MOVING TO FRONT FROM 2/26/13, SINCE IT IS THAT TIME OF YEAR! (And see this related thread from 2011.)
A prospective PhD student writes:
I had a question for you about choosing a graduate program in philosophy, once one has received offers. I thought this might foster a good discussion on your blog, but of course I would like to get your input as well. If you do post this on your blog for discussion, I would like to remain anonymous.
I've received two offers thus far that are competing for my top choice of program. The first is a top-10 program at a top-quality research institution (which will of course manifest itself with the nebulous "prestige" factor, generous funding, light teaching load, better travel opportunities, etc) with strengths broadly similar to mine, while the second is a top-25 program at a strong research institution (second-tier, perhaps) and is an undisputed leader in a couple of pretty specialized fields that are of interest to me. Moreover, the second program is reputed to have a very productive learning environment and great student/faculty relations (jury is out on the first program until I visit soon). In terms of job placement, the former of course has a strong placement record, while the latter has a strong placement record for those who remain within its specialization and work with the program's top philosophers. Given that my interests may change during graduate school (as I hear they often do), what additional considerations should I be making, and can you offer any advice?
My own advice was that if the financial aid packages were comparable (a really key question, in my view), and if the student was fairly confident about his interests, then going to the "top 25" program would make good sense (esp. since it wasn't clear to me the "top 10" program was actually as good in some of the areas the student was interested in--to protect anonymity, I can't disclose those; just to be clear, Chicago is not one of the programs the student is considering). If others have thoughts on this kind of question, comments are open. Signed comments will be preferred, though students may post anonymously, but must include a valid e-mail address, that will not appear.
I am philosophy student, with an MA, now going through the PhD admissions process. As is the case with all philosophers, my writing benefits greatly from the feedback I receive from others.
I've been fortunate to have two papers published [in reputable but not very top journals]. Both papers began life as seminar papers. Thus, I received a lot of feedback on them from my professors, both substantive comments and copy suggestions.
I imagine it differs from professor to professor, but I'm curious what graduate faculty feel is an appropriate level of feedback/guidance to give when dealing with students trying to getting their work published? I thought of my papers as, say, dissertation chapters, and so, felt like continual engagement with faculty was appropriate. And my professors were more than willing to give thoughtful, and sometimes, line by line feedback. Is this level of engagement to be expected from good, thoughtful professors? (Or, perhaps, is an indication of whether or not a professor is good or thoughtful?) Or is it asking too much? Do professors have any theories on the appropriate level of feedback they give to graduate students? How might they characterize a student too dependent on their feedback?
I'll give my own views, then open this for comments. To start, students should not try to publish seminar papers unless encouraged by the faculty member that the material is publishable. And in such a case, the faculty member should try to assist the student with polishing the paper for publication. Readers? (Submit your comment only once, it may take awhile for them to appear--busy day here!)
I'm a recent Philosophy PhD and I'm on the job market. I also published my first book with [name omitted] in 2015. However, it seems that the publication of the book has not influenced my prospects.
So I wonder if monographs make a difference to hiring committees when dealing with early career scholars?
Do large research universities no longer place much weight on the publication of books?
To preserve anonymity, I've omitted the name of the publisher of the book--it's an established publishing house, but was not close to the top 7 the last time I surveyed reader opinion about publishers. My own sense is that a book from one of the major presses in philosophy would be a huge boost, but that it is too easy to get a book published by the less prestigious presses, and so, at least with major research universities, that won't count for much. What do readers think?
I thought it might be of interest to you, as it seems to be the product of a challenge to see how many professional norms can be violated in a single email. The highlights: they want a response within 5 hours, or cannot guarantee an interview; for spots beginning at 8am tomorrow. Nowhere in the body of the message does the author identify his university (it's Cal State Sacramento). They were, however, kind enough to attach a list of questions to be asked--fittingly, this single act of kindness is also odd as far as I'm aware. Incidentally, this is the school that required applicants to create a special web page just for them last year, simply to apply. (I've heard there were more such hoops later on in the process. Perhaps this year there will be a fight to the death during flyouts.)
The invitation e-mail, sent five hours before a response was required, follows below the fold:
Here are some related questions for a thread on your blog:
(1) How much does having a strong publication record hurt one's chances for getting a job at less research-prestigious institutions? For instance, if a recent PhD has five publications in respected places will this count much against getting a TT job in "the middle of nowhere"? Will hiring committees be inclined to pass over such a candidate, thinking that he or she will just leave in a couple years due to the strong publication record? Or have hiring committees realized that the lack of philosophy jobs makes this strategy a mistake?
