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Revista de Saúde Pública

Print version ISSN 0034-8910

Rev. Saúde Pública vol.48 no.1 São Paulo Feb. 2014

https://doi.org/10.1590/S0034-8910.2014048004629 

Original Articles

Professional paths of alumni from doctorate programs in health and biological sciences

Virginia Alonso HortaleI 

Carlos Otávio Fiúza MoreiraII 

Rosany BochnerIII 

Maria do Carmo LealIV 

IDepartamento de Administração e Planejamento em Saúde. Escola Nacional de Saúde Pública. Fundação Oswaldo Cruz. Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brasil

IIDepartamento de Ciências Sociais. Escola Nacional de Saúde Pública. Fundação Oswaldo Cruz. Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brasil

IIILaboratório de Informação Científica e Tecnológica em Saúde. Instituto de Comunicação e Informação Científica e Tecnológica em Saúde. Fundação Oswaldo Cruz. Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brasil

IVDepartamento de Epidemiologia e Métodos Quantitativos em Saúde. Escola Nacional de Saúde Pública. Fundação Oswaldo Cruz. Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brasil


ABSTRACT

OBJECTIVE

: To analyze the career path and professional satisfaction of alumni from the doctorate degree programs in health sector.

METHODS

: Exploratory study with 827 alumni of doctoral programs in public health, biological and health sciences at the Fundação Oswaldo Cruz , RJ, Southeastern Brazil, from1984 to 2007. The subjects were grouped in three cross-temporal cohorts according to year. The profiles of the alumni were analyzed, their career paths mapped and information on the perceptions of the education they received and the reasons that led them to choose the institute for their doctoral courses gathered, as well as their evaluations of the courses. The data were collected by means of an online questionnaire.

RESULTS

: There are differences between cohorts of alumni related to the periods they followed the courses, their distinct educational backgrounds and labor processes between those from the biological and health sciences areas, and to the specificities of the different areas where the institution offers doctoral courses: public health, biological and health sciences.

CONCLUSIONS

: The results allow the academic management of the educational processes to expend its knowledge, thus establishing a baseline for tracking the trajectory of alumni, and may contribute to upgrading the follow up process of Brazilian graduate programs.

Key words: Education, Graduate; Health Postgraduate Programs; Institutional Evaluation

RESUMO

OBJETIVO

: Analisar a trajetória e satisfação profissional de egressos de cursos de doutorado na área da saúde.

MÉTODOS

: Estudo exploratório com 827 egressos dos cursos de doutorado da Fundação Oswaldo Cruz nas áreas da saúde coletiva, biociências e atenção à saúde, entre 1984 e 2007. Os sujeitos foram agrupados em três coortes temporais. Foi analisado o perfil dos egressos; mapeadas suas trajetórias profissionais, suas percepções sobre a formação recebida; suas motivações para escolha da instituição para realizar o doutorado; e as avaliações efetuadas sobre os cursos. Utilizou-se questionário em formato eletrônico para preenchimento on-line para coleta de dados.

RESULTADOS

: Existiram diferenças entre as coortes de egressos, relacionadas ao período em que cursaram o doutorado, a distintas trajetórias de formação e processos de trabalho entre egressos das áreas de biociências e saúde e as peculiaridades das diferentes áreas em que a instituição oferece cursos de doutorado: saúde coletiva, biociências e atenção à saúde.

CONCLUSÕES

: Os resultados possibilitam ampliar o conhecimento das instâncias de gestão acadêmica sobre os processos de formação, estabelecendo uma “linha de base” para o acompanhamento da trajetória dos egressos e contribuir com subsídios para o aprimoramento dos processos de acompanhamento de egressos dos programas de pós-graduação.

Palavras-Chave: Educação de Pós-Graduação; Programas de Pós-Graduação em Saúde; Avaliação Institucional

RESUMEN

OBJETIVO

: Analizar la trayectoria y satisfacción profesional de egresados de cursos de doctorado en el área de la salud.

