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Educating Scholars

Educating Scholars: Doctoral Education in the Humanities

Ronald G. Ehrenberg
Harriet Zuckerman
Jeffrey A. Groen
Sharon M. Brucker
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 368
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  • Book Info
    Educating Scholars
    Book Description:

    Despite the worldwide prestige of America's doctoral programs in the humanities, all is not well in this area of higher education and hasn't been for some time. The content of graduate programs has undergone major changes, while high rates of student attrition, long times to degree, and financial burdens prevail. In response, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in 1991 launched the Graduate Education Initiative (GEI), the largest effort ever undertaken to improve doctoral programs in the humanities and related social sciences. The only book to focus exclusively on the current state of doctoral education in the humanities,Educating Scholarsreports on the GEI's success in reducing attrition and times to degree, the positive changes implemented by specific graduate programs, and the many challenges still to be addressed.

    Over a ten-year period, the Foundation devoted almost eighty-five million dollars through the GEI to provide support for doctoral programs and student aid in fifty-four departments at ten leading universities. The authors examine data that tracked the students in these departments and in control departments, as well as information gathered from a retrospective survey of students. They reveal that completion and attrition rates depend upon financial support, the quality of advising, clarity of program requirements, and each department's expectations regarding the dissertation. The authors consider who earns doctoral degrees, what affects students' chances of finishing their programs, and how successful they are at finding academic jobs.

    Answering some of the most important questions being raised about American doctoral programs today,Educating Scholarswill interest all those concerned about our nation's intellectual future.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3152-4
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  6. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xix-xx)
  7. CHAPTER 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)

    In 1991, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation launched what would become the largest effort ever made to improve graduate education in the humanities in the United States. The Graduate Education Initiative (GEI) was “to achieve systematic improvements in the structure and organization of PhD programs in the humanities and related social sciences that will in turn reduce unacceptabl[y] high rates of student attrition and lower the number of years that the typical student spends working towards the doctorate.”² At the time, the humanities were, it is fair to say, uneasy not only because their central intellectual presuppositions remained in contention...

  8. Part I. Data, Methods, and Context

    • CHAPTER 2 Data Collection, Outcome Measures, and Analytical Tools
      (pp. 25-40)

      This chapter describes the raw materials on which this study is based, the measures it uses, and the analytic procedures it employs. It is divided into three parts. First, it focuses on the varieties of data on which the study draws. It spells out how the quantitative data on students and the qualitative reports from faculty members and administrators were collected. Part and parcel of the Graduate Education Initiative (GEI), these data constitute a substantial share of the evidence on which this study draws. This part also describes the Graduate Education Survey (GES) of students that was intended to complement...

    • CHAPTER 3 The Departments
      (pp. 41-92)

      This chapter introduces the departments that participated in the Graduate Education Initiative (GEI). It describes the changes they planned, the challenges in implementing those changes, and the successes and failures that resulted. It is intended to complement the intensively statistical analysis of changes in completion rates and time-to-degree (TTD) in the next two chapters and the multivariate analysis of the effects of particular program elements in Chapter 6. First, we describe key attributes of the treatment departments before the advent of the GEI in simple quantitative terms; then we turn to how they “looked” five years into the GEI.¹ Next,...

  9. Part II. Influences on Attrition, Completion, and Time-to-Degree

    • CHAPTER 4 The Impact of the Graduate Education Initiative on Attrition and Completion
      (pp. 95-112)

      The previous chapter includes information on how attrition and completion rates changed in departments that took part in the Graduate Education Initiative (GEI) between the period prior to the start of the GEI and the period during which the GEI was in effect. Although such analyses are suggestive of the impact of the GEI, they ignore the possibility that the observed changes may have been caused by factors other than the GEI. These include changes in the characteristics of the entering students (such as test scores, race and ethnicity, gender, marital status, and citizenship status) and changes in labor market...

    • CHAPTER 5 The Influence of Financial Support
      (pp. 113-139)

      Most doctoral students in the treatment and control departments receive financial support from their departments at some point during their programs.¹ Such support takes a variety of forms, and its absolute level varies across students and departments. As we know, financial support is critical for both doctoral students and their departments. For students, it covers tuition and living expenses (or at least part of these) at a time when most are devoting their full attention to coursework and research.² Moreover, the type and amount of financial support that students receive influence the skills in teaching and research they acquire during...

