A New Structure for Philosophy PhD Programs? (updated)

A New Structure for Philosophy PhD Programs? (updated)


Under the so-called 5+2 program, humanities graduate students at Irvine will receive additional funding designed to push them through course work and their dissertations within five years. Those who finish within that time frame are eligible to apply for an up to two-year, teaching-intensive postdoc. Assistant adjunct professors, as they’re called, will receive relatively high pay and supposedly have time left over to do additional, résumé-boosting research and apply for jobs… The program is being launched with a $2.7 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

That’s from an Inside Higher Ed article on efforts to reduce the amount of time graduate students spend obtaining their doctoral degrees. The program is being piloted in two departments at UC Irvine, one of which is Philosophy.

Casey Perin, an associate professor of philosophy who directs the department’s graduate program, said 5+2 is especially appealing within the discipline because most philosophy dissertations are a series of articles, not book-length works.

But there’s a broader appeal, he said via email, since it “enables a grad student to focus exclusively on the completion of his or her dissertation in the years after he or she has advanced to candidacy.” Currently, he said, graduate students “tend to engage in a range of professional development activities — writing papers to submit to journals, delivering papers at conferences, taking on additional teaching duties to broaden their teaching portfolio — while writing their dissertation. Invariably this extends the time it takes a grad student to complete the dissertation (in those cases where he or she does complete the dissertation).”

With 5+2, students don’t work on professional development activities until after they finish their dissertations, Perin said. So those two years “can be spent revising dissertation material for publication or submission to conferences, developing new courses of their own or teaching in an interdisciplinary program, and conducting a national job search.”

Is this an improvement over the status quo?

UPDATE (6/23/15): Aaron James, chair of philosophy at UC Irvine, writes: 

The Philosophy Department is excited about the new 5+2 option, which will be especially helpful for students who plan to mine their dissertations for articles, and who’d benefit from a more structured path to professionalization, with humanistic focused teaching. For students whose projects require more time, or whose temperaments need more flexibility, they still have the more conventional option. The hope is for more sensitivity to different creative dispositions, while increasing overall time to degree and further reducing risks of wandering in the wilderness in search of the magnum opus.

(image: detail of “2905 (Beijing)” by Sarah Morris)

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