Sunday, August 05, 2007

New reports

The MLA released two reports on Friday. The first is "The Report on the Survey of Earned Doctorates, 2005"; available here. The second is related to a study for placement outcomes in the modern languages (including English) conducted in 2003-2004; available here.

I have read these only very quickly. Here are a couple of things I take away from them. First, the median time-to-degree for an English Ph.D. in 2005 was 9.7 years, but that includes time that students spent in master's programs. That's probably a good way to measure time-to-degree, but it makes it hard for me to come up with a comparable figure to measure our own program. Our own median time-to-degree is much closer to 6 years -- or at least it was in 2005 -- but we do not figure in prior master's study undertaken by students.

The other comment that I want to make is that while I am glad that the MLA keeps placement statistics, they never tell as much of the story as I want to know. Of the PhD's who received their degrees during the period of the survey, about 50% had tenure track jobs at the time they received the degree. But another 20% had full-time, non-tenure track teaching; another 5% had part-time teaching; another 5% didn't specify their teaching type; and another 5% had post-docs. That second group adds up to 40% of the pool, and the real question is how many of them end up in tenure-track jobs, and how long does that take? What percentage of them finally get frustrated enough that they have to leave the hunt for the tenure track? I really don't know.

This illustrates, by the way, some of the difficulty of keeping accurate placement statistics. At Emory, in any given year, we have some graduates going straight into jobs, some who do VAPs, some who do Brittains, some cobbling together something else while taking another shot at the market, some who have already moved away from academia but are still finishing the degree; some who have already taken administrative jobs. What you really want to measure is this: What percentage of those who looked for tenure track jobs for three years (and conducted wide searches) were able to find one? But there are lots of borderline cases (people who do limited searches, or who give up after a year because of another opportunity), and it gets hard to keep track of people who move onto fellowships and teaching at other institutions.


Blogger Brian said...

In the larger report from 2003-2004, what I find most surprising is the placement as looked at by gender. Women make up a significant majority of those receiving degrees, but they are 5% or so behind the men in getting tenure-track positions.

In the 2005 report, I find it interesting that 78.8% of English PhD recipients indicate that their primary employment activity will be teaching. Research is only the primary activity for 9.5% of graduates. Research is the overwhelming secondary activity (52.5%), but 23.1% report that they will have no secondary activity. This makes me wonder to what extent Ph.D. programs throughout the country should be modified to provide more teacher training. And that departments should probably reevaluate the balance of tenure requirements.

11:48 AM  

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