MÉTODOS

: Estudio exploratorio con 827 egresados de los cursos de doctorado de la Fundación Oswaldo Cruz en las áreas de la salud colectiva, biociencias y atención a la salud, entre 1984 y 2007. Los individuos fueron agrupados en tres cohortes temporales. Se analizó el perfil de los egresados; se mapeó sus trayectorias profesionales, sus percepciones sobre la formación recibida; sus motivaciones para escoger la institución y realizar el doctorado; y las evaluaciones realizadas sobre los cursos. Se utilizó cuestionario en formato electrónico para colecta de datos on-line.

RESULTADOS

: Existieron diferencias entre las cohortes de egresados, relacionadas con el período en que cursaron el doctorado, las distintas trayectorias de formación y procesos de trabajo entre egresados de las áreas de biociencias y salud y las peculiaridades de las diferentes áreas en que la institución ofrece cursos de doctorado: salud colectiva, biociencias y atención a la salud.

CONCLUSIONES

: Los resultados posibilitan ampliar el conocimiento de las instancias de gestión académica sobre los procesos de formación, estableciendo una “línea base” para el acompañamiento de la trayectoria de los egresados y contribuir con subsidios para el mejoramiento de los procesos de acompañamiento de egresados de los programas de postgrado.

Palabras-clave: Educación de Postgrado; Programas de Postgrado em Salud; Evaluación Institucional

INTRODUCTION

Over the last decade, as a consequence of technological innovations, the demand for qualified researchers and the spread of the culture of assessment, evaluate the quality of educational processes at all levels of teaching, notably master’s and doctorate courses, and their relationship with the professional world has come to form part of the agenda in education institutions.

Studies in countries which are highly socially and economically developed are concerned with the quality of postgraduate courses 11 and trends in the career paths chosen by researchers. 2,5,9 In Brazil, there are no systematic studies following postgraduate educational processes, whether discussing successful experiences to construct strategies for scientific development, or to support and strengthen postgraduate education. However, continuous development in new professional competencies is part of the agenda in postgraduate educational institutions. 14

At the end of 2010, on its 60 th anniversary, the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (Capes – Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel) launched the 2011-2020 National Postgraduate Plan, a containing “new directives, strategies and goals for continuity and progress in proposals for postgraduate and research policy in Brazil”. For the first time, this plan became part of the Ministry of Education’s National Education Plan. This meant better coordination and complementarity between the different levels of education. Of the six directives aimed at evaluating the national postgraduate system, no reference is made to following up alumni, something which could form part of initiative by educational institutions. This procedure allows possible efforts in forming the career path of ex-students to be analyzed, provides support in adjusting educational processes and may help curriculum reforms which aim to transform the professional world.

At the beginning of 2013, there were 3,613 postgraduate programs accredited by Capes, in nine areas of knowledge. Of these, 1,772 are master’s or doctorate programs. According to a study conducted by the Center for the Study of Strategic Management b on the education of those with doctorate titles awarded in Brazil between 1998 and 2008 and their employability as of 2008, postgraduate education in Brazil increased and matured with a high standard of quality. The diversity of knowledge areas meant it was able to increase its competitiveness among the emerging countries.

The Fundação Oswaldo Cruz (Fiocruz – Oswaldo Cruz Foundation) belongs to the Ministry of Health and is a scientific and technological institution dedicated to research, teaching and developing health technology. It has 18 master’s and doctorate programs accredited by Capes in ten evaluation areas, with around 1,200 students enrolled. From an academic and political point of view, this institution occupies a prominent position in professional formation and in formulating directives for scientific and technological development in the health sector. Various ex-students occupy positions in public administration, in lecturing and in producing knowledge. However, the institution does not systematically follow up its alumni’s career paths. 3,8,12

Fiocruz is establishing regular evaluation mechanisms to assess its educational processes and conducted an exploratory study, the object of this article. Thus, the aim of this study was to analyze career paths and professional satisfaction and evaluations of doctorate courses by alumni.

