Friday, July 01, 2011

Comments made easier

I have made the comments function easier to use. I have enabled Open ID so you do not have to have a Blogger account to comment. I suspect, however, that my blog just does not have a large enough audience to garner any comments on a regular basis.


Unknown said...


You have said repeatedly how disappointed you are that your Ph.D from SOAS was not considered adequate to obtain an assistant professor tenure track position in the US immediately after you finished. I know you have a very impressive publication record that is more extensive than many of your peers. I must ask though, if you had spent 8-10 years doing your doctorate at an American school and got hired as a professor and advanced up the rankings of an academic department until you found yourself on a search committee - would you consider a guy who did his doctorate in two years to have training equivalent to your own?

I am not qualified to say whether the training really is comparable or not, but the perspective of someone in that position is not hard to imagine.

I remember how elated you were when SOAS told you that you could do your doctorate in 2 years instead of 3 (we won't reveal here how you celebrated that event). Undoubtedly you saved a lot of non-EU student tuition, but in retrospect do you wish you had stayed in graduate school a little longer, spent a little more money and gotten a little more experience, maybe taught some undergraduate seminars?

Personally, after SOAS I changed gears completely and studied natural science as an undergrad part time for several years. I decided not to go to graduate school for molecular biology when I learned that in addition to spending 5-10 years on a doctorate, I would need to spend an additional 2-10 years as a postdoctoral researcher making about as much as a waiter in a fancy restaurant to have any hope of obtaining an academic position in the natural sciences. In my perspective, getting an academic job in one of those fields is much more competitive than in the social sciences or humanities - I know at least a couple of individuals who were able to obtain assistant professor positions or at least interviews right out of grad school in subjects like sociology, political science etc (having done their doctorate at an American university).

J. Otto Pohl said...


In my way of thinking the faster you can get the dissertation done the better. Taking ten years to do what can be done in ten years seems awfully inefficient. But, had I been aware that nobody else in the US shared this opinion I would not have bothered applying to any US positions. For a variety of reasons I think I am a much better fit with where I am now than any place in the US.

Walt Richmond said...

Everything I heard about my original field (Russian literature) was that the faster the dissertation was finished the better your chances at being hired. I even heard one story of a guy who was on a search committee, and every applicant who took more than five years to complete his dissertation was thrown out without the application even being opened. My ex was told point blank that she wouldn't get a job because she took too long to finish her diss. I think that there are several factors that kept you from getting considered in the US. First, degrees from Europe are just not valued here--I don't know of a single faculty member at Oxy that has a European degree. Second, the field is saturated: in our last search for a philosophy prof, there were 400 applications. No one can make quality decisions under those circumstances.

J. Otto Pohl said...

Oops I meant to write in my reply to unknown that taking ten years to do what can be done in two years is awfully inefficient.

J. Otto Pohl said...


I agree the field is saturated. But, I do not understand the hostility to British degrees in the US. Is it just American chauvanism that a degree from Cal State Fresno trumps anything out of the UK except Oxford or Cambridge?

Walt Richmond said...

I think it's because the grad school coursework is considered more rigorous. I've heard that going from MA to PhD in Europe is just a matter of writing a dissertation, is that right?

J. Otto Pohl said...

The PhD in the UK consists of only writing the dissertation. But, what else is a PhD other than writing a dissertation? I do not understand the term ABD because the dissertation is the PhD.

Walt Richmond said...

After my MA, I had to take two more years of advanced coursework, mostly on theory and special topics that would ultimately relate to my dissertation, and then take qualifying exams on everything I had studied in grad school from day one. The exams were two days long and very difficult. After that, I became ABD and could start working on my dissertation. If you don't pass your qualifying exams, you have to retake them after a semester.

As for the dissertation, I was encouraged to finish it as quickly as possible.