Philosophy PhD Programs: University of British Columbia, University of Missouri, University of Nebraska, and University of Virginia

In this blog post I provide some detailed, up-to-date information about four* philosophy PhD programs. This week's picks are University of British Columbia, University of Missouri, University of Nebraska, and University of Virginia. These programs were chosen randomly, using an app called Pickster. (Next week's picks are listed at the bottom of this post.) This information comes from the APDA database, and was updated by my research assistant, Anna Durbin, using the program's placement page and what she could find online. The running tally includes select numbers from all of the programs covered so far.

*This is a one-off. I normally do 2.

tl;dr

  • These are all small to mid-sized programs, two of which have above average permanent academic placement (Nebraska and UVA)
  • UBC students focus on Science, Logic, and Math; Missouri students focus on LEMM and Value Theory; Nebraska students are in LEMM; and UVA are in Value Theory
  • UBC has above average gender and racial/ethnic diversity, Missouri has above average racial/ethnic and socioeconomic diversity, and UVA has above average socioeconomic diveristy
  • The program ratings for all four were at (Missouri and Nebraska) or below (UBC and UVA) average

Overall placement, 2012-present
UBC had 24 PhD graduates in this period, Missouri had 31, Nebraska had 17, and UVA had 32. Of these, the permanent academic placement rates for Nebraska and UVA are above average, whereas those for UBC and Missouri are below average. (In the paragraphs below, information is sometimes omitted due to too few students/graduates providing the information to report, e.g. salary.)

Of UBC’s 24 graduates, 22 went into academic or unknown employment, and they placed 7 of these into tenure-track or other permanent academic positions (32%), with 4 of these in programs that offer a PhD in philosophy (18%). Non-academic jobs held by graduates of UBC from this period are in university administration and data science.

Of Missouri’s 31 graduates, 27 went into academic or unknown employment, and they placed 7 of these into tenure-track or other permanent academic positions (26%), with 1 of these in a program that offers a PhD in philosophy (4%). Non-academic jobs held by graduates of Missouri from this period are in programming, science communication, and medical ethics. 63% of all Missouri’s current students and past graduates who answered the survey prefer an academic job.

Of Nebraska’s 17 graduates, 14 went into academic or unknown employment, and they placed 7 of these into tenure-track or other permanent academic positions (50%), with 1 of these in a program that offers a PhD in philosophy (7%). Non-academic jobs held by graduates of Nebraska from this period are in university administration and teaching. 83% of all Nebraska’s current students and past graduates who answered the survey prefer an academic job.

Finally, of UVA’s 32 graduates, 30 went into academic or unknown employment, and they placed 19 of these into tenure-track or other permanent academic positions (63%), with 4 of these in programs that offer a PhD in philosophy (13%). Non-academic jobs held by graduates of UVA from this period are in university administration and software engineering. 100% of all UVA’s current students and past graduates who answered the survey prefer an academic job, and the average salary of past graduates is $51,167.

The current database values for all 2012 and later graduates now in permanent academic positions, out of those in academic positions overall, is 42%, with 14% in programs that offer a PhD in philosophy. The average salary of all graduates who took part in the survey is $68,542 and 90% prefer an academic job.

Areas of Specialization, by Category
All past and current students in the APDA database are categorized by primary area of specialization, divided into Language, Epistemology, Metaphysics, and Mind (LEMM), Value Theory (Value), History and Traditions (History), and Science, Logic and Math (Science). Each of these four programs has a different specialization profile, but they share below average specialization in History.

UBC students tend to be in Science (50%; 31% LEMM, 19% Value, 0% History), and the majority of 2012 and later graduates who found permanent academic placement from UBC are in Science (57%; 29% LEMM, 14% Value, 0% History).

Missouri students tend to be in either LEMM or Value (38% each; 3% History, 21% Science), but 2012 and later graduates who found permanent academic placement from Missouri were largely in Value or Science (43% each; 14% LEMM, 0% History).

Nebraska students tend to be in LEMM (46%; 36% Value, 14% History, 4% Science), and the majority of 2012 and later graduates who found permanent academic placement from Nebraska are in LEMM (57%; 29% Value, 0% History, 14% Science).