METHODS

The subjects of the study were 827 alumni who did doctorate courses in Public Health, Biological and Health Sciences between 1984 (four years after the first doctorate courses began at the institution) and 2007. Alumni were contacted by e-mail. The Lattes c curriculum was used to locate the alumni and contact was made by telephone when e-mail was not available through the Fiocruz Electronic Academic Management System (SIGA). Those who did not respond to the e-mail, or when the e-mail was not delivered, were contacted by telephone.

When drawing up the instruments to collect and analyze the data, the following considerations were used: a) differences between cross-temporal cohorts who may have been affected by restructuring curricular structure and contents, or alterations in the Capes evaluation system; b) differences between alumni from bioscience and health areas, i.e., different paths in education and different work processes; c) peculiarities in the different areas in which the institution offers doctorate courses. An electronic questionnaire to be completed online was developed and then underwent a pilot test to verify intelligibility, relevance and reliability, as well as to control possible bias in filling it out. This procedure was chosen as it did not require much of respondents’ time. 4 The questionnaire was available online between August and December 2008.

The questionnaire was composed of five blocks: personal data, professional activity, professional satisfaction, evaluation of the course and follow up program.

Personal data. Record of each alumni (address, contact telephone, e-mail address, sex, date of birth, marital status, academic formation, program followed, year entered and year received title). The undergraduate programs were categorized based on Ministry of Education standards, as: Biological and Health sciences, Physical and Earth Sciences, Human and Social Sciences, Applied Social Sciences, Engineering and Technology. Personal data were included after examining SIGA, in operation since 2004, and completed with data from years before 2004. The responses formed a preliminary database which, to facilitate analysis, underwent readjustments which included the sets of respondents and their responses or lack thereof. Cross-temporal cohorts were defined based on distribution of the year the students received their title in the universe of the study, presenting frequencies of students close to each other to maintain the same interval of years. Three cohorts were constructed: those who received their doctorate between 1984 and 1999, between 2000 and 2003 and 2004 to 2007, and by teaching department in which they completed their doctorate. We were able to maintain the same coverage of years for the two latter cohorts, with frequency of alumni of 277 and 316, respectively. To have a similar frequency (234) in the first cohort, it was necessary to consider a greater interval (1984 to 1998). We sought to identify differences in response patterns, bearing in mind possible changes in the course over the years. The analysis considered possible difference and similarities between the cohorts of alumni.

Professional activity. Closed questions on: professional activity before the doctorate (research teaching, technological development, health care, management, consulting, other); nature and type of institution in which principal professional activity is conducted; type of activity developed; post and function; year entered institution; type of contract; relationship between professional activity and course studied; change of position or function after obtaining the doctorate; and mean monthly income.

Professional satisfaction. Perceptions of professional satisfaction after obtaining the doctorate, as well as closed questions on: remuneration, prestige, work relations, social relevance of work, opportunity to learn new things and to exercise creativity, opportunities for professional development, workload and autonomy. The responses were mutually exclusive and measured using a scale that went from “extremely dissatisfied” to “extremely satisfied”. An index, entitled “degree of satisfaction”, was created: “satisfied” and “extremely satisfied” were grouped together as “satisfied”; “extremely dissatisfied” and “dissatisfied” were grouped together as “dissatisfied”; another group was formed for the “moderately satisfied”. The proportion of satisfaction was estimated using the equation: number of individuals associated with the “satisfied” grade/total number of individuals who marked one of the options.

Evaluation of the course. Closed questions on: motivation to undertake the doctorate course at the Fiocruz; product(s) of the thesis; level of impact of the course on professional life; level of impact of the course on specific aspects (“low” to “high”); satisfaction with specific aspects of the course (“excellent” to ”very poor”). Two sections allowed various responses regarding the motives for doing the doctorate at Fiocruz and products generated by the thesis.

