Stats on Philosophy Grad Placements

Vindication is sweet. Contrary to earlier reports from a certain corner of the philosophy blogosphere, a good number of pluralist philosophy Ph.D. granting programs excel at getting their students into tenure-track jobs. And they are also exceptionally good places for women to study philosophy.

The database amassed by Carolyn Dicey Jennings and her colleagues (Patrice Cobb, Chelsea Gordon, Bryan Kerster, Angelo Kyrilov, Evette Montes, Sam Spevack, David W. Vinson, and Justin Vlasits) for the 2016 Academic Placement Data and Analysis show that of the roughly 117 programs for which there is data,

  • the pluralist (meaning not overwhelmingly analytic) departments  SIU, Oregon, Villanova, DePaul, Yale, Emory, Northwestern, and Duquesne are in the top quarter for students getting permanent academic positions;
  • also in the top half are Vanderbilt, Fordham, and Stony Brook;
  • of these programs, Vanderbilt, DePaul, Oregon, New Mexico, Emory, and Villanova are in the top half for percentage of women Ph.D.s
  • other solid programs for women and continental philosophers (meaning hovering toward the middle for job placement) include Northwestern and Duquesne

So, while no one goes into a philosophy graduate program for the great job prospects, anyone willing to take the risk of spending at least half a decade on the training is wise to follow her heart. If you want to study Dewey or Heidegger or Kristeva or Deleuze or whomever in a pluralist or continental program, such as any of the above, go for it.

You can see this all for yourself here at this sortable database. Just click at the top of the column your interested in to see how the programs line up.

(Caveat: if I have failed to include a pluralist department in the above categories, please let me know.)


Philwikis to the rescue (updated 2x)

In the age of big data, crowdsourcing, and the philosophy hive mind, why not let the entire philosophical community contribute to showcasing all the great work going on in philosophy graduate programs around the world — and by extension how well trained are the people teaching undergraduates at liberal arts and other colleges and universities?  Thanks to Shawn A. Miller, this alternative is rolling and I am delighted to be a part of it.

UPDATE: I think the philwiki that I am overseeing, on twentieth century continental philosophy, will be live in about a week, maybe sooner.  It will be able to list all the PhD programs in the world with at least one faculty member specializing in some area of 20th century continental philosophy (substantiated by a university website or publicly accessible CV).  That is the baseline.  Then there is the capacity to find out how numerous the faculty is and what sub-areas are specialized in.  And there will be links to faculty websites and philpapers profilles.  All this will depend on the philosophical community updating the wiki.  I’ll put forward a really good start, then it will be up to all of us to keep making it better.

UPDATE: The philwiki on 20th century continental philosophy is available here: Note that this is not a finished product — not at all — but the start of an ongoing project for those doing work in continental philosophy to continue filling out and improving.  If you do not see yourself or your program here, and you think you or it should be, please go into the edit mode and make the additions.  There are lots of instructions on the site. And I’m happy to help too.

A Search Engine for Philosophy

Search the NRC Data on Grad Programs

To continue the theme of philosophy ranking on a positive note, it is indeed easy to see how different programs rank in terms of placement and grad student support.  The website has the NRC data on its website in an easily searchable form. (NRC for the National Research Council which has released its pre-publication report to be published by the National Academies press.) In addition to student success, you can rank by repuational quality, research productivity, diversity, and student resources.  Here’s a link to the philosophy grad programs rankings.  Under “choose your own priorities” you can find get the rankings by whatever criteria you select.

From Student to Scholar

I know there are more pressing matters in the world today, but I want to spread the word about a little book I just read, having picked it up from the Columbia University Press table at the SPEP meeting last week.  (That’s the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy — doesn’t exactly slip off the tongue like “SPEP”.)  The book is From Student to Scholar: A Candid Guide to Becoming a Professor.  I think it’s safe to say that I’ve already traversed this path, but I still tend to wonder whether I missed anything along the road.  Having finished the book, I can say “no,” nothing new here.  But that is only because I had a lot of excellent advice along the way, and I was outgoing enough to network a lot, and had enough hubris to try to publish with great publishing houses (like Columbia).  I think a lot of others never learned these lessons, or learned them too late, and many graduate students are just beginning on the road.  For all those just beginning or still at the early stages prior to tenure, I highly recommend Cahn’s book. For those who mentor graduate students and junior faculty, I recommend that they read this as well.

