Philosophy PhD Programs: Princeton University and University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

In this blog post I provide some detailed, up-to-date information about two philosophy PhD programs. This week's picks are Princeton University and University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. These programs were chosen randomly, using an app called "Pickster." (Next week's picks are listed at the bottom of this post.) I updated this information myself, using the program's placement page and what I could find online. I aim to construct these posts with an eye to what can be seen about the programs from the APDA data set alone. This information has come from several sources, including current students and graduates. Prospective graduate students should look at the websites for the programs, linked above, for more complete information. The running tally includes select numbers from all of the programs covered so far.

tl;dr

  • Princeton and UNC both have very strong placement records
  • Both programs have students across the four specialization categories, but the plurality of Princeton students and those placed in permanent positions were in History and Traditions, whereas for UNC they were in Value Theory
  • UNC is stronger in gender and socioeconomic diversity, but both programs have higher than overall racial and ethnic diversity
  • Both Princeton and UNC students gave their own programs strong endorsements, with UNC stronger in training for undergraduate teaching and Princeton stronger in financial support and training for research

Overall placement, 2012-present
Princeton University appears to have had 65 graduates in this period, whereas UNC has had 38. Of these, Princeton has placed 33 into tenure-track or other permanent academic positions (51%), with 20 of these in programs that offer a PhD in philosophy (31%). UNC has placed 21 into permanent academic positions (55%), and 7 in programs with a PhD (18%). Of Princeton's other graduates, 10 are now in postdoctoral or fellowship positions, 14 are in other temporary academic positions, and 7 are in nonacademic positions. Of UNC's other graduates, 3 are in postdoctoral or fellowship positions, 12 are in other temporary academic positions, and 2 are in nonacademic positions.

Note that the overall proportion of 2012-2016 graduates from the 135 programs tracked by APDA in permanent academic positions is 36%, with 11% in PhD granting programs.

Areas of Specialization, by Category
Including all past and current students in the APDA database, 27% of Princeton students are in LEMM, 24% are in Value Theory, 31% are in History and Traditions, and 19% Science, Logic and Math. 28% of UNC students are in LEMM, 45% are in Value Theory, 15% are in History and Traditions, and 12% are in Science, Logic, and Math. Of Princeton's graduates 2012 onward placed into permanent academic positions, 6 were in LEMM, 9 were in Value Theory, 12 were in History and Traditions, and 6 were in Science, Logic, and Math. Of UNC's graduates 2012 onward placed into permanent academic positions, 6 were in LEMM, 9 were in Value Theory, 3 were in History and Traditions, and 3 were in Science, Logic, and Math.

Diversity
Including all past graduates, 31% of Princeton graduates are women and 39% of UNC graduates are women. Including only current students, 29% of Princeton students are women, and 43% of UNC students are women.

29% is the overall proportion reported by APDA in 2017.

Including all past graduates and current students, 18% of those who answered questions about race and ethnicity from Princeton identified as something other than white, non-Hispanic. 17% of those from UNC identified as something other than white, non-Hispanic.

13% is the overall proportion reported by APDA in 2017.

None of the past or current Princeton students who answered survey questions about socioeconomic status were first generation college students, but 22% of the UNC students were. Similarly, all of the Princeton students identified as middle, upper middle, or upper SES, whereas UNC spanned the lower middle to upper categories.

Princeton students did not provide public comments on how philosophy could be more inclusive. UNC students provided one:

More diverse faculty and student bodies.

Program Rating
In response to the question: "How likely would you be to recommend the program from which you obtained or will obtain your PhD to prospective philosophy students?" past and current Princeton students selected something between "somewhat likely" and "definitely would recommend," on average (4.4). UNC students selected something closer to "definitely would recommend" (4.6).

"Somewhat likely," 4.0, is the average rating reported in 2017.

In response to: "Rate your satisfaction with the advice and preparation this program provides to its graduate students for undergraduate teaching," 57% of Princeton students selected "satisfied" and 43% selected "neutral" or "unsatisfied." 89% of UNC students selected "very satisfied" or "satisfied," and 11% selected "neutral" or "very unsatisfied."

In response to: "Rate your satisfaction with the advice and preparation this program provides to its graduate students for academic research," 71% of Princeton students selected "very satisfied," and 29% selected "satisfied." 89% of UNC students selected "very satisfied" or "satisfied," and 11% selected "unsatisfied" or "very unsatisfied."

In response to: "Rate your satisfaction with the financial support this program provides for its graduate students," 86% of Princeton students selected "very satisfied" and 14% selected "satisfied." 89% of UNC students selected "very satisfied" or "satisfied," and 11% selected "neutral" or "unsatisfied."

Public Comments

Princeton students left the following public comments about their program overall:

Flexible structure and a great community of graduate students. Especially good for students who know what they want to work on.

on training for undergraduate teaching:

Princeton has few opportunities for undergraduate teaching experience. Our requirements as Teaching Assistants are minimal, and there are few opportunities at Princeton itself for additional teaching experience.

and on training for research:

Excellent feedback on work. Program does a good job of inculcating professional article writing standards.
The highly individualized and self-starting units program is the best preparation I can imagine for independent research.

UNC students left the following public comments about their program overall:

Community of graduate students; collegiality and availability of faculty; location; overall strength of university; broad strengths of the faculty; strong financial support
The faculty were extremely supportive, the graduate student climate was lively and non-competitive, and I received good training in an array of areas.
Friendly and collegial faculty and fellow grad students. Cooperative and supportive environment. Teaching and service opportunities abound.

on training for undergraduate teaching:

Good teaching experience, with strong mentoring from faculty.
Graduate students are offered not only many opportunities to TA and teach as primary instructors, but also a variety of pedagogy workshops and mentorship resources.
UNC CH does much better than most graduate programs that I know of.
UNC prepares its students to be good teachers better than almost any similarly ranked program. After TA-ing two courses, our students have the opportunity to teach their own courses, and most of us end up teaching 5-6 of our own courses over the course of the program. This is incredibly valuable teaching experience. The department also holds multiple teaching workshops per semester, many of which are very helpful for learning how to teach effectively.

on training for research:

Coursework is intense, through, and longer lasting than at many other programs. Lots of hurdles along the way to guarantee that research skills are developing (MA thesis, area exams, dissertation prospectus).
Good appreciation of history of philosophy and how it informs contemporary debates.
After completing the program, I feel fully ready to launch a research career.

and on financial support:

Stipends were decent, and Chapel Hill is not a super expensive area. I was able to save money.
Liveable or better if one did summer school teaching.
The financial support was adequate for me to live a reasonably comfortable life while completing the program.
Because the department does not cover fees, our stipend is closer to $18,000 than the advertised $20,000+ most years (before taxes). This might cover the absolute necessities for someone who lives with roommates, has no health or childcare costs, no car, etc, but I have not been able to make it work without additional income. Pay periods in the summer can be ridiculous (e.g. a student might have their last full pay check April 30 and not get another full paycheck until August 1, depending on the summer teaching schedule). The department is not particularly mindful that the low stipend or informed about variability in pay periods could pose any issue, and they highly discourage any outside employment (even forbid it above a certain number of hours), facts I interpret to reveal a lack of awareness of the realities of graduate student financial life.*

Next week I hope to look at Victoria University of Wellington and University of California, San Diego. Feedback is welcome, at apda@ucmerced.edu.

*I have been notified by a current student at UNC that the stipend should now be as advertised, since the department began covering student fees.