The analyses were conducted by grouping responses of alumni from the three cohorts. Considering that the return of the questionnaire was proportionally different between the different cohorts, the sample was weighted regarding the response rate (32.3%) of the most recent, 2004-2007, cohort (102 respondents). This cohort was attributed the value of 1, that of 1984 to 1999 was given a weight of 2.7 (going from 28 to 76 respondents) and that of 2000 to 2003 weighting of 2.1 (going from 43 to 89 respondents). The sample of respondents was weighted to guarantee representativeness of all three groups in the overall analyses, i.e., those which included all participants. The original number of respondents was maintained, without weighting, for descriptions within the cohorts.

Of the 827 alumni, 20.9% responded to the questionnaire, which corresponds to the expected response rate for internet surveys. 4 As the number of respondents was higher among alumni from 2000 onwards, especially 2004-2007, it is supposed that poor adherence to the study on the part of alumni from the 1984 to 1999 period was due to difficulties locating them, failure to update e-mail addresses and moving to other states or countries.

The project was approved by the Fiocruz Research Ethics Committee, record 450/08. Agreeing to participate required: accessing the link given in the e-mail or message, entering the first screen and reading the informed consent form, confirming and updating data, if necessary, and accessing the other screens of the questionnaire.

RESULTS

The respondent group did not differ significantly from the universe of the study regarding age, sex, nationality, graduation, type of institution and type of contract before the doctorate ( Table 1 ). The youngest responded less, proportionally, and Brazilian were more helpful than foreigners. The percentage of women was slightly higher than men, although this was slightly lower in the last cohort. There was a predominance of alumni aged < 40, with a slight percentage decrease in more recent years, i.e., stability in participation of those aged 40-49 and increased share of those aged > 50 years old.

Table 1 Demographic profile, area of graduation, nature of institution and employment contract. Fundação Oswaldo Cruz , 1984 to 2007. 

Variable Cohort
1984 to 1999 2000 to 2003 2004 to 2007 Total

U (%) R (%) U (%) R (%) U (%) R (%) U (N) R (N) R(N weighted )
Age (years)
< 40 67.5 64.3 68.2 53.5 63.3 54.9 547 120 186
40 to 49 26.9 32.1 25.6 37.2 28.2 32.4 223 43 69
50 and + 5.6 3.6 6.1 9.3 8.5 12.7 57 10 13
Sex
Male 42.3 50.0 30.3 27.9 32.0 33.3 284 60 97
Female 57.7 50.0 69.7 72.1 68.0 66.7 543 113 171
Nationality
Brazilian 95.7 96.4 93.9 97.7 95.9 96.1 787 167 259
Foreigner 4.3 3.6 6.1 2.3 4.1 3.9 40 6 9
Graduation
Bio + Health S 84.2 82.1 85.9 88.4 75.3 78.4 673 141 221
Exact + Earth S 3.4 3.6 1.8 4.7 2.2 3.9 20 7 11
Human + Social S 7.3 7.1 7.9 7.0 15.5 10.8 88 16 23
App Social S 2.1 3.6 1.8 5.1 4.9 26 6 8
Eng. + Technol. 3.0 3.6 2.5 1.9 2.0 20 3 5
Nature of institution
Public 89.3 93.0 94.1 161 248
Private 10.7 7.0 5.9 12 20
Employment contract
RJU 85.7 74.4 59.8 117 193
CLT 7.1 4.7 6.9 11 17
None 3.6 14.0 22.5 30 38
Other 3.6 4.7 6.9 10 14
No response 2.3 3.9 5 6

Alumni of Biological and Health Sciences predominated in all cohorts, both in the universe and in the respondents. More than 93.0% were Brazilian for both universe and respondents.

Information on type of institution and employment contract before the doctorate was only available for respondents of the study. They were most commonly connected with public institutions and this increased over time. The lack of any type of link with an institution also increased (3.6% in the first cohort and 22.5% in the last). Irrespective of the cohort, the Unified Legal System d was that which presented the highest percentage and mean income varied between 5.8 and 16.6 minimum wages. The highest mean monthly income was found in higher age groups.