UVA students tend to be in Value (42%; 30% LEMM, 16% History, 12% Science), and the plurality of 2012 and later graduates who found permanent academic placement from UVA are in Value (37%; 21% each LEMM, History, and Science).

Note that the current database values for all past graduates and current students are 28% in LEMM, 33% in Value Theory, 24% in History and Traditions, and 15% in Science, Logic, and Math.

Diversity
Including all past graduates and current students, only one of these four programs has an above average percentage of women: UBC (34%). Missouri is 17% women, Nebraska 22%, and UVA 20%.

The current database percentage is 31% for all past graduates and current students.

Including only those past graduates and current students who answered questions about race and ethnicity, 20% from UBC, 31% from Missouri, and 11% from UVA identified as something other than White, non-Hispanic. (Too few from Nebraska provided this information to report.)

13% is the overall proportion reported by APDA in 2017. The percentage from the Diversity and Inclusivity survey is 14%. The current database percentage is 21%, but this is likely inflated relative to the true population due to some of our data gathering efforts.

43% of those from Missouri were first generation college students, as were 29% of UVA students, but too few UBC and Nebraska students provided this information to report.

The percentage of all survey respondents who are first generation college students is 23.4%, compared to 31% for all United States doctoral degree recipients in 2015.

Students from UBC provided one public comment on how philosophy could be more inclusive:

Expanding any of the existing initiatives or steps aimed at increasing the representation of women in philosophy to other groups that are underrepresented would be a good first step. Likewise, the community in general (rather than just a few disparate individuals) could actually openly acknowledge that these groups are underrepresented instead of ignoring the situation.

As did students from Nebraska:

Create a more nurturing environment. Do a better job explaining how the problems of philosophy are interesting and fun and applicable to the real world and real life problems. Also, that by becoming a good philosopher, one has had the best possible mental training to combat all forms of argumentation, and many forms of oppression.

And UVA:

None. The only way the discipline could become more inclusive is by becoming openly hostile to non-underrepresented groups. Though to be fair, such open hostility is already occasionally evident.
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 students provided average or below ratings of these programs. Missouri and Nebraska’s average ratings were highest, at 4.0 (n=6 for Nebraska and n=11 for Missouri; corresponds with “somewhat likely”), followed by UVA at 3.9 (n=9) and UBC at 3.2 (n=6; corresponds with “neither likely nor unlikely). None of the programs had a moderate or higher correlation between graduation year and program rating. Of 69 programs with at least 10 survey participants who are past graduates, 14 had moderate negative correlations between these values, 7 had moderate positive correlations, and there is a slight negative overall correlation of -.06.

"Somewhat likely," 4.0, is the average rating reported in 2017. The current database overall average is the same, with an average of 3.7 for teaching, 3.9 for research, and 3.7 for financial support. It is worth noting that some students give lower ratings to their program because they would not recommend a graduate education in philosophy to anyone or because they think it is more difficult to find employment from that program for reasons that have little to do with the quality of that program.
In response to: "Rate your satisfaction with the advice and preparation this program provides to its graduate students for undergraduate teaching," Missouri students selected "satisfied" (3.7, n=9), as did UVA students (3.9, n=7). (Too few UBC and Nebraska students provided this or the following information to report.)

In response to: "Rate your satisfaction with the advice and preparation this program provides to its graduate students for academic research," Missouri students selected "satisfied" (4.0, n=8), as did UVA students (3.9, n=7).

In response to: "Rate your satisfaction with the financial support this program provides for its graduate students, Missouri students again selected "satisfied" (3.9, n=9), as did UVA students (4.1, n=7).

Public Comments
(Note that these comments primarily come from current students and recent graduates, but in some cases may be from non-recent graduates.)