    • CHAPTER 6 The Influence of Doctoral Program Designs
      (pp. 140-155)

      The analyses we presented in the previous two chapters estimated the impact of the Graduate Education Initiative (GEI) on doctoral students’ attrition probabilities, completion probabilities, and time-to-degree (TTD). Although we discussed the important influence of financial support methods on these outcomes in Chapter 5, all other aspects of doctoral education in the humanities were treated as a black box. In this chapter, we use the Graduate Education Survey (GES) to go inside that black box to understand how the characteristics of doctoral programs, including the expectations that doctoral students confronted, were influenced by the GEI and how these changes in...

    • CHAPTER 7 The Role of Gender and Family Status
      (pp. 156-166)

      The analyses we presented in Chapter 4 touched on the association between gender and probabilities of attrition and completion. They showed that, other factors held constant, women are more likely to have left the program by their eighth year of doctoral study and less likely to have received a degree than men. Many prior studies have reported similar results.¹

      One of the factors of which we took account in our analyses in Chapter 4 was the field in which a graduate student was enrolled, so differences across fields in the share of students who are women and in average time-to-degree...

  10. Part III. Transition from Graduate Study to Career

    • CHAPTER 8 Attrition and Beyond
      (pp. 169-185)

      Over the past two decades there has been growing concern about increasing attrition from graduate programs in general and those in the humanities in particular. Although comprehensive national data are not collected on attrition rates in PhD programs, studies of individual institutions or sets of institutions often suggest that over 50 percent of students who initially enroll in PhD programs fail to ever receive PhDs.¹ Such high rates of attrition are thought to be problematic for both universities and the students themselves in terms of wasted resources.² Furthermore, some research suggests that students’ decisions to leave may reflect flawed design...

    • CHAPTER 9 Early Careers
      (pp. 186-205)

      Many new PhDs in the humanities aspire to tenure-track teaching positions at four-year colleges and universities.¹ How successful were the PhDs in our sample in obtaining such positions, and what were the factors that influenced their success? Do new PhDs who initially find employment in non-tenure-track positions get locked into these positions or do they move into tenure-track positions? How does job-market success vary with new PhDs’ gender, marital status, and family status? Do a substantial fraction of new PhDs in these fields wind up as tenured faculty members within 15 years after they enter their PhD programs? Finally, given...

    • CHAPTER 10 Publications: Patterns and Influences
      (pp. 206-220)

      One of the primary goals of PhD programs in the humanities is to prepare doctoral students to be contributors to the production of new knowledge. We turn in this chapter to an analysis of the publications experiences of humanities PhD students during graduate school and during their early careers. Our analyses are based on self-reports of publication experiences that the respondents to the Graduate Education Survey (GES) provided. Given the well-known problems with self-reported publications data, we sought to validate the reported publication records by comparing them with annual records for a sample of individuals; we found that self-reports and...

  11. Part IV. Lessons and Findings

    • CHAPTER 11 Redesigning Doctoral Programs: Lessons Learned
      (pp. 223-248)

      This chapter describes lessons provided by the Graduate Education Initiative (GEI) for future efforts to redesign graduate programs in the humanities. The chapter that follows reviews the study’s principal findings. Here we focus on challenges encountered in implementing the GEI and in its assessment, which may beset other efforts to introduce change into this corner of the academy. In some cases these lessons might help those who face challenges in implementing change in other contexts.

      The GEI began, as we have noted, with the premise that scholars could be educated more effectively, even in the strongest universities. The Mellon Foundation...

    • CHAPTER 12 Principal Findings and Implications
      (pp. 249-270)

      At the end of the day—or, more precisely, after more than a decade of the Graduate Education Initiative (GEI) and the research it generated—what have we learned about graduate education in the humanities? This chapter reviews our principal findings and spells out some of their main implications.

      First we review the GEI’s effects on the progress students made in graduate school and the unanticipated consequences of major changes in graduate funding. These findings inevitably raise questions about the likely success of future efforts to improve graduate education and its effectiveness. Since departments were central to the GEI effort,...

  12. Appendixes

    • APPENDIX A. Data Collection
      (pp. 273-279)
    • APPENDIX B. Questionnaire for the Graduate Education Survey
      (pp. 280-299)
    • APPENDIX C. Outcome Measures
      (pp. 300-303)
    • APPENDIX D. Methodology
      (pp. 304-308)
    • APPENDIX E. Additional Tables and Figures
      (pp. 309-330)
  13. References
    (pp. 331-336)
  14. Index
    (pp. 337-348)