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Educating Scholars

Doctoral Education in the Humanities

Ronald G. Ehrenberg

Publication Year: 2009

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 Scholars reports 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 Scholars will interest all those concerned about our nation's intellectual future.

Published by: Princeton University Press


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Title Page, Copyright Page, Dedication

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xiv

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. xv-xviii

...Mellon Foundation’s Graduate Education Initiative (GEI): how it came into being and then evolved over the next decade. Many of the problems that prompted it—the long and far-from-predictable time it took for graduate students in the humanities to earn their degrees, the costs incurred by both students and institutions, and the concerns of faculty members about the process—remain...

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xix-xx

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Chapter 1. Introduction

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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...

Part I. Data, Methods, and Context

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Chapter 2. Data Collection, Outcome Measures, and Analytical Tools

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pp. 25-40

...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...

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Chapter 3. The Departments

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pp. 41-92

...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...

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

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Chapter 4. The Impact of the Graduate Education Initiative on Attrition and Completion

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pp. 95-112

...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...

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Chapter 5. The Influence of Financial Support

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pp. 113-139

...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...

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Chapter 6. The Influence of Doctoral Program Designs

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pp. 140-155

...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...

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Chapter 7. The Role of Gender and Family Status

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pp. 156-166

...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...

Part III. Transition from Graduate Study to Career

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Chapter 8. Attrition and Beyond

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pp. 169-185

...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...

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Chapter 9. Early Careers

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pp. 186-205

...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...

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Chapter 10. Publications: Patterns and Influences

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pp. 206-220

...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...

Part IV. Lessons and Findings

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Chapter 11. Redesigning Doctoral Programs: Lessons Learned

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pp. 223-248

...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...

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Chapter 12. Principal Findings and Implications

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pp. 249-272

...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, we then sketch out significant changes they...

Appendix A. Data Collection

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pp. 273-279

Appendix B. Questionnaire for the Graduate Education Survey

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pp. 280-299

Appendix C. Outcome Measures

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pp. 300-303

Appendix D. Methodology

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pp. 304-308

Appendix E. Additional Tables and Figures

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pp. 309-330


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pp. 331-336


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pp. 337-348

E-ISBN-13: 9781400831524
E-ISBN-10: 1400831520
Print-ISBN-13: 9780691142661
Print-ISBN-10: 0691142661

Page Count: 368
Publication Year: 2009

Edition: Course Book

OCLC Number: 659563980
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Educating Scholars

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Subject Headings

  • Humanities -- Study and teaching (Higher) -- United States.
  • Doctor of philosophy degree -- United States.
  • Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
  • Scholars -- United States.
  • Learning and scholarship -- United States.
  • Universities and colleges -- United States -- Graduate work.
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