Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Faster Humanities Ph.D.s, But at What Cost?

Inside Higher Ed
June 23rd, 2015


Critics have long said graduate students in the humanities take too long -- a decade is not uncommon -- to earn their Ph.D.s. But the calls for reform attracted new converts and grew louder after 2008, when available tenure-track positions in the humanities dropped in number. With fewer available positions, some said, programs needed to help their students accrue less debt and get them out on the job market faster. One of the more prominent calls for reducing time to degree came from the Modern Language Association, which last year published a report advocating that departments adopt a reasonable five-year timeline for graduate study, provide adequate funding within that period and focus more on career preparation.
The report generated significant debate and soul searching within departments but so far relatively few have proposed new timelines and models. So an idea taking shape at the University of California at Irvine is notable. 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.

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