(2) Is there much resistance to hiring an associate prof for an assistant job, or a full prof for an associate job, or a full prof for an assistant job? Should there be? Given the horrible job market, an associate or full prof who needs to move from their current position may have few options other than taking an assistant job.
I'll offer a few thoughts/surmises, and then open it for comments from readers.
On #1, I suspect it is still the case that schools that are non-research-intensive will wonder about the commitment of a junior candidate whose publication record is too strong. I'm also not sure this is irrational, though it may be a question of degree. But publication in top-tier journals is the most important credential for professional advancement and opportunities, so a rookie who arrives with articles in top-tier journals is, indeed, probably likely to have and probably seek other positions. It's importnat to remember that at state schools in particular, there is never certainty that a line that becomes vacant will be authorized to be re-filled--and that may especially be true when it was just filled two years ago, and now the candidate hired has decamped. That might make a Dean skeptical about whether the department can do appropriate hiring, even if that is an unfair suspicion.
On #2, there is sometimes such resistance, but mostly I expect for budgetary reasons: if the Dean authorzies a junior position, and it is filled with someone who will likely seek early tenure given his/her record, that may present budgetary problems for the Dean. Similarly, a Dean may be skeptical that someone qualified for a tenured position will really accept an untenured tenure-track position, thinking the candidate will try to negotiate a higher rank from the start--something which, again, may not be feasible as a matter of the budget.
MOVING TO FRONT AGAIN (ORIGINALLY POSTED NOV. 30)--INTERESTING DISCUSSION/COMMENTS, AS WELL AS REPLIES FROM PROF. FARACI, ABOUT A VERY IMPORTANT INITIATIVE
Philosopher David Faraci asked me to share this announcement, which I'm happy to do:
Introducing MARGY: Free Management for Confidential Letters of Recommendation
Applicants on the academic job market spend thousands of dollars a year to have professional dossier services handle their confidential letters of recommendation. Some of this requires staff involvement: filling out forms, uploading to proprietary sites, etc. But a good deal of it is just sending emails. The only reason a middleperson is necessary is because the emails need to include a confidential attachment.
Introducing MARGY [hard ‘g’] (Managing Academic Recommendations Gratis Yay), a FREE automated system for emailing confidential letters of recommendation. Letter-writers upload letters to MARGY’s secure server; applicants tell the system where to email those letters. Confidentiality is maintained via a whitelist; the system will only send letters to email addresses that have been confirmed as being maintained by a relevant hiring entity.
MARGY is currently in beta testing by creator David Faraci and co-developer Graham Leach-Krouse. They are looking for people to help with the beta test: to play around with the site and the email system, or to look directly at the source code, and help them debug and increase usability. The more people who help, the faster MARGY can be officially released, and the sooner people can start saving time and money.
They are also looking for donations of server space.
The ad and details about the post. Next year's Fellow will teach the Law & Philosophy Workshop with Martha Nussbaum on the "'Environment and Animal Rights' (including, e.g., philosophical discussions of the moral status of nonhuman animals and the philosophical basis for claims involving them, the ethics of climate change, the ethical basis for valuing ecosystems, and the upshot of all of this for both domestic and international law)." This year's Fellow is Max Etchemendy, and recent Fellows also include Amanda Greene, Sarah Conly, and Justin Coates.
The following law schools (listed in rough order of strength of the law school overall--though these are all major law schools) have a strong commitment to philosophy:
University of Chicago
New York University
University of California, Berkeley
University of Pennsylvania
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
University of Virginia
University of California, Los Angeles
Law school hiring is extremely pedigree-sensitive (more so than philosophy), so the further down this list you go for the JD, the more difficult your prospects will be in legal academia, though all these schools have graduates who now teach in law schools. (See, e.g., this data.) Yale, NYU, Berkeley, Michigan, and UCLA all have "top ten" philosophy departments, though with differing strengths. Chicago has a "top twenty" philosophy department, though its strengths are primarily in the history of philosophy (esp. ancient and post-Kantian Continental), which could be a good fit for a student with strong historical interests (including the Continental traditions in philosophy). Penn has an established JD/PhD program, and a philosophy department with particular strength in political philosophy, which could be a good complement for a JD/PhD student. (Columbia still has the great legal philosopher Joseph Raz on a half-time basis, though he in his late 70s, and I don't know how much longer he will continue to teach.)
UPDATE: A student writes:
Thanks for your recent blog post about schools for a JD/PhD in Philosophy. I am looking to apply shortly for philosophy PhDs (and I already hold a deferred JD offer, though may reapply elsewhere if necessary) so this was very interesting. If you don’t mind, I would be very interested to know your answers to a few questions I have.