It’s a pleasant, short read at under 100 pages. The ten chapters are these:

1. Graduate School

2. The Dissertation

3. Networking

4. The First Interview

5. Dramatis Personae

6. The Second Interview

7. Tenure

8. Teaching

9. Service

10. Research

and then a finale and an epilogue.

It’s a good read, chalk full of sage advice on how to navigate the journey successfully from someone who made it all the way to being provost at CUNY.

This blog of mine gets lots of hits from people curious about the rankings of philosophy departments. If you are a student worried about your future, hell bent on picking the right graduate school that will ease your path, I suggest that you worry less about the rankings, focus more on finding the place that will prepare you to do what you love, look for faculty members whose work you admire, and buy and consult regularly Steven Cahn’s fabulous little book.


I seem to slack off on blogging in the summer.  Good thing this isn’t a job.  I’ve spent most of the summer at home at the computer, at the pool, with the kids, doing a little writing, random reading, following the Olympics, going to the gym, cringing at McCain’s ads, hoping Barack can live up to the hype and be what we hope he can be, going for walks, and looking forward to the fall when I’ll be on sabbatical, of sorts, working on my next book.

I notice that certain of my former posts continue to get lots of hits.  One set is about philosophy rankings.  Clearly there’s a lot of angst out there about what the best graduate schools are for doctoral work in philosophy.  Hey, follow your dream, and follow the people you want to study with.  Another is my old post about Barack Obama’s mother.  Occasionally I’ll get a comment from some right-winger who wants to paint her as a runaway mom who sloughed off her motherly responsibilities, never mind that Obama states in his autobiography that he chose to stay in Hawaii with his grandparents to attend high school there, a very nice high school indeed.

So while I’ve been absent from posting, the blog continues to have some use.  By the end of August I will probably start posting again more regularly. Until then, enjoy the sun.

Perplexing Percentages: Women, Philosophy Faculties, and the Rankings

Last summer Julie Van Camp put up a list of the percentage of women tenured/tenure-track faculty in 98 U.S. doctoral programs. The range is from 50 percent at Penn State and the University of Georgia (brava!) down to six percent at the University of Florida and the University of Texas, five percent at the University of Michigan, and zero percent at the University of Dallas. Dallas has only eight people on the faculty so maybe it is just going through a bad spell. But Florida, Michigan, and Texas have no such excuse. Only one out of 17 faculty at Florida are women, only one out of 22 at Michigan, and an appalling two out of 32 at Texas. Shame, shame, shame. On top of it all, the 90 percent-male evaluators of the Leiter report ranked Michigan 3d and Texas 13th among Ph.D. granting universities, while the five universities with the most women on their faculty don’t even make the list. Surprised?

[Correction: I’ve learned that Julie Van Camp first started tracking the percentage of tenured/tenure track women in Ph.D. granting philosophy programs beginning in 2004 and updates the list a couple of times a year.]

The Deciders and Philosophy Rankings

Many people regularly visit this blog of mine to see what’s being said here about philosophy rankings, namely, the infamous Leiter report. Some say that if a philosophy Ph.D. program isn’t “Leiterrific” — if it doesn’t score well on the Leiter report — then it’s objectively not a terrific program. I beg to differ. The best evidence for objecting to the report’s credibility is the narrowness of the specialties of those who conduct the rankings. The evaluators simply do not represent the profession as a whole and so could hardly speak for what’s best in the profession as a whole. Look here to see the list of evaluators who filled out the reputational rankings for Leiter’s 2006-2008 report. It looks like fully half the rankers specialize in metaphysics and epistemology (M&E). Ninety percent of the rankers are male. And few, if any, work in continental philosophy, pragmatist theory, feminist philosophy, or Africana philosophy. And for the most part, the rankers are from the very same set of schools that are ranked at the top. True, they’re not allowed to pick their own institutions or alma mater, but they certainly pick their kissing cousins. Calling all you philosophers of science out there: does this look like good methodology? Doesn’t it assume what it’s supposedly trying to prove?

