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Columbia pauses its PhD. admissions for Fall 2021


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https://polisci.columbia.edu/content/graduate-admissions

"In a collective effort with all departments in the Social Sciences and Humanities in the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences at Columbia University, the Department of Political Science has decided to pause its Ph.D. admission cycle for one year. Applications will not be accepted in Fall 2020 (for study that would otherwise begin in Fall 2021). While the department institutes this pause reluctantly, it does so as part of its response to the global pandemic that has created tremendous uncertainty across many dimensions of academic life, from teaching to research to employment prospects for new scholars. The pause in Ph.D. admissions will enable the department to focus on the needs of its current Ph.D. students and fulfill its obligations despite the formidable challenges and disruptions created by Covid-19. The Ph.D. program remains integral to the vibrancy of the department and it looks forward to the contributions to knowledge that current and future students will make to the discipline of political science. The department invites students who are interested in pursuing their graduate work in political science at Columbia to apply for admission to its Master's program in Fall 2020 for study to begin in Fall 2021 or to submit an application when Ph.D. admissions resume in Fall 2021 for study to begin in Fall 2022"

Kind of sad, as I wanted to apply there this year. I had heard that they were discussing whether to close admissions this year or admit half-sized cohorts for two years. So, to my knowledge it is Columbia and Brown that are not accepting applications this cycle. Who knows which department will be next; maybe Duke?

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If people can't see the writing on the wall, and do not forgo pursuing a PhD in the near future, you only have yourselves to blame.

The fact that programs are closing admissions right now, despite the fact that it is a low-cost way of providing them extremely cheap and exploitative labor, should make you realize how deep the issues with academia are in the short, and long-term.

The major demographic shift was already going to bring a reckoning. The pandemic has only accelerated the collapse of the pyramid scheme.

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2 hours ago, clesanbar said:

Who knows which department will be next; maybe Duke?

Duke probably won't cancel admissions this year because they cancelled them last year (due to overenrollment the previous year). Who else is anyone's guess, but probably not Duke. 

 

That being said, it sounds like the Columbia decision was forced on by the school of humanities and social sciences, not from the department itself. I know at my own university, other departments who were not as well-funded as polisci had admin trying to force them to get temporary funding in exchange for permanently decreasing the amount of people in their future PhD cohorts. I expect that there will be a bunch of that, especially in departments that are more "humanities." 

Edited by BunniesInSpace
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1 hour ago, BunniesInSpace said:

Duke probably won't cancel admissions this year because they cancelled them last year (due to overenrollment the previous year). Who else is anyone's guess, but probably not Duke

You are probably right. I originally thought that they had canceled them last year due to financial woes (which would be heightened due to covid), but if they did it as a result of previous overenrollment then it makes sense that they won't cancel them this year

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It probably goes without saying, but at this point—especially given that it has to do with 2021 enrollment—this likely has much less to do with COVID numbers and much more to do with financial ones. Many departments are probably facing extreme under-enrollment, exacerbated by unanticipated health and safety expenses. It's upsetting, to say the least.

 

As for which other schools/departments will follow Columbia's lead, my guess is that they'll be, well, like Columbia—universities that have excellent reputations across the disciplines, and that are therefore willing to trim, or freeze, their humanities departments in order to find the necessary funding to keep the STEM ones afloat [where stipends—and placement rates—can run much higher]. 

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On 8/30/2020 at 7:13 AM, polsciguy88 said:

If people can't see the writing on the wall, and do not forgo pursuing a PhD in the near future, you only have yourselves to blame.

 

sorry but I have to give my strong opposition to this response. (which I normally dont say it out publicly)   

 

No one can deny the academia is getting harder than ever. limited faculty positions, funding being cut down, extremely high competition...... And Covid-19 is making things even worse. 

But which industry can escape all these? How many people get laid off in 2020. 

We are experiencing difficulties. It doesnt mean thats the end and we shouldnt think of doing a PhD at all. 

For PhD application, it is totally normal to wait a few years until you can get into a suitable program. No one should rush for it. No one ever say you should get it in 2020! 

 

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6 hours ago, needanoffersobad said:

sorry but I have to give my strong opposition to this response. (which I normally dont say it out publicly)   

 

No one can deny the academia is getting harder than ever. limited faculty positions, funding being cut down, extremely high competition...... And Covid-19 is making things even worse. 

But which industry can escape all these? How many people get laid off in 2020. 

We are experiencing difficulties. It doesnt mean thats the end and we shouldnt think of doing a PhD at all. 

For PhD application, it is totally normal to wait a few years until you can get into a suitable program. No one should rush for it. No one ever say you should get it in 2020! 

 

You are making a false equivalence. Most industries do not require 5-7 years of intensive training in a highly exploitative system AND exhibit such an over-glut in the supply of labor. 

I repeat, once again, do not do a PhD in a social science or humanities. Doing so is, without a doubt, a foolish move at this juncture.

You will do a lion's share of the teaching and grading, as well as all the grunt work of research, for other people that make upwards of 4-6 times as much as you do. Your graduate program does not give a crap about you, nor does the discipline. For your service you will be rewarded with an approximately 1% chance of attaining a job as a tenure-track professor.

There are no jobs. The job market this year has approximately 20-30% of the number of available positions as last year. It's unlikely this is going to significantly change in the future, despite people being under the illusion that this is an exceptional year. 