Firstly, neither Harvard nor Stanford appear on your list. Both are top law schools with top philosophy departments, so I was wondering what your rationale was for not including them? They also seem to be amongst the few law schools to fund (or mostly fund) the JD component if one takes a JD/PhD (unlike, for instance, Yale) which seems like a fairly important selling point.
Secondly, what are your thoughts on taking the PhD at a different institution to one’s law school? It seems to be theoretically possible, and there appear to be some obvious benefits — NYU, for instance, has a great philosophy department, but there are much stronger JD programmes. Similarly, I could try to sandwich a JD between an Oxford BPhil and DPhil (if I was lucky enough to be granted funded admission; though — as I did very well in my philosophy undergrad [in the UK] — that is not a negligible possibility). Those are just hypotheticals; but do you think that there are good reasons to only take the JD and the PhD at the same institution?
Since others may have similar questions, I thought they would be worth addressing here.
The website has been updated so that it is searchable in various ways. Unfortunately, there's still no distinction between the kinds of tenure-track jobs graduates secure, but perhaps that will come. (See, e.g., this.) Still, there is useful information here, including about AOS by department. A caveat: I've not double-checked any of this for accuracy, but perhaps someone will.
Women who are interested in serving as mentors should complete the website form before September 1, 2016. Mentors should currently hold a permanent academic post and have had job market experience at the junior level in the past seven years. Women who are interested in being mentored should complete the website form before September 1, 2016. Preference will be given to job candidates who have not participated in this mentoring program before.
Peter Nennig, an MA student at Georgia State University, writes:
Since the graduate school application season is coming up, I am wondering if you could write a Leiter Reports post asking which philosophy graduate programs would be valuable for those most interested in teaching, especially at community colleges. I know from first-hand experience that Georgia State University has done an excellent job with teaching preparation. I think it would be great if there was a post that can lead to a discussion about other schools that (i) offer teacher training, (ii) offer courses on teaching philosophy, or (iii) have the goal of training teachers.
The APA Ombudsperson for Discrimination and Sexual Harassment, philosopher Ruth Chang (Rutgers), asked me to share the following statement:
As former students of Thomas Pogge, we suspect that there is one group of people who have been harmed in relation to the recent allegations against Pogge, who have not been much considered in the discussion surrounding them. It is not our intention here to take a stand on the truth or falsity of the allegations. Rather, regardless of their veracity, current and recent students of Pogge’s, male or female, may now feel that they cannot turn to him for mentoring, as any continued involvement with Pogge may taint them or call into question their accomplishments and abilities in the eyes of other members of the profession. Indeed this is one of the reasons we’ve chosen to keep our own identities anonymous. For those who are finishing their PhDs, or have not yet secured tenure track employment, that loss of mentoring is a great loss indeed. Though we both secured tenure track employment before the allegations were made public, we empathize with the situation of Pogge’s graduate students and post-grads who have not yet done so.
Accordingly, we are reaching out to current and recent students of Pogge’s to determine whether they are in need of alternate mentoring. If so, and the demand is great enough, we propose to develop a list of senior philosophers in related areas who would be willing to step in and provide such mentoring. Please note that while a letter of recommendation for use on the job market is a desirable and certainly possible outcome of a mentoring relationship of this type, being paired with a mentor would by no means guarantee such a letter. Rather, it would provide an opportunity to gain feedback on some papers or dissertation chapters and to receive general advice on professional issues. The exact extent of that mentoring would be up to the junior and the senior philosophers to determine on an individual basis.
The identity of anyone requesting mentoring would be kept confidential, and be known only by us (the two former graduate students of Pogge’s organizing the connection), and the eventual mentor. At this point, we are only asking for expressions of interest from current or past students of Pogge’s – both male and female – who have not secured permanent employment and who would like to be connected to an alternate mentor. Registering your interest now does not commit you to eventually being paired with a mentor – it only helps us to determine how many potential mentors to contact. You may decide at a later date whether you would actually like to be paired with a mentor. Please contact us by September 1, 2016 at email@example.com. Please help to spread the word to Pogge’s current and former students.
I think this is a sensible undertaking for the reasons given. But I'd like to emphasize that it's also clear that Professor Pogge has worked with and written letters for many students, including female students (and including female students "of color"), in which there have been no allegations of misconduct, quid pro quo endorsements, or anything of the kind. (I say it is "clear" because I've been told that by various students and others for whom Prof. Pogge has written.)
All the best suggestions for improving the PGR have come, without exception, from those who contributed to it over the years. Almost all the other criticisms were on the spectrum from self-serving to silly. The PGR was a fabulous resource, unlike anything else in any field, that let prospective students in on the secret sociology of the hierarchy in the profession. I hope it can continue, but the “slave revolt” in philosophy exacerbated by the Internet is now a real obstacle.