The day that deans and provosts stop taking the Leiter report seriously is the day that I’ll stop writing about it.

Philosophy Rankings

The other day someone named Ann posted a comment to an earlier thread about philosophy rankings, including Brian Leiter’s Philosophical Gourmet Report. The upshot of her comment is that (1) she recalls a paper “statistically analysing the feedback and showing near total consensus amongst faculty from the entire range of depts assessed as to who was top and who bottom” and (2) she thought that “at least Leiter’s methodology is explicit and based on up-to-date information. Thanks to the statistical analyses it’s possible for people to be fully informed of the fact that having metaphysicians will count for more than having historians of philosophy (and know exactly how much that counts). Whatever else you think of the PGR, it at least allows people to think clearly about these matters.”

Let’s do think clearly. Years ago I took 3 semesters of graduate level statistics, including survey research methodology. And subsequently I worked on some deliberative polling projects in which some of the nation’s top survey researchers participated. I saw how careful and exacting they were about survey methodology. This doesn’t make me an expert by any means, but I do know the basic fundamental principles, including this one: If done right, a survey of x number of people will tell you what that x number of people thinks. We are tempted to think that we can generalize from that sample to the larger population, just as it’s tempting to think that we can generalize from the people that Leiter has enlisted to do the rankings to the discipline as a whole. But the only way this can be done is if, at minimum, the original sample is (i) randomly selected and (ii) a large enough sample size, which is generally at least 350 people. Given that Leiter’s sample fails either criteria, all his rankings tell us are what those people think. So, Ann’s remark that because Leiter’s analysis is statistical it can fully inform us that one type of philosophy counts more than another is wrong. Leiter’s analysis only pertains to what counts for that specific group. It tells you nothing more than that. Nothing. And, as Ann herself suggests, (1) could be so—and I’d love to see that report—only because the profession at large has come to believe the conventional wisdom.

Granted, Brian Leiter selected his group because they are accomplished in their fields, but again the result is only a reputational ranking of what those particular folks think of the schools that teach their own particular fields. If you analyze the 2006 report, you will see that not a single professor at a “top ten” department had a Ph.D. from a Catholic university. The vast majority of professors teaching at top-ranked departments got their Ph.D.’s from the very same set of departments. Of course, we would expect that Ph.D.s from “top” departments would get jobs at “top” departments. But the problem is that the Leiter report provides no objective measure for ascertaining what are in fact the top departments. Hence it commits a classic logical fallacy. The Leiter report presumes what it sets out to prove. There is no objective measure in the report for ascertaining what in fact are the “top” departments.

And notably underrepresented in the group of rankers and the departments ranked well are outstanding departments such as Michigan State University, Vanderbilt University, SUNY at Stony Brook, the University of Oregon, Emory University, the University of Memphis, Penn State University, and CUNY Graduate School—despite the productivity and influence of their faculty and the success of their graduate students.

Potential philosophy graduate students have good reason to seek out objective ranking of departments. First it’s important to find a good place to study with good faculty where one can fruitfully pursue one’s interest. Second it’s important to find a graduate school with a good placement record. The first is often accomplished with a little sleuthing and good advice, identifying who is doing interesting work in one’s field, or if one is not quite certain yet, what department has broad, plural research taking place. The second requires some study of actual placement success over the years.

For students interested in studying in the areas in which the Leiter report covers, the report can help those students find a congenial place to study. But it won’t help them identify what place has a good placement record. For students interested in studying fields that the Leiter report looks down on or omits altogether, the Leiter report does a huge disservice.

We need studies of Ph.D. granting philosophy departments on criteria like these:

  • the quality and influence of faculty members’ research in their fields (Academic Analytics’ rankings are a step in this direction)
  • faculty-student ratios
  • teacher training
  • preparation for the job market
  • placement records for graduate students

This would be a real service to the profession. In the meantime, I ask any administrator who is taking seriously the Leiter report to confer with the statisticians in his or her own university to get an objective measure of the soundness of these rankings’ methodologies.