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