Caveat emptor

Johannes Reese johannesreese at GMX.DE
Tue Sep 17 09:07:51 UTC 2013

Hi folks,

restricting PhD programs: Isn't that rather late? When you start your 
PhD, you have already spent many years of studying. Then you shall be 
told it was all worthless? Shouldn't we "discourage" students at a much 
earlier date of their study, maybe before they get their B.A.? There are 
not a lot of professional options these days you get with a B.A. or M.A. 
in linguistics, are there? Some counterexamples?


> Folks,
> I am posting this because linguistics is one of the disciplines I 
> think needs to consider this seriously. There are too many academics 
> in the liberal arts with no chance of full-time, secure employment in 
> the area in which they have done their PhD.
> I am not knocking the discipline. I just see too many folks in the 
> areas where I have lived looking for part-time employment because they 
> cannot get full-time work.
> Dan
> A lot of what drives prestige attribution in academics are rejection 
> rates. Publishing in a journal with a 95% rejection rate is usually 
> more prestigious than publishing in a journal with a 50% rejection 
> rate. Getting into a college or program with a high rejection rate is 
> usually more prestigious than getting into one with a lower rejection 
> rate.
> So it is only natural that academics, enculturated into this system, 
> might believe that their department is better the more applicants it 
> gets for a position. Up to a point perhaps. But if you are, as we had 
> at places I have been in English departments, Linguistics Departments, 
> Philosophy Departments and so on getting, say, hundreds of 
> applications per position, it isn't prestige that is involved. It is 
> an ailing discipline that needs to declare a moratorium on PhDs. 
> Remember, potential graduate students  trust us. They will enter our 
> programs if they seem interesting, even if there is about zero chance 
> for them to get a good job. They do this because they believe that you 
> wouldn't have accepted them knowing they had little chance of employment.
> We need to think about this and talk about it more as a discipline. 
>  One might make the case that PhD students should not be admitted to 
> programs who have less than 95% employment rate in the subject of the 
> PhD. Perhaps a few points lower. At least perhaps we could consider a 
> moratorium on PhD admissions for lower-placement departments.

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