The aim of this article is to survey the international literature on doctoral education from a South African perspective. A colossal amount of published research on doctoral education abroad has accumulated in recent years, dwarfing the minuscule number of publications on doctoral education in South Africa. Three major deficiencies in the corpus of literature internationally on doctoral education are the lack of any empirical validation of the claimed social rates of return to doctoral education, an absence of empirical research on the scholarly contribution/impact of doctoral education, and the inadequacies of the paradigms employed to research doctoral education. This means that the body of literature on doctoral education does not take into account power relations in society and embedded knowledge, as well as the demonstrated stranglehold of these on scholarship. The first two imply that there is a lack of empirical substantiation for claims regarding the indispensable role of doctoral education in accomplishing a knowledge society and the role of doctoral studies in pushing back the frontiers of knowledge. In conclusion recommendations are made as to how South Africa could, given its infancy in this field, seek to build a literature base that consciously addresses the perceived gaps in the international literature in this field.