The highest levels of satisfaction were found in attributes “social relevance of work”, “opportunity to learn new things and exercise creativity” and “opportunities for professional development” and the lowest for “remuneration” ( Table 2 ). This result was repeated in all three cohorts, but with a trend for the proportion to decrease. The cohorts with more alumni in older age groups had the highest levels of satisfaction in the sections mentioned above. Despite this trend, calculating confidence intervals (95%CI) for the proportions of these attributes showed no significant differences. “Interest in the lines of research offered” was most common in the second and third cohorts, regarding their motivation for doing a doctorate at Fiocruz. In the first cohort, the highest percentage was for “traditions of the institution”. In all cohorts, “Excellence of the course” was the second most commonly reported item ( Table 3 ).

Table 2 Respondents’ degree of satisfaction with different aspects. Fundação Oswaldo Cruz , 1987 to 2007. 

Aspect Degree of satisfaction a
Proportion of satisfaction
Dissatisfied Satisfied
1987 to 2007
Remuneration 35 130 0.49
Prestige 9 198 0.74
Work relations 15 199 0.74
Social relevance of work 4 241 0.90
Opportunity to learn new things or exercise creativity 10 235 0.88
Opportunity for professional development 17 228 0.85
Workload 24 175 0.65
Autonomy 10 213 0.79

1987 to 1999
Remuneration 18 0.64
Prestige 26 0.93
Work relations 23 0.82
Social relevance of work 28 1.00
Opportunity to learn new things or exercise creativity 1 27 0.96
Opportunity for professional development 1 27 0.96
Workload 2 18 0.64
Autonomy 25 0.89

2000 to 2003
Remuneration 8 19 0.44
Prestige 2 26 0.60
Work relations 5 30 0.70
Social relevance of work 1 37 0.86
Opportunity to learn new things or exercise creativity 2 37 0.86
Opportunity for professional development 4 34 0.79
Workload 6 27 0.63
Autonomy 3 32 0.74

2004 to 2007
Remuneration 18 41 0.40
Prestige 5 73 0.72
Work relations 4 74 0.73
Social relevance of work 2 88 0.86
Opportunity to learn new things or exercise creativity 3 84 0.82
Opportunity for professional development 6 84 0.82
Workload 6 70 0.69
Autonomy 4 78 0.76

Table 3 Respondents’ motivation for doing a doctorate referring to specific attributes. Fundação Oswaldo Cruz , 1984 to 2007. 

Motive 1987 to 1999 2000 to 2003 2004 to 2007

n % n % n %
Tradition of the institution 16 24.6 20 17.1 41 14.2
Prestige of the institution 12 18.5 19 16.2 54 18.7
Excellence of the course 15 23.1 21 17.9 58 20.1
Interest in the lines of research on offer 11 16.9 27 23.1 72 24.9
High chance of receiving a grant 3 2.6 7 2.4
Convenience due to the structuring of the course 4 6.2 8 6.8 14 4.8
Interest in a specific advisor 7 10.8 19 16.2 43 14.9

Of those who declared that their thesis generated products, more than one product per respondent was reported ( Table 4 ). It was noted that there was increase in the number of articles published as a product of thesis in the latter two cohorts, as well as a relative decrease in the number of books and chapters of books. There was a high percentage of alumni who evaluated the impact of the doctorate on their professional life as “high”. No significant differences were observed between cohorts with regards these percentages.

Table 4 Products generated from thesis and degree of impact on respondents’ from all doctorate courses. Fundação Oswaldo Cruz , 1987 to 2007. 

