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Ph.D. US v. UK


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Hey everyone! 

I have spent a few days reading through different posts. I have seen this topic touched on but not directly spoken about anywhere.

A bit about me, although if you need any more info to answer the question better, you are free to ask! I am currently in an MA of Theological Studies program (with concentrations in both moral theology and church history) which I might extend into an MTh in moral theology as I have enjoyed studying with the professor that oversees that area and it wouldn't hurt to do before a Ph.D.

Anywho, I am looking at a Ph.D. in ethics in both the US and UK. I am at the beginning of realistically looking at schools, so I am open to any advice. I find Aberdeen in the UK and Emory in the US.

But I would be interested if there are any other schools that anyone would recommend to look at for ethics. 

Thanks! 

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Probably every school granting PhDs in Religious Studies and Theology have faculty that do ethics, I can't immediately think of a school that doesn't.

At the PhD level, it's not about a school "doing ethics" but rather about what kind of/approaches to ethics. So you need faculty that have experience with your proposed methodology, previous scholars that have shaped your development and lens, etc. For almost all schools, ethics tends to get lumped into theology, practical theology, or at a secular school, look for buzzwords like "culture," "identity," or "critique" and you'll be able to find the ethicists.

Aberdeen and Emory are worlds apart when it comes to worldview, graduate program culture, etc.

What specifically within ethics and moral theology are you interested? What writers have caught your eye?

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Thanks, @xypathos for your response and advice.

I enjoy looking at political development in protestant evangelical theology, or more broadly, how the ethics and morals, practically speaking, has changed throughout history in this group. I wouldn't say there is one writer that has caught my eye in a way that has stood out. 

Can you share more about you mean that these programs are worlds apart? I know the fundamental difference between a US and UK program (course work/no or little course work, timetable, distance/residential). But I am interested, for instance, in how will one look at Aberdeen on a CV than Emory? What would be some pros and cons of each? As well, anything else you can think of would be appreciated. :) 

 

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6 hours ago, DSheldon22 said:

Thanks, @xypathos for your response and advice.

I enjoy looking at political development in protestant evangelical theology, or more broadly, how the ethics and morals, practically speaking, has changed throughout history in this group. I wouldn't say there is one writer that has caught my eye in a way that has stood out. 

Can you share more about you mean that these programs are worlds apart? I know the fundamental difference between a US and UK program (course work/no or little course work, timetable, distance/residential). But I am interested, for instance, in how will one look at Aberdeen on a CV than Emory? What would be some pros and cons of each? As well, anything else you can think of would be appreciated. :) 

 

Emory's PhD program is housed in the GDR (Graduate Division of Religion), which is outside of Candler, their seminary. As such, it's a secular degree. They have faculty that do ethics and theology but it's much more historical and cultural studies in focus, coupled with feminism, black studies, etc. They're not doing theology in a sense that we might approach it from a seminary. As someone here once mentioned, secular departments of religion generally aren't interested in doing theology and don't feel that it belongs in their department/school.

Emory's seminary (Candler) keeps faculty that does classical theology and ethics but they don't generally come teach courses at GDR, though the opposite does happen.

Aberdeen on the other hand, as really all UK schools, tend to be noticeably more conservative. They also hold the reputation within the US of being a place you go when you cannot get into a US school. You're interested in evangelical thought so that would certainly be welcomed at Aberdeen or really any UK program. That said, there are a host of faculty working in the US in the same area too.

Getting a job in the US will be significantly easier coming from Emory than Aberdeen.

In the UK you're going to be given a probationary period of about 9-15 months (varying by school) where you draft up the first three chapters or so of your dissertation. You'll defend this and if/when you pass, you go to work on completing the dissertation over the next two years then defend the whole thing. That's it. All you'll have to show your future employer is that you can write.

In the US, you'll do 2-3 years of coursework post-M*. You'll do a Comprehensive "Comp" Exam, which varies by school but generally means passing your major area and 1-2 minor/subfields. You'll then write a proposal for your dissertation and defend this, then write the full thing, and then defend that. All the while you've also been working as a teaching or research assistant, and probably going full 'instructor on record' post-coursework or post-comp (each school draws the line a little different).

In the UK you're definitely looking at 100k+ in loans. Schools have scholarships but US citizens, if they're considered, are dead last for them. In the US, you're going to have to put in more time for the degree but as an educator you'll be ahead of someone that went the UK route.

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  • 1 year later...

I know this thread is a bit old, but I've wrestled with this question for some years. I now have PhD apps coming up and have decided to apply to Oxbridge and about 5 R1 US schools. A few things:

1. There seems to be a good bit of snobbery to look our for on both sides of the Atlantic. Some brits--like one Prof from Cambridge recently told me--are suspicious of many American programs while many American Profs with American PhDs will look down on anything not American. 

2. While xypathos is certainly correct that some folks go to Aberdeen--which is a notch of so below Oxbridge--because it's easier to get into than American R1s, it's also often the case that UK schools are the top choice for plenty Americans because those Americans want to work with certain profs. And schools like Aberdeen often have world class scholars. Think, for example, of someone like Joel Green who studied under I. Howard Marshall at Aberdeen or Ben Witherington who studied under the great C.K. Barrett at Durham. 

3. When the word 'conservative' comes into play as a negative point, my eyebrow immediately shoots up. "Conservative" in no way indicates a lower bar of academic rigor or competitiveness. Certainly one wouldn't argue that Markus Bockmuehl at Oxford or Simon Gathercole at Cambridge are light weights. Moreover, Notre Dame is notably conservative. You'll find evangelical scholars at Duke (Ross Wagner, for example). But, it seems true that conservatives will have less of a headache at UK PhD programs since A. many of these programs are more conservative and 2. as a purely research degree you'll not have to fight through two or more years of classroom debates, taking classes from Profs that hold animosity toward your convictions, etc.  

4. Finding a job should be easier with a degree from Emory. US programs, as xypathos mentioned above, require that you develop a broad base of competency so that you hit the ground running with proven teaching experience and the assurance that you can teach outside of your dissertation topic. However, in the UK, you do have a good bit longer to write your dissertation. You can use that time to pick up adjunct work, tutoring jobs, etc. to make up the difference. And, if you are disciplined, you can attend seminars, read and even publish outside of your dissertation area to demonstrate broad competency. This is an especially likely option if you do a rigorous ThM which should give you a few rough drafts for articles. Thing is--although that most Americans seem unaware of it--UK programs give you ample opportunity to get much of the same exposure as the US programs, but they allow you to gain it on your own time and by your own initiation. In the Uk, it's 'choose your own adventure.' (Some brits may even look down on the extra course work as a kind of extended academic adolescence by which you require hand-holding.) There, it's more of a 'you're an adult and a scholar, you shouldn't need two more years of coursework to make you learn what you need to learn.' 

How a college or seminary views this latter point is difficult to anticipate. Aberdeen and Durham have pretty good representation in American schools. Oxbridge is found at every level, from the Ivies to small bible colleges. I think much of the question comes down to whether you feel that you would work better (or at least just as well) by yourself so as to produce a substantial CV that will convince schools that you can teach what they need of you. The second issue concerns whether any of the Profs at the UK or American schools provide connections/networking opportunities for the schools that you would like to work at in the future. Typically, American schools are more often conversant with other American scholars. 

I know it's a bit late, but I wanted to offer what I've gleaned in the last couple of years.  Hope all is well and you have peace wherever you go. :) 



 

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