The fact that programs are already starting to curtail programs that provide such exploitative benefits to them signals deep, deep, structural changes on the horizons. Structural changes that were already coming, but have been accelerated. 

Do not enter this collapsing ponzi and exploitative scheme. 

Edited by polsciguy88
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Yeah, like, it is getting a little bit old. He does not have anything new to add to the conversation, so I agree it is best to just ignore him. 

12 hours ago, Artifex_Archer said:

my guess is that they'll be, well, like Columbia

So which departments would you categorize as Columbia-esque? At first I thought the first ones to close down would be the big public ones, like Berkeley or Michigan. However, these admit many undergrads (in a normal year, of course) so they need a lot of graduate students. So maybe like Chicago? Pretty selective, and I've read that they have a funding structure that requires departments to admit a certain amount of people according to the current funds. Princeton also seems very likely, as their Sociology department has already done this. Maybe Yale also, although I'm not too familiar with their situation.

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22 hours ago, clesanbar said:

Yeah, like, it is getting a little bit old. He does not have anything new to add to the conversation, so I agree it is best to just ignore him. 

So which departments would you categorize as Columbia-esque? At first I thought the first ones to close down would be the big public ones, like Berkeley or Michigan. However, these admit many undergrads (in a normal year, of course) so they need a lot of graduate students. So maybe like Chicago? Pretty selective, and I've read that they have a funding structure that requires departments to admit a certain amount of people according to the current funds. Princeton also seems very likely, as their Sociology department has already done this. Maybe Yale also, although I'm not too familiar with their situation.

I was thinking more like MIT, Cornell, JHU, Stanford—schools that are strong in the humanities, but maybe a bit better known, or as well known, for STEM. Michigan is an up-and-comer as a top humanities school, so they might not be as quick to put their reputation on hold for a year.

One might also expect slightly lower-ranked schools to do the same—Boulder springs to mind? [Not saying they’re a worse school, just that the USNWR algorithm puts them a bit further down the list.] I’ve heard rumours that Northwestern was struggling financially and pedagogically to begin with, so they might also be one to watch. But my thoughts on that are worth exactly what you’re paying for them. 
 

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Penn just announced no new admissions for their arts and sciences college. 

TBH I think that it's the programs at rich private schools that will mostly feel the squeeze this year and close/reduce admissions. Public schools often will use grad students as cheap labor to teach their freshman/undergrad courses. It's a lot easier for the department to justify new grad students if they provide that service to the University. Meanwhile, private schools will often not require that for every semester for students, with first years often not having to do any teaching. 

Edited by Dwar
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2 hours ago, Dwar said:

Penn just announced no new admissions for their arts and sciences college. 

TBH I think that it's the programs at rich private schools that will mostly feel the squeeze this year and close/reduce admissions. Public schools often will use grad students as cheap labor to teach their freshman/undergrad courses. It's a lot easier for the department to justify new grad students if they provide that service to the University. Meanwhile, private schools will often not require that for every semester for students, with first years often not having to do any teaching. 

Wow, really?  Where did you see that?  I can't find any info on their website.  

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IMO if penn doesn't entirely shut down polisci PhD admissions, they'll probably only accept individuals who have external funding sources like NSF or military sponsorship. I don't think they'll hand out offers with the expectation that anyone will self fund. 

 

In other news, Pitt has cancelled what seems to be a lot of humanities and social science departmental admissions for the year: https://www.asgraduate.pitt.edu/admissions

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

hey everyone! really interesting hearing everyone's thoughts on this topic.

I'm a graduate student at Columbia University's Journalism School, and I'm currently working on an article about the recent pause/reduction in admissions in many of these programs for the next year. If you're an aspiring student who is frustrated by this decision, and would like to chat with me briefly about the situation, please either message me or email me at nika.f@columbia.edu

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  • 2 weeks later...

UPDATE: I have been reaching out to some departments I'm interested in applying, and most have told me that they will be moving forward with applications this year (if anyone is interested, those are WashU, UTexas, OSU, NYU and Michigan).

 

However, the Michigan reply came with a caveat: "Thank you for reaching out. As of today, our department will be moving forward with 2021 admissions. I do not foresee this changing. We will, however, be accepting a smaller cohort than originally expected due to the COVID-19 pandemic".

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7 hours ago, clesanbar said:

However, the Michigan reply came with a caveat: "Thank you for reaching out. As of today, our department will be moving forward with 2021 admissions. I do not foresee this changing. We will, however, be accepting a smaller cohort than originally expected due to the COVID-19 pandemic".

Unfortunately, I think this will be the case with most programs this year. 

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39 minutes ago, Dwar said:

Unfortunately, I think this will be the case with most programs this year. 

Yeap, I agree. However, this is the first case in which it has been stated outrigth, I think. Other departments have not been as forthcoming, at least from what I've seen.

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  • 3 weeks later...

GWU just sent out an email to those with open applications. Text pasted below since I don't see it on their website yet:

Dear ovejal:

Thank you for your interest in the Ph.D. program in Political Science. Unfortunately, we regret to inform you that the program will not be accepting Ph.D. applicants for the 2021-22 academic year. 

We anticipate that the application for the program for Fall 2022 admission will become available in late Spring or early summer of 2021. 

We apologize for any inconvenience and wish you well in your educational pursuits.

Kind Regards,

Office of Graduate Studies

Columbian College of Arts and Sciences

 

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