Type of product 1987 to 1999 2000 to 2003 2004 to 2007
Product of thesis
Yes
Article 20 30 67
Chapter of a book 9 11 16
Book 7 3 5
Patent 1 7
Other 3 4 12
No 6 5 29

Type of product
n % n % n %
High 23 82.1 36 87.8 81 80.2
Medium 4 14.2 3 7.3 14 13.9
Low 1 3.6 2 4.9 6 5.9

Responses evaluating attributes related to the course were grouped as: (a) teaching body and pedagogical practice, (b) infrastructure and (c) academic processes ( Table 5 ). This was dichotomized into excellent (70.0% or more classified this aspect as “excellent” or “good”) and very bad (fewer than 30.0% classified this aspect as “excellent” or “good”). The aspects which were mainly classes as “excellent” or “good” were for the set of disciplines, content, teaching body and thesis guidance, which may confirm the high motivation of alumni to qualify the institution for the “excellence of the course”. The evaluation was negative for “guidance in producing scientific articles”. Ratings of “excellent” or “good” were repeated for aspects of “infrastructure” for facilities, classes and library. There was a trend to give lower ratings to ‘academic processes’, the “selective process” was highlighted as “excellent” and “very good”; the worst rating went to the “strategy for evaluating lecturers and disciplines”.

Table 5 Evaluation of specific aspects of the doctorate course. Fundação Oswaldo Cruz , 1987 to 2007. 

Aspect Degree
E/G R P/VP
Teaching body and pedagogical practice a
Set of disciplines 75.6 17.7 6.7
Content 78.8 15.8 5.5
Lecturing staff 85.3 10.9 3.8
Pedagogical practices adopted 61.6 29.3 9.1
Opportunity to work in small groups 61.4 30.3 8.3
Learning though team work 58.3 31.8 9.9
Use of problem situations 51.9 34.0 14.1
Strategy to evaluate students 58.6 32.5 8.9
Learning research methods and techniques 73.4 17.1 9.5
Thesis guidance 85.0 7.8 7.2
Academic department services 72.9 21.7 5.4
Guidance on producing scientific articles 53.0 32.2 14.8
Encouraging active search of electronic databases 71.1 19.1 9.9
Infrastructure a
Facilities, services and library 90.3 5.2 4.5
Infrastructure for classes 80.6 13.1 6.3
Infrastructure for group meetings 63.5 27.7 8.8
Infrastructure of laboratories 71.3 22.1 6.6
Academic processes a
Guidance on the market and job opportunities 26.2 40.0 33.8
Developing communication skills 58.6 30.3 11.2
Developing leadership potential 64.7 24.0 11.3
Selective process 78.8 17.2 4.0
Strategy of evaluating lecturers and disciplines 39.7 32.7 27.6
Academic coordinator’s relationship with students 69.5 19.5 11.0

DISCUSSION

In Brazil, there have been few studies with alumni of postgraduate courses with the type of coverage of this article. One of the few studies on this topic, 10 showed that the majority who sought to do a postgraduate course were interested in research, were satisfied with their job and assessed their education positively. Around 40.0% had studied abroad. Another study of alumni covered nine areas of knowledge (administration, agronomy, biochemistry, clinical medicine, civil engineering, electrical engineering, physics, chemistry and sociology), 5 with similar results to this study.

Despite its exploratory nature, the results of this study indicate that the objectives were met, in other words, information was obtained on the alumni’s professional activity, their perception of job satisfaction and their evaluation of the course. A study conducted by the Management Center for Strategic Studies showed that women with a doctorate ceased to be the minority from 2004 onwards, although in another study, 10 with alumni of a Brazilian science and technology research institution, male alumni predominated; and this raises the hypothesis that gender difference is marked in areas related to physical sciences and in careers in science and technology, although this trend is decreasing.

A study in the same institution with master’s alumni 8 found that more than 80.0% were aged > 40 and the association of this variable with longer time spent in the institution explains, among other factors, the need for professional improvement in the face of technological innovations. A study in the area of Public Health 6 identified that more than 60.0% of alumni were aged between 39 and 49 when they defended their thesis.

