. It would also be interesting to know how many BYU grads go on to professional degrees; I suspect the ratio of professional degrees (MBA, JD, MD, etc.) to PhDs among BYU grads is much higher than at comparable institutions, because of the other life goals of BYU grads. For related reasons, whether this is good or bad, the BYU PhDs are surely far more weighted toward scientific and technical subjects than places like Yale, if not MIT.
The absolute number of PhDs is, of course, suggestive of BYU’s indirect impact on the learned world, which is a separate but not an insignificant matter.
PhDs are only one aspect of the overall picture of educational success. Ultimately, BYU should have its own concept of success which will be in significant part invisible by the standards of other institutions. But I am glad to see that despite its different goals, BYU is punching at roughly its weight in producing future PhDs.