Post Academic

Time-to-degree, real and reimagined (with poll)

Yesterday, we covered the New York Times covering the take-your-pick-of-crises in academia.  The most stunning thing the NYT reported was that the average time-to-Ph.D. in the humanities was calculated at 9.3 years!  That figure strikes me as a little too high as an average, but, whatever the actual number, the point is well-taken that getting your Ph.D. takes way too long, whether it’s the nature of things or that there’s a certain kind of less-time-constrained personality better suited to academia.

So one of the solutions to the problems facing Ph.D. students, whether it’s with the day-to-day experience of getting by or longer-term issues of an ever-declining academic job market, that’s being floated is shortening the time-to-degree.  One of the most prominent proponents of this idea is Pulitzer Prize-winning Harvard Prof Louis Menand, who outlines in his book The Marketplace of Ideas some reasons for rethinking the Ph.D. and shortening the time-to-degree, as well as a structural argument on how the long apprenticeship has broader impacts on the humanities.  (Much of what I discuss is reprinted in this Harvard Magazine excerpt.)

Continued, below the jump..


The New York Times feels y/our pain

On Sunday, The New York Times published a piece titled “The Long-Haul Degree” which basically addressed the structural problems with the humanities that we know so well and that have been discussed ad infinitum by professional publications like the Chronicle and Inside Higher Ed, along with ad hoc operations like our blog.  While there’s really no new news in the Times write-up, it is kind of a big deal that such issues are being examined in a mainstream publication.  The article revolves around one data point that is shocking enough to career academics, not to mention the uninitiated who might be reading the piece: normative time for a Ph.D. in the humanities is 9.3 years.

If you want to cut to the chase and skim the data, check out the “multimedia” pop-up graphic linked on the left-side of the page:

* Over 1/3 of Ph.D.s in the humanities from 2008 have “No definite part- or full-time employment,” along with about another 10% with “Employment outside of academia”

* Normative time: 9.3 years in the humanities

* Median age of Ph.D.: 35 years old

* Average loan debt: $23, 315

The exegesis of the NYTimes article after the jump…