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« Biographia Literaria (so to speak) | Main | Annals of a Quiet Neighborhood »

July 22, 2014



My understanding was that it was assumed that the private schools, especially the more prestigious ones, are under no obligation to close their doors in response to calls by the MLA. The only place where that pressure might work would be the public universities, where upper administrations might want to close such programs regardless of whether or not they were any good. Unless the MLA is prepared to put a number on it--and doing that would be massively unpopular, I think--it would disadvantage less prestigious, and especially public programs.

Mr Punch

In New York, actually, the Regents have in the past shut down programs at both public and private institutions; I don't know that there's another state where this is possible. In general, publics are under greater pressure because they are regulated by state boards more focused on overall efficiency than on institutional imperatives.

Contingent Cassandra

As the holder of a Ph.D. from an Ivy, I second your assessment: the combination of shorter expected-time-to-degree, less teaching experience, and some other factors (stars moving around apparently for the sake of moving around, a general attitude that grad students ought to be able to take care of themselves) do not necessarily make Ivy graduates successful job candidates (or, further down the road, tenure candidates). People tend to land on their feet (in academia or not), but the journey can be painful.

Personally, rather than see programs close or reduce cohort sizes, I'd like to see them adopt every-second-year or every-third-year admissions. That could get tricky on a number of levels (some of which I worry about -- students' ability to choose among programs -- and some of which I don't -- how they're going to manage to teach the undergrad classes without the usual complement of TAs), but it would have the advantage of maintaining the maximum level of intellectual diversity, and probably more access than if grad education were consolidated into substantially fewer programs.

There's no painless solution to producing fewer Ph.D.s, but this seems better than some of the other options.

What may actually happen, at least from what I've seen, is that programs at less-funded, usually public schools, will close because they can't compete on funding with other programs, and prospective students are becoming (rightfully) increasingly skeptical about whether getting a Ph.D. is a good idea.

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