Could you explain the term "slave revolt" for folks unfamiliar with Nietzsche?
By “slave revolt,” I’m alluding to Nietzsche’s idea that our Judeo-Christian morality arose from an inversion of previous values, an inversion that was self-interested, but in the interest of the “slaves,” literal and otherwise. I do think what’s happened in the last few years is that people who aren’t very good at philosophy and/or feel otherwise marginalized in the profession have taken to the Internet, and under various high-minded sounding moralized banners—equality, fairness, inclusiveness and so on—have launched an attack on the idea of philosophical excellence and smarts.
Now along comes the latest example, a presentation on "Prestige: The first and final hurdle for a more inclusive philosophy," though it might just as well have been called, "Excellence: The first and final hurdle for a more inclusive philosophy." The author, philosopher Helen De Cruz, has a PhD from the University of Gronignen, and is, I am guessing, concerned that those, like herself, from non-prestige departments are unfairly excluded from professional opportunities in philosophy. Now she herself is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Oxford Brookes University (not part of Oxford, but a separate institution in the same town), so she has done well, but might, of course, be doing better were if not for the supposed "prestige" bias.
Since I know nothing about her work, it may well be that Professor De Cruz is someone who has been a victim of pernicious "prestige" bias. Pernicious prestige bias is when someone thinks that because someone got a PhD from Fancy Pants University they must be competent (or, the reverse). That's bullshit and pernicious, of course, and the PGR upset that apple cart a long time ago. But what most cyber-complainers call "prestige bias" is that hiring departments prefer candidates from well-regarded departments. That's plainly true, but perhaps well-regarded departments are so-regarded because they are actually departments with very good faculty and very goods student? Prof. De Cruz never fairly considers that possibility. Non-pernicious prestige bias is simply a rational and time-saving heuristic for identifying candidates with excellent qualifications trained by excellent faculty, attributes that, in the PGR era, are well-tracked by what's now called "prestige." As Prof. De Cruz notes, "prestige" bias is a feature of academic hiring in all disciplines; the difference in philosophy is that it no longer simply tracks "brand name" universities, but now reflects where the strongest clusters of philosophers and students actually are. (In what other academic field does everyone know that two of the very best programs are at NYU and Rutgers? There is none.)
"Excellence" doesn't, in reality, exclude any demographic groups, except the mediocre.
Over that decade, nearly one hundred women have been awarded PhDs in philosophy from just three schools, two mediocre and one a joke: the University of Memphis, the University of Oregon, and the California Institute of Integral Studies. Indeed, of the ten programs that graduated the highest percentage of women during this decade, just three are leading and serious PhD programs: MIT, North Carolina, and Minnesota. Those concerned about the representation of women in the profession should be greatly alarmed by these facts. As we've noted before, women are hardly well-served by getting PhDs from weak (or worse) programs.
I know there are always some readers thinking about law school, but also hoping to continue in academia, so you may find this data of interest concerning the 2015-16 law teaching job market. Applications to law schools have declined by about 30% since 2010, as the recession took its toll on legal employment. Prior to this crash, 160 or more rookie tenure-track law faculty were hired each year; that dropped to about 65 in 2013-14, and held steady in 2014-15. This year we saw a slight uptick: there were about 80 new tenure-track hires nationwide. The law teaching market is different, of course, in that those seeking law teaching jobs generally have clear non-academic options (hence three of our candidates this year turned down good tenure-track job offers for personal reasons; all will return to lucrative legal practice opportunities, and try the academic market again in the future). With law school enrollments having stabilized, I expect there to be a slow but steady increase in the hiring of rookie faculty, though I very much doubt we will get back to the pre-crash numbers in the foreseeable future, but the new normal will probably be about 100 new positions filled each year. As the linked data suggest, hiring for law teaching positions is extremely pedigree-sensitive, much more so than in academic philosophy even.
The data and various charts are here. What I can't tell from this data is what is "held constant" when the authors say that women are more likely than men to get permanent posts all else equal. For example, does this analysis "hold constant" the quality of the PhD program from which the graduates come? I'm not sure. If more women are graduating from strong programs, proportionally, than men, then the result wouldn't be surprising. Comments are open for anyone who can clarify what's going on here.
My part-time colleague Richard Epstein (he teaches each Spring Quarter here, the rest of the year at NYU) asked me to share information about the post-docs at his Institute at NYU. Applications from philosophy PhDs are very welcome, as long as your work has some law connection (you do not need to have a law degree). (As a sidenote, Richard studied philosophy with Ernest Nagel as an undergraduate at Columbia.) The terms of the post-docs are extremely attractive, check it out.
