Jump to content
AGingeryGinger

Why does academia work as a caste system from where you received your PhD?

Recommended Posts

I was recently having dinner with my parents and the topic came up of the job market for PhDs in the humanities in academia. I explained to them how the History job market is dominated by a tier system: the ivy leagues, like-ivy,  and major public research.

they made the comment how in the world outside of academia, caring about where you went to school generally determines your job success and career for the rest of your life is unheard of. Yet, it seems it’s all that matters in academia. While there are exceptions of scholars who went above their degree granted institution (I think there is a Kent state PhD at Harvard), this is an extremely rare exception.

The second exception is if there are very few scholars on a topic at all, my own field is like this, where there are less than 5 Early Modern England scholars at PhD granting institutions in History, where your advisor matters more than the small spread of scholars in the field.

yet, overall, your station in life (so to speak) is mostly guided by where you earned your PhD. It is the best you often will do and your career will follow. Why is the academic caste system like this? I could maybe see it in the current market, where I had an advisor in my undergrad say “unless you go to an Ivy League, you’re not going to get a job.”

 

i end with this quote/statistic:

“The evidence is not only anecdotal. A recent study by Aaron Clauset, Samuel Arbesman, and Daniel B. Larremore shows that “a quarter of all universities account for 71 to 86 percent of all tenure-track faculty in the U.S. and Canada in these three fields. Just 18 elite universities produce half of all computer science professors, 16 schools produce half of all business professors, and eight schools account for half of all history professors.” This study follows the discovery by political scientist Robert Oprisko that more than half of political-science professorships were filled by applicants from only 11 universities.”

https://chroniclevitae.com/news/929-academia-s-1-percent

 

 

 

just some food for thought I was curious if anyone else has thought about.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think this may be somewhat field dependent, but also wonder if part of the problem is many people who go into academia have only been in academia.  So if you've never worked outside of that system and you don't collaborate with non-academics then its harder to be aware that things differ elsewhere.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Business Ph.Ds get jobs no matter where you go to school, so those stats about them is probably more related to what schools are able to run large business Ph.D programs. They are more expensive than other areas. Most schools only have 1 or 2 students per year in each area of business.

But the caste system still exists. I am at a top program for my area, but because my school is not well regarded I don't have a chance at schools like Cornell or Pittsburg. I'll get a job, yes, but some schools will take one look at the name of my institution and put my CV in the discard pile.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A couple reasons come to mind immediately:

1) Schools with more prestige have more money and can support their graduate students better. Better-supported graduate students do better scholarship. 

2) Students at prestigious schools encounter a greater number of prestigious professors, and therefor have better models of how to perform academic intelligence. 

3) Name recognition matters on applications - prestigious schools offer a way to winnow a 100 person application file because the people they produce are, within reason, known quantities.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
12 hours ago, telkanuru said:

A couple reasons come to mind immediately:

1) Schools with more prestige have more money and can support their graduate students better. Better-supported graduate students do better scholarship. 

2) Students at prestigious schools encounter a greater number of prestigious professors, and therefor have better models of how to perform academic intelligence. 

3) Name recognition matters on applications - prestigious schools offer a way to winnow a 100 person application file because the people they produce are, within reason, known quantities.

More prestigious schools have the "pick of the litter" of applicants. In many cases, graduate students at prestigious schools are competing against / collaborating with others who were also the pick of the litter. In some cases, applicants have been benefitting from this dynamic since prep school.

Also,  a newly hired Ivy Leaguer brings prestige to her new department, school, and parent institution, which helps with getting a "better" pool of undergraduate and graduate applicants and donations from alumni.

Consequently, newly minted Ph.D.s from prestigious schools have a quintuple advantage -- support, training, name recognition (as an applicant), peer group, and name recognition (as a hire). 

For those of us who will never get academic jobs, it kind of stinks, but if we'd gotten into Happyland University, would we be as upset?

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ivy league schools are not necessarily elite in STEM.  For engineering, the large public universities such as Michigan, Cal, Illinois, and Purdue, plus MIT and Stanford, dominate the rankings (with Caltech in some areas).  These same schools are very strong in other STEM fields such as math, physics, chemistry, etc. There are very few Ivy league schools ranked in the top ten in any of the engineering disciplines. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.