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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Langdon
Langdon
6 years ago

“teaching intensive” and “time left over to do additional, résumé-boosting research” seem to be at odds. Exactly how “intensive” is the teaching. If it’s anything over a 2/2, well, best of luck.Report

Langdon
Langdon
6 years ago

I also like that they are called “assistant adjunct professors”. Not yet adjunct professors. A student can dream though.Report

Matt Drabek
Matt Drabek
6 years ago

Any graduate student who isn’t presenting at conferences and networking with philosophers (also also other people for potential non-academic careers) is wasting valuable opportunities. Saving those things for after the dissertation while possibly juggling a high teaching load is simply bad, counter-productive career advice. That said, if you’re a grad student in this type of program, and you do professional development activities anyway, this is a mild improvement over lots of current set-ups, especially if the “assistant adjunct professor” pay is a living wage.Report

Grad Sockpuppet
Grad Sockpuppet
6 years ago

FWIW:

“Year five is a fellowship to complete one’s dissertation. Successful new Ph.D.s are offered assistant adjunct professorships to teach in Humanities Core and possibly in their own departments in year six, with two-thirds of a full teaching load and two-thirds the pay of tenure-track assistant professors. Those with a strong teaching record are reappointed in year seven.”Report

Langdon
Langdon
6 years ago

What is 2/3 of a 2-2?Report

Shane Epting
6 years ago

I’m defending at the end of summer, beginning of my fifth year, giving me the fall to apply for jobs. During the last 4 years, I taught 2 courses per semester (w/ summer courses also), published articles, guested edited 2 issues of an interdisciplinary journal related to my AOS, co-organized 5 international philosophy conferences, 3 interdisciplinary conferences, presented at dozens of other conferences (while squeezing every nickel from my program/University/student loans to pay for it), gave invited talks, cofounded the Philosophy of the City Research Group w/ faculty from other institutions (along with figuring out how to set up an Open Access journal, Philosophy of the City Journal). And my committee chair landed a new job at another university, forcing me to scramble for a new chair during the final stretch. Not to brag or complain (per se), but in retrospect, the heavy workload helped me become a better philosopher, worker, and person. Wouldn’t have it any other way.Report

grady
grady
6 years ago

A 4/3 – 4/3?Report

UCI lecturer
UCI lecturer
6 years ago

the wage is $38K and the teaching load is 2-1-1 (Irvine has three “quarters” per year rather than two semesters). i just taught a 2-2-2 load in the humanities core program at UCI and managed to complete or nearly complete 4 research projects in various stages of development and attend 2 international conferences. the wage is good and the teaching load is certainly not too heavy to get research done.Report

UCI lecturer
UCI lecturer
6 years ago

I should also mention that the teaching position is not one in which you are building your own course. there are weekly lectures made by tenured faculty in large lecture halls, and then discussion section leaders (which is what one is in this 5+2 program) that base their sections on that material, administer the writing assignments, and do the grading. yes, the grading can be time-consuming since it is a writing intensive course that requires multiple drafts for the various assignments, but again, a 2-1-1 is not too heavy.Report

Grad Sockpuppet
Grad Sockpuppet
6 years ago

UCI Lecturer: Hmm. Here, that would be a TAship…Report

UCI lecturer
UCI lecturer
6 years ago

Yes. The role one has in the HumCore program in this 5+2 program is identical to the role of a TA. The HumCore program is staffed by a mix of those with the TA job title and those with the “lecturer” job title (which is confusing, because the “lecturers” are the one’s leading the discussion sections, not giving the lectures in the big lecture halls — it’s just a job title). The difference is that TAs can only teach a 1-1-1 whereas lecturers (and now these 5+2 AAPs) can teach more. AAPs in the 5+2 program will basically be doing the duties of a TA, with one extra discussion section per year, but making way better money.Report

Michael Kremer
Michael Kremer
6 years ago

Just to pick up on a bit of an aside in the article: “most philosophy dissertations are a series of articles, not book-length works.” This is not the case, in my experience. “Some,” of course — but “most”? I’m guessing it is still a substantial minority of all dissertations that are written in this way. Any thoughts?Report

dubious
dubious
6 years ago

Won’t this be seen as a second class system? The well pedigreed people will still take 8-9 years at Harvard, and then sleepwalk into a TT job with no publications.Report

Anon Grad Student
Anon Grad Student
6 years ago

Not to be a jerk about it, but I often see people who finish in four or five years talk about having multiple publications. Let me offer an unfair generalization based upon my anecdata (5<n<50): if you've published twice before the end of your fifth year, your publications are almost certainly not very good. Perhaps some of us are being pushed at too-high a target: not everything need be "Is justified true belief knowledge?" But still that might explain why some of us take longer and some don't — the height of the hurdle put in front of us.