[W]e all know that the academic job market is very tough these days, and while there are some very talented and respected philosophers working in my department, it is not highly ranked. I think it is understandable if people in my position are thinking about backup plans, and I may have a better opportunity than most. You see, my wife-to-be comes from a respected and influential family in a "third world" country, and has told me that, should I fail to find an academic job in North America, it would not be difficult for me to acquire such a post in a university in her country. North American PhDs are highly valued there, but it is almost impossible for someone to go and get a job there without having some connection to the place, as I will have through my wife. However, this strikes me as a temporary option at best: I am not prepared to live in this country for the rest of my life, but I would be willing to do so temporarily, if all else fails. My question is this: For those who have experience on hiring committees, how would you look at a candidate who had spent a few years teaching in such a place, all other criteria being equal? Is such experience better than no experience a few years out of the PhD? Or would you feel there was something “off” about it? It seems a good temporary option, but it won’t be worth it if it’s going to undermine my chances at North American schools. Any thoughts you and your readers might have on this question would be very helpful.
My guess is a lot would depend on where one publishes during the time teaching abroad, but I'm opening comments for insight/opinions from others.
I was talking this morning to some of our more advanced (in some cases quite advanced) PhD students here about publishing and other job market-related stuff. Two points I made on which it might be interesting to hear what other faculty think were these:
1. For 99% of jobs out there having a good publication in a reputable journal is always a positive. This doesn't have to be in Philosophical Review or Ethics. An article in Philosophical Quarterly or Journal of Political Philosophy is a definite plus for an application.
2. Having conference presentations on your CV does little or nothing for your application. One should go to conferences because it would be intellectually fruitful for your work or professionally useful to meet other younger and/or more senior philosophers in your areas, but not to be able to put a line on your CV.
I should add that I also discouraged students from even thinking about publications before finishing coursework and beginning dissertation work, and I also discouraged working on publications if it would derail one's dissertation work.
...but in keeping with the juvenile dishonesty and dissembling with which we've all grown familiar in the philosophy blogosphere, Jenny Saul (Sheffield) and Justin Weinberg (South Carolina)both frames it that way (Saul, of course, without posting a link to the actual discussionsabout PhD programs that should probably close, since that degree of courtesy and honesty would be too difficult). Their purported source is Carolyn Dicey Jennings (UC Merced), who both links to my discussion and makes clear that her "provocative" question was not my question:
"How many of the programs" show up? Ironically, of the 40 programs she lists based on percentage of non-white graduates, just three were on the lists of PhD programs whose rationale for existing I queried, while of the 41 programs she listed based on percentage of female graduates, only seven were on my list. The fact that some mediocre PhD programs enroll significant numbers of women and minorities ought, in a rational world, be all the more reason to be concerned, since to "better serve" underrepresented populations it is not enough to enroll them, one must give them good educations and launch them on the path to securing the gainful academic employment that the vast majority of them no doubt seek. So the answer to Prof. Jennings's "provocative" question is easy: PhD programs that actually "better serve" their students, including women and minorities, should not be closed, but there's no evidence any of the programs on her list are such programs.
What does all this tell us? It tells us, of course, that discussing the fact that there are too many PhD programs in philosophy in the U.S. touches a nerve, so much so that certain people will seize the opportunity to distort the discussion in any way possible.
UPDATE: David Wallace (Oxford) called out Saul's slimy dishonesty in the first comment, and she has now made a slight edit to the original misleading framing.
MOVING TO FRONT FROM JANUARY 13--LOTS OF INTERESTING COMMENTS, MORE WELCOME
Almost everyone agrees there are too many PhD programs in philosophy in the Anglophone world, and perhaps especially in the United States. In a prior post, we mentioned nine programs whose offering a PhD didn't seem to make much sense: three used to be very good terminal MA programs that converted to PhD programs (Arizona State, South Carolina, Texas A&M); the six others mentioned were Kansas, Michigan State, Tulane, Emory, Oregon, and Villanova. Faculty from Arizona State and Tulane responded constructively to the questions raised, making a fair case for their programs. A graduate of one of the programs mentioned (not Arizona State or Tulane) made a particularly striking comment on the earlier thread (I verified the identity of the commenter and all of his/her claims are accurate):
As a recent graduate of one of the programs called out by name, I would like to add my (quick) thoughts. First, Brian is correct to call it out: outside of one specialized area, no one other than myself has achieved a TT job in years. Had I understood the terrible placement track record and the way in which the school is assessed by other philosophers, I would have left after the MA. And I have a TT job!
The difficulty of seeing your program called out is nothing compared to that of watching talented colleagues struggle year after year to get an academic job. Attempting to overcome a program's negative reputation is nearly futile given how many other candidates are on the market. And, one should question the amount of job-search support you'll get from a program that is so accustomed to not placing students (and of covering over that information).
