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I discover EGS's program a half a year ago and was interested in their MA program. I did write a few emails asking for information but finally decided to apply to a grad program in Literature in the States. I had a few great options but finally opted for Columbia. But a few days ago, out of the blue, I was offered admission to EGS's program in Comunication. There's amazing people teaching down there, but currently wondering if a) this is just a scam (I never formally applied) and B) if its absurd to do even consider doing a doctorate in Columbia and the MA in EGS over the summer.

I realy have no idea who to ask for advice. Please help!

Thanks to all!


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I considered EGS as well as a sort of back-up option had I not gotten in anywhere else - the faculty is outstanding indeed. It does seem almost a little too good to be true, so I spent awhile researching it and found out that it isn't really accredited by any typical standard, and that the program is pretty much entirely run by one man. Eventually I actually met someone who had attended EGS, and he described it in positive terms to me as a kind of philosophical summer camp. The students are very international and of a good quality, although he surmised that it is probably true that they accept anyone who applies and is willing to pay the tuition. He did say that the most active and ambitious students did get to be advised by Agamben and the like, so I think it's no joke if one puts in enough effort.

It would probably be unwise to turn down any real, accredited institution in favor of EGS, but in addition to actual grad school it could be worth it. I actually first heard about the program when I was interning at an academic-type publishing house and I read over a manuscript proposal by someone who was getting his doctorate somewhere in the States at the same time as attending EGS during the summer (he bragged of studying under Zizek). So if you've got the extra cash, I'd say go for it if you're really interested.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I graduated from EGS with a PhD a while ago. I'm curious what people are saying about it now and found your question, so maybe I can share with you some of my views of and experiences with the program.

It's more 'European' than 'American.' What I mean is you go there mainly to study under the masters and make contacts. Since getting a job in the US nowadays primarily means publishing, this part you'd have to be *ferociously* independent and motivated on your own about - much more so than at a US institution where there are a plethora of reviews, checkpoints and other bureaucratic procedures along the way to produce academics hirable at similar institutions. At EGS you're (for the most part) your own reviewer. That's not to say the faculty don't advise - most do (I point out here that a lot of the 'superstars' on the EGS roster actually are also academics at US institutions, so they're intimately familiar with that system), but, obviously, the chances of your being noticed by someone like, say, Agamben are much less than if you were to study with - let me be frank - a nobody (ie some middling academic known pretty much only by their 2 or 3 peers at conferences), at a middling school. But that's the case regardless of whether you're studying at EGS or the Sorbonne. At EGS, I have to say, it's more sink or swim - IF you're good enough, and IF you're liked enough, faculty (esp Wolfgang Schirmacher) will go out of their way to help you (feedback your work, help you make contacts with other, maybe less 'available' faculty). Some people may find this way of doing things opaque, but (ironically) this is what happens when you try to dispense with 'bureaucracy,' in favor of a more 'personal,' preferential way of running things. Like I said, more old-school 'European' (though Continental Europe's fast changing now itself, thanks to globalization). If you like 'process,' more 'democracy,' and security in being babied through the standard hoops, then EGS is not for you. If your goal is to land somewhere in the middle, and that's good enough for you, then EGS is not for you. If you're lazy, EGS is not for you. In the end, your publication record plus recommendation letters are the most important part of your job application. Some US institutions may balk, but that's something you have to evaluate and decide whether you want to take a chance on.

I can tell you, though, if you publish well and publish enough, and manage to get good letters from 1 or 2 of the 'superstars,' the 'unconventionality' of EGS becomes much less of an issue when you're applying for jobs and going on job talks. When I graduated, (after preparing my materials thoroughly and well in advance, and guidance from Dr Schirmacher through some delicate interpersonal waters) I got 2 'superstar' letters, and (after working my a$ off) published in 2 tier-1 Continental philosophy journals. When I was ABD, I got 1 phone interview from a prestious US liberal arts college, 6 campus interviews, including 1 foreign university and 1 R1/VH flagship US university, all for tenure-track Asst Prof positions. I got 1 offer (alas not the one I was praying for), but turned it down mainly because I think I can do a lot better. And this was when the economy was in its deepest. So don't let the un-USness of EGS scare you off of job prospects. The fears are untrue. (The untraditionality issue did come up during the interviews, but it was only briefly discussed.)