(Feel free, four- and five-year finishers, to continue to insist that the difference is mostly or only the higher caliber of your being.)Report

Grumble
Grumble
6 years ago

People in the UK generally take a maximum of 4 years nowadays due to university rules against taking longer. We also need to get multiple publications to stand a chance on the job market. I think this is the same in most of Europe. Don’t forgot, North Americans, that the world – even the philosophy world – extends beyond North America.Report

Aaron Garrett
Aaron Garrett
6 years ago

I really worry that the 5-year model will extinguish certain areas of scholarship. Try to write a good dissertation on Medieval or Renaissance (perish the thought!) in five years. Or an ancient dissertation that has strong Classics crossover. Or any history dissertation involving language competence and a modicum of archival work. Or a philosophy of science dissertation where competence in philosophy, in a science , and in one’s specialist area of philosophy are all demanded. Or echoing Michael Kremer’s point a dissertation that is not a group of articles in an area without the demands of the above, but a unified work worth reading. I’m not saying that the sorts of dissertations one can do well in five years with course work and other demands aren’t worthwhile, obviously they are. I’m saying that if this became the model there would be a decisive incentive against pursuing those very worthwhile kinds of projects.Report

Pubs
Pubs
6 years ago

What #14 proposes strikes me as almost so ridiculous that I don’t know where to start, and I can’t believe it has 8 thumbs-ups. I must conclude that the post and the “like”s come from job-seekers with 0 or 1 publications.

The proposal is that the existence of more than 1 publication is _evidence_ that those publications are no good. It sounds to me like the conclusion of a reductio. What is the evidence for it? Why is 1 publication good, but 2 is not good? #14 doesn’t even mention the journal quality, and it takes a lot to get through peer review in this <5% acceptance rate era. "I know you have an AJP acceptance, so don't let Nous publish that paper; people will think worse of you."Report

B
B
6 years ago

@UCI lecturer: it’s the norm for someone to be at UCI for seven years and receive the PhD and still never teach her own course? That strikes me as very bad, and not at all helpful for competing in such a competitive job market. I would have thought the main purpose for this 5+2 thing would be to get students finished *so that* they could start teaching their own courses. I hope UCI rethinks this.Report

UCI Lecturer
UCI Lecturer
6 years ago

@B: no, most if not all UCI philosophy grads will teach their own course within the philosophy dept. i’m not sure how this new 5+2 program will affect that. I think there is the option for at least one quarter of the “+2” part to include teaching in one’s own dept. I also think students will be able to teach their own course during the “5” part. I know at least one person thus far to do the new model and teach her own philosophy course in the dept. prior to embarking on the “+2” part.Report

Anon Grad Student
Anon Grad Student
6 years ago

Pubs,

If this helps, I invite you to re-read my comment. In my comment, I offer explicit answers to your questions, anticipating the concerns. As I suggested there, it is my experience that people who both finish in five years or less and also have more than one publication are likely to have relatively poor publications.

Does this mean that I’m suggesting that the fact of the second publication would make the first publication worse? Of course not, and I’m sure you’re not straw-manning me by implying that I would have suggested that.

Does this mean that I’m suggesting that literally every single scholar who finished in five years or fewer with more than two publications has only published relatively weaker material? Again, of course not, and there, too, I’m sure you’re not straw-manning me by reading my generalization from my personal experience as claiming some exceptionless rule.

Does this mean that I’m suggesting that all of those publications are terrible publications, abominations to read, and an embarrassment to the field? No, of course not. But I’m sure you wouldn’t be reading my “not very good” as “no good,” since that would be tendentious and improper. Notice the comparison to the Gettier paper. You might think that I was suggesting that the Gettier paper marks the absolute low end of publishable papers; that would be a very uncharitable read.

If something both strikes you as ridiculous and seems to be garnering some (albeit too much) approval, that might be good reason to see if there’s a charitable read to be had.Report