UBC students provided public comments on the program overall:
Great faculty--great philosophers, very supportive of students. Very fluid boundaries between disciplines, allowing me to work heavily with faculty and other grad students in the psychology department. Strong graduate students, good community.
on preparation for teaching:
At my department we have a good program in place to help new TAs - workhops, mentoring, and a teaching program available.
on preparation for research:
Term papers are what have the best chance of eventually turning into publishable papers, when you are a grad student. Sometimes I got few comments from profs on these, which was disheartening. But despite this lack of individual attention in classes, my program has offered workshops on publishing, professionalization etc. and some profs have been helpful in offering comments on papers when I have requested them.
and on financial support:
Four years guaranteed funding, though who finishes in four years? Lots of students scramble in their 5th and 6th years.
The university in general has a funding problem, in that it treats all PhD programs as a 4-year degree for funding purposes. This means that all graduate students are guaranteed funding for the first 4 years, but things can be tricky after that. In many cases, as in mine, particular professors are able to provide funding for a fifth and/or sixth year, but some graduate students suddenly have to do a lot of teaching just when they need to be focusing on their dissertations and job market.

Missouri students provided some public comments on the program overall:

Collegial, rigorous, analytic, supportive, frank, qualified faculty, connected broadly to the discipline
I would have certainly recommended the department at Missouri a decade ago when I graduated. But since then, the University as a whole and the department in particular have been rocked by scandals. Additionally, the department has lost a number of their top faculty since I was a graduate student.

Nebraska students provided public comments on the program overall:

The quality of the instruction at UNL is great, the faculty members are very open and willing to discuss ideas, papers, etc. with students, and the grad-student environment is both supportive and inclusive.
Very soild training in the fundamentals in philosophy. The process towards the degree is rigorous. One will be ready for the job market, and the publishing market, and have a solid education in their specialization under their belt. This institution would be much more highly recognized for its excellence if it were on one of the coasts.

on preparation for teaching:

I had a lot of experience in teaching, or assisting in teaching, a wide variety of courses before entering the market. I felt very comfortable in the classroom on my own, and knew how to structure a good course, by the time I graduated.
The graduate students run a teaching colloquium that meets weekly, and individual professors are generally very helpful when asked about teaching strategies. It would be more helpful if there was more structured, formal discussion about teaching and pedagogy between faculty members and graduate students.

and on financial support:

Pay and workload were decent.

Finally, UVA students provided public comments on the program overall:

A small department has certain advantages: you actually know nearly everyone in the department. The department seems like a family to me.
Good faculty-student relations. Most faculty are friendly with each other. Great campus. Good preparation for the job market. .
The department was very supportive. I was especially fortunate in terms of my advisor, who was dedicated and generous with their time, but the department as a whole wanted students to succeed and provided us with guidance and assistance. Also, the graduate students were collaborative rather than competitive. .

on preparation for teaching:

I think that the program provides a lot of good opportunities to learn how to teach and to be mentored by faculty members.
Students typically TA for larger lectures then grade and have smaller discussion sections after the lectures. Faculty are usually good about meeting with grad student TAs and modeling good teaching. The department also provided intro level classes that were designed/taught by grad students during the semester and summer. There is space for more deliberate teaching instruction though.
The best advice and preparation I received was from the writing program at the University of Virginia, which hired some philosophy graduate students to teach freshman writing. We had a one-day seminar on teaching freshman writing, but some of the techniques (such as how to keep paper grading manageable) were useful in teaching philosophy as well.
The department encourages grad student teaching, first as TAs, later as instructor with full responsibility for the course. There were a good number of opportunities to design and teach your own courses (especially during the summer) when I was there.

on preparation for research:

There was plenty of support for research and faculty were always helpful with individual research projects. I think a bit more explicit guidance about submitting papers to conferences would be good. Perhaps this is the sort of thing that could be built in to the first year seminar and a dissertation seminar.

and on financial support:

I found the financial support to be better than I expected.
I had funding from the department for about half my stay. The other half was gotten by teaching Academic Writing, something which might not be an option anymore.
Stipends, etc. plus the area made things comfortable enough. Support for travel was always very good.
The stipend was good enough for a graduate stipend and health insurance was provided. I wished for more financial support for conference travel and more support in terms of office space in the department.

Next week I hope to look at McMaster University and University of Washington. Feedback is welcome, at apda@ucmerced.edu.

Link to this post at: http://placementdata.com:8182/philosophy-phd-programs/