Here are some other PhD programs whose existence, again, seems hard to justify in current conditions. The State University of New York system offers four different PhD programs: at Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo, and Stony Brook. Buffalo and Stony Brook each have a niche to fill: Buffalo with its more clearly "analytic" orientation and a number of strong faculty, Stony Brook with its niche in the SPEP universe of departments. Albany used to have a terminal MA program, and one recommended in past iterations of the PGR; it is not clear that they should be offering a PhD. Binghamton, despite having hired a number of good younger faculty in recent years, also seems ill-suited to offering a competitive PhD.
Here. I want to say that I agree with everything Wood says: his advice seems to me sound and realistic. All job seekers should read this. (You may infer from what Prof. Wood says why he would have been involved in the PGR for so many years as both Advisory Board member and evaluator.)
ADDENDUM: By the way, if Wood's piece is typical of the new fare at the APA blog, then it will be very useful indeed!
A reader on the job market sends along a portion of a rejection letter he got (from a top department), with the notable parts capitalized (by the reader):
Thank you for applying for one of the tenure-stream positions that we advertised last fall. We regret that we will not be moving forward with your application at this time. WE RECEIVED NEARLY SIX HUNDRED RESPONSES TO OUR ADVERTISEMENTS, INCLUDING A DISCONCERTINGLY LARGE NUMBER OF HIGHLY TALENTED AND ACCOMPLISHED APPLICANTS. ALTHOUGH we had listed these jobs as open, several factors led us to concentrate most of our search efforts on three main areas: Early Modern (before Kant), philosophy of language and certain branches of ethics that we particularly need. We had originally hoped to search within a wider array of fields but difficulties with the state legislature and the fact that several advantageous senior hiring opportunities emerged forced us to narrow our remaining attention largely to the core areas listed, which represent our greatest departmental needs (we hope that we will have a few more positions to offer in the years ahead). Please forgive the impersonal ch aracter of this note: the sheer number of applications and our SCHOOL'S MANNER OF STORING APPLICANT FILES MAKE IT DIFFICULT TO INFORM YOU OF OUR DECISIONS SWIFTLY IN ANY OTHER FASHION.
Thank you for providing us with an opportunity to consider your credentials. WE LIVE IN A TIME OF SHORTSIGHTED EDUCATIONAL POLICIES THAT HAVE MADE OUR PROFESSIONAL POSSIBILITIES FAR MORE LIMITED THAN THEY WERE IN THE PAST.
A reader (who is "now in management consulting specializing in regulatory affairs...I get to read and interpret complex texts, talk about ethics with with my clients, and make decent money all at the same time") writes with "some thoughts on the PGR, grad school, and getting a job":
I came to philosophy late in undergrad and decided that I wanted to go to grad school. I used the PGR as a tool to help me find the departments to which I wanted to apply. I was rejected from almost all of the PhD programs, even with good grades and "famous" letter writers. But I was accepted into a fantastic "PGR mentioned" terminal MA program. I spent two years diving deeper into my areas of interest and gaining competency in other areas as well. The program was great and the people (both faculty and students) were dynamite; however, ultimately I decided not to continue on to the PhD. The PGR helped me make this decision. I was a solid philosopher, but I was never a disciplined student, and I bet my writing sample and letters of recommendation would have reflected that in my second round of PhD applications. I realized my chances of getting into a top PhD program, and with that my chances of getting a tenure-track job, were slim, so I finished my MA and exited the discipline.
And this was the best decision I ever made! I was able to pivot and quickly move into a new field. I now have a rewarding career which I love and regularly use the critical thinking and writing skills I developed as a philosopher in my work.
I mentioned above that the PGR helped me make this decision. What I mean by that is: The PGR is a valuable tool. It certainly wasn't the only tool I used, but it was the best. No other tool had the information laid out as neatly and comprehensively, with reliable and explicit rankings, and realistic advice. If used properly as a tool, and not as holy scripture (as some critics oddly think it was intended to be), then the PGR really is helpful.
Some rather grim numbers, courtesy of Marcus Arvan (Tampa). It's particularly worrisome that most of the tenure-track hiring is being done by research-oriented institutions, when, historically, most of the positions in the profession are at non-research-oriented departments.