The mean age of alumni in the area of Biological sciences was lower than that in other areas, which may characterize the acceleration of specializing in research in areas where there are initiative aimed at undergraduate science students. As a consequence, there has been a rejuvenation in this clientele. A similar situation was identified in England, based on analysis of statistics published in 2007 by the Higher Education Statistics Agency Limited, an official agency for collecting, analyzing and disseminating information on higher education in 2005. e At English universities, female students accounted for 52.8% of total first year students on master’s and doctorate courses; 55.6% of women and 49.0% of men were aged between 21 and 24 at the start of the course. This situation can be explained due to the shorter course time agreed by the new European Credit System, in which students on biomedicine courses (except medicine) graduate in three or four years; and in research education starting directly after graduation. 7

The result regarding remuneration was repeated in all three cohorts, with small variations in the value of the index and constant dissatisfaction with salary levels. This may suggest that there have been no substantial changes in alumni’s work over the last 20 years. Despite their dissatisfaction with remuneration, alumni were satisfied with the social relevance of their work and with new opportunities to learn and to exercise creativity.

The motivation for entering the institution changed over time. The first cohort identified the tradition of the institution as their principal motive, whereas the latter two highlighted the “excellence of the course” and “interest in the lines of research”. This change may be related to the continued division in scientific work, in which the specificity of the line of research is essential, as well as growing competition for financing between scientific institutions, which throws excellence into relief. These results, in addition to confirming the relevance of tradition in choosing institutions, may suggest a growing specialization with scientific fields, with focus on lines of research and on competition between institutions. 1

The predominance of professional activity associated with research, teaching and technological development among the alumni may be specific to Fiocruz, with its teaching, research and technological development departments. This is not common in other higher education institutions in the areas of health and S&T institutions. 10

The results of this study are in agreement with the findings regarding the predominance of the public nature of alumni employment. In one of them, on doctorates in the S&T area, 10 more than 80.0% of alumni were working in the public sector. Another study, conducted at the end of the 1980s, covering Master’s and Doctorates in various areas of knowledge, showed the more than 70.0% worked in public higher education institutions. 13

One of the limitations of this study was a loss of respondents, equivalent to around 80.0% of eligible subjects, although there were no significant differences between the two group. However, it is known that online surveys have poor response rates, but are characterized as an approach that is increasingly used due to its low cost and speed and its broad reach. There is no guarantee that the representativeness of such studies is worse than that of face-to-face studies. Thus, the authors 4 recommend that comparative studies on the advantages and disadvantages are conducted and to see whether, in fact, they differ in representativeness.

Differences were observed between the cohorts of alumni as a possible consequence of changes in the courses, of different career paths in education, and different work processes specific to the areas of biological and health sciences. The possible differences and similarities between the various courses may be related to peculiarities of the work processes in the areas in which the institution offers doctorate courses: public health, biological and health sciences. It may also reflect current scientific development in the country, which increasingly places Brazil on the international stage as an important actor in global scientific production.

The results of this study enabled students to evaluate their education on Fiocruz doctorate courses, signaling weaknesses and strengths, and allowed us to gain wider knowledge of instances of academic management on educational processes, establishing a base line for accompanying the career paths of alumni. Moreover, it contributes to improving monitoring processes for alumni of Brazilian postgraduate programs.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Thanks to Adriana Aguiar, Juliana Nascimento and Mauricio Luz, who participated in designing and executing the study; to Fernando Speich who drew up the online tool and to Arthur Schilithz who helped to review the statistical results.

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c Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico. Plataforma Lattes. Available from: http://lattes.cnpq.br

d Unified Legal System - Regime Jurídico Único – is the set of rules governing labor relations of public civil servants direct, independent and public foundation management, defining their rights, responsibilities and duties (Law 5, 247, 26 July 1991.

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Received: November 6, 2012; Accepted: September 30, 2013

Correspondence: Virginia Alonso Hortale. Rua Leopoldo Bulhões, 1480 Manguinhos. 21040-210 Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brasil. E-mail: virginia@ensp.fiocruz.br

The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest.

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