...in the sciences, but it contains some information probably relevant to the problem in philosophy; an example:
A 2015 Nature survey of more than 3,400 science graduate students around the world suggested that many were overly optimistic about their chances in academia. About 78% of respondents said that they were “likely” or “very likely” to follow an academic career, and 51% thought that they would land some type of permanent job in one to three years. In reality, only about 26% of PhD students in the United States move into tenured or tenure-track positions, and getting there can take much longer than this
In the last couple of weeks, I had the pleasure of giving talks at two of the best terminal MA programs in philosophy in the U.S., at Georgia State University and then Northern Illinois University. Both have very strong faculties and have long been among the top terminal MA programs in the discipline, but unlike Tufts (also an excellent faculty), they also offer really good financial support to their MA students. (I apologize for not recognizing much sooner how weak MA funding is at Tufts. MA students, like PhD students, should only go to the schools that will offer financial support.) At GSU, I enjoyed an excellent two-hour seminar with graduate students who had been working on Nietzsche with Prof. Jessica Berry, and they asked excellent questions (GSU is the best terminal MA program for students interested in Kant and post-Kantian Continental traditions in philosophy, and it showed during my visit). At NIU, another terminal MA program with very good PhD placement, I was impressed by how the Department handles placement (matching students to recommenders, based on coursework and performance) and also with the intelligence and focus of the students.
1. Attrition rates in PhD programs are high, but I believe, based on a lot of anecdotal evidence, that they are lower among those who do an MA first. If someone has contrary evidence, please e-mail me.
2. Many promising PhD students lack adequate undergraduate preparation, and terminal MA programs are uniquely situated to help students with philosophical interests be better prepared.
3. Even undergraduate philosophy majors benefit hugely from refining their work and interests with the research-active faculty characteristic of the top terminal MA programs.
4. Many students interested in a PhD program are still uncertain about whether that is the trajectory for them. Good MA programs, meaning not only good faculty but which also provide financial support, help students figure out whether that is the right path. I talked with students in the last couple of weeks, but also elsewhere, for whom a terminal MA helped them figure out that academia was not for them.
Terminal MA programs involve a two-year commitment, and the best programs provide full financial assistance (whether through fellowship or teaching assistantships). The importance of terminal MA programs is further highlighted by the ridiculous number of PhDs in philosophy currently being awarded. Everyone who is awake knows there are too many PhD programs in philosophy: too many in terms of demand for philosophy teachers; too many in terms of what is in the long-term interests of students; too many in terms of their quality. So let us be candid, with an eye to the well-being of young people interested in philosophy.
There are several examples of faculties that had (and could again have) very attractive terminal MA programs who have now added PhD programs in recent years: University of South Carolina, Arizona State University, Texas A&M University. There is no discernible reason other than institutional advancement for those schools to offer PhDs, and their faculties should lobby to return to the terminal MA. Most of these places were ranked in the PGR in earlier years for the quality of their terminal MA programs. It is shameful that they are now trying to recruit PhD students. [UPDATE: See the apt response of Prof. Portmore at ASU to the preceding.]
There are other schools that have had unnecessary PhD programs for awhile that also should convert to terminal MAs: University of Kansas, Michigan State University, and Tulane University are examples. These departments could plainly have some of the best terminal MA programs in the country if they chose to make that their focus.
And then, of course, there are PhD programs that should probably not award any graduate degrees, given the current quality of the faculty and the outcomes for graduates: Emory University; University of Oregon; Villanova University. Emory is the saddest case here, because this was a department that had some really good faculty who either departed or retired or expired (e.g., Donald Rutherford, Rudolf Makreel, Steven Strange). Despite being a wealthy private university, the department has been captured by mediocrities, and really should stop offering the PhD or even the MA. Even in the "SPEP" universe of middling scholars of the Continental traditions, Emory, Oregon and Villanova look to me like outliers. But it might be they could have great terminal MA programs for those going into the SPEP orbit.
I am opening comments here, but those who want to criticize or praise programs will have to do so with their full name and a valid e-mail address.
...at Philosophers Cocoon. An interesting series of posts, and a lot of advice worth thinking about, but I would caution job seekers not to think any of these represent formulas that must be followed. With that caveat, it's worth reading.
So with results from our two earlier polls (both of which got over 500 votes each), here are the "top 20"; where the vote differential between one journal and the journal ahead of it were substantial, I insert a line in between; where there is no line, it means the vote differences were relatively small.
1. Philosophical Review
3. Journal of Philosophy
5. Philosophy & Phenomenological Research
6. Australasian Journal of Philosophy
7. Philosophical Studies
8. Philosopher's Imprint
9. Philosophical Quarterly
13. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society
14. Canadian Journal of Philosophy
15. American Philosophical Quarterly
16. European Journal of Philosophy
17. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly
20. Philosophical Perspectives
Runner-up: Dialectica (trailing #20 by just four votes)
MIT is far and away the most narrow department among the top U.S. departments--it has no serious presence in the history of philosophy or the post-Kantian Continental traditions, for example, or even in political philosophy since Cohen left and Thomson retired--but that has no impact on its placement at other top departments. The explanation is simple, I think: it is, or at least has been, very strong in the language/mind/metaphysics/epistemology areas, though Stalnaker is about to retire (and he has been a key player in training students). But clearly plenty of top U.S. departments will hire adept "technicians" who have little or no knowledge of the history of philosophy or Marx or Nietzsche or Foucault. This is a fact about the Anglophone profession at present, one that I regret, but a fact nonetheless. Perhaps it will change.
Here's where tenure-track (junior) faculty in 2015-16 (with the tenure home in philosophy) at the top 25 U.S. programs (list below the fold) earned their PhD or DPhil; the first number is the total number of graduates in tenure-track positions at the top 25 U.S. programs; that is followed by the Department's PGR rank in 2014 and in 2006-08, the report many of those now in tenure-track jobs might have been using when deciding where to get their PhD.
1. New York University (11) (#1 in 2014, #1 in 2006)
2. Rutgers University, New Brunswick (7) (#2 in 2014, #2 in 2006)
3. Massachussetts Institute of Technology (6) (#13 in 2014; #7 in 2006)
3. Princeton University (6) (#2 in 2014, #3 in 2006)
3. University of California, Berkeley (6) (#10 in 2014; #12 in 2006)
6. Yale University (5) (#5 in 2014; #16 in 2006)
7. University of California, Los Angeles (4) (#10 in 2014; #7 in 2006)
7. University of Pittsburgh (4) (#6 in 2014; #5 in 2006)
9. Harvard University (3) (#6 in 2014; #7 in 2006)
9. Oxford University (3) (#1 in UK in both 2014 and 2006)
9. Stanford University (3) (#8 in 2014; #6 in 2006)
12. Columbia University (2) (#10 in 2014; #10 in 2006)
12. Cornell University (2) (#17 in 2014; #16 in 2006)
12. University of Arizona (2) (#13 in 2014; #13 in 2006)
12. University of California, San Diego (2) (#23 in 2014; #20 in 2006)
12. University of Maryland, College Park (2) (#31 in 2014; #27 in 2006)
12. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (2) (#13 in 2014; #10 in 2006)
12. University of Texas, Austin (2) (#17 in 2014; #13 in 2006)
12. University of Toronto (2) (#1 in Canada in both 2014 and 2006)
I've only listed overall rankings, but in the cases of departments outside the top ranks, the graduates who landed in top 25 programs worked in specialty areas where the program was even more highly ranked.
Each of the following programs has one PhD graduate in a tenure-track positions at one of the U.S. "top 25" departments: Michigan, Oklahoma, Cambridge, Paris I, Leeds, UC Irvine, Notre Dame, King's College-London, Catholic, Southern California, and Groningen. Of the top-ranked PGR programs, Michigan is, as in the past, the clear under-performer relative to its faculty strength. USC has, of course, only recently entered the top ranks of PhD programs, and I fully expect its placement to improve accordingly.
Below the fold, I list the graduate programs of the tenure-track faculty by each school; please e-mail me with corrections.
While advisors and committees are important, it can be incredibly helpful to discuss one’s work with peers in a lower-stakes environment, and it can be particularly enlightening to do so with those who take a different approach or have a different focus. Not only that, but there is evidence from psychological research that thinking about problems in relation to persons who are geographically distant can increase creativity. With students in programs from 8 countries and 20 different U.S. states, Virtual Dissertation Groups are a great (free!) way to capture some of these benefits.
The setup is simple: Students participate in three-membered groups, with one student each month sending a short-ish piece of writing to the other two for comments.
MOVING TO FRONT FROM YESTERDAY--COMMENTS ARE NOW OPEN, SEE THE UPDATE
Several readers sent this. The correct answer is, of course, 'yes."
UDPATE: A graduate student at a top PhD program writes:
I was wondering whether you would consider opening the thread up for discussion. I agree with you that grad students and adjuncts, and philosophy grad students and adjuncts in particular, ought to unionize. But I honestly have no idea how, and I would appreciate it if a discussion on the subject could point the way toward doing so. Which unions are grad students and adjuncts in philosophy joining if any?
More than half the respondents--56%, or about 300--report that the social media presence of job candidates has affected their job prospects. And more than half of those reported the effect was usually negative, with another third saying "sometimes positive, sometimes negative."
On the positive side, a bit more than half reported that social media use either had no impact or a positive one.
It might be interesting if faculty who responded to the poll could say a bit about the kinds of things they have seen on social media that have helped and/or hurt candidates.
Continental Philosophy Farhang Erfani, a philosopher at American University, provides a useful set of links to news, events, interviews, reviews, videos, etc. related to "Continental philosophy" (broadly construed)