As a sidenote, I can also tell you, as I have a close friend there, the politics at Columbia (given your interest in EGS I surmise you're applying to their Comp Lit or some adjacent program) in the Comp Lit Dpt is absolutely TOXIC. (I'm talking about students sabotaging each other's work, back-stabbing, faculty tantrums, excommunications and other insanities.) So don't think just because a program is in the US that it's more normal or 'safe.'

Also, I just want to comment on how weird it is, no matter what kind or amount of evidence and facts you put up, if people simply refuse to believe something, there's just no convincing them otherwise. People like Zizek, Badiou, and even Agamben and Baudrillard (read his Cool Memories V, where he talks about Saas-Fee, where the EGS campus is, as he came to our school in 2004) have all already spoken publicly at EGS and about EGS, and yet some people are still convinced it's a 'scam' (usually changing their criteria of what 'scam' means to them as they go along, and as more evidence is shown to them). It's incredible. I guess Freud truly still lives.

Edited by Former EGSer
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I don't think it's a scam, I just think it's ridiculous that you have to throw down nearly 25K in order to 'attend' the 'school.' Frankly, and I don't intend to criticize your intellectual capacity, it seems like a lot of people who are well-off paying a single administrator to network them with the biggest names in academia. Sure, you attend lecture series and write a dissertation (if you're motivated to do so and are paid up), but really what you've paid for is the privilege of connecting with those superstars. I've watched the clips and spoken with professors who have been guests at the EGS -- I don't think it's a scam -- but I also don't think the thing that is most disconcerting about it is its 'unUS' nature.

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  • 4 months later...

I attended EGS for one year. There are some positives to the program. The setting is stunning. The other students are (for the most part) wonderful. You will meet fascinating people who take thinking seriously and strive toward excellence in their studies. The classes are substantial and it really is a thrill to hear people like Agamben and Badiou explain their works first hand.

However, it is generally not a place one should go if he/she is expecting the EGS experience alone to suffice for a career in academia. Most attendees already have degrees from other institutions and are using it as a supplement or are attending as a sort of personal retreat. The accreditation is sketchy at best. People can be as lazy as they want and still obtain a degree. I've heard students suggest that some thesis are hardly more than glanced at before approval. I know a few individuals who have received their degrees from EGS and still feel the need to get another degree elsewhere because they are not getting the opportunities they hoped for. Most students will receive almost no support from the director (and really the only person to contact about administrative/academic concerns) Wolfgang Schirmacher. Do not be surprised if simple questions or even transcript requests go unanswered for months. And try not to be offended when his explanations for the delays are shockingly rude. Also, it is required that you write about Wolfgang in your dissertation and he is listed as editor on all books (usually student's thesis/dissertations) published by Atropos press.

Some students will do absolutely anything to be around these academic superstars, this includes whitewashing some of the more unsavory aspects of EGS by scouring the negative search queries and doing a PR job. Just check around forums on the internet. There is almost always someone appearing out of the blue to put a positive spin on EGS. Fact of the matter is, only a few favored people (those that shamelessly suck up to Wolfgang) are provided with an experience that would help them in their careers. You can clearly see this in the statement by "Former EGSer" where he states that if you're "LIKED enough by faculty," then you can obtain letters of recommendation or any sort of specific career help. According to him, if you have a problem with this, then you are most likely a mediocre person.

Simply put, EGS really is more of a summer camp for philosophers and an unabashed schmoozefest. Don't buy the excuse that it's "European." I know people attending other institutions in Europe, where independence is valued but they also have solid accrediation, help from faculty, and serious consideration paid to their works. EGS can be a lovely experience, but understand what you are signing up for and putting your money towards.

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  • 9 years later...

I was taught by some of the famous stars that teach at the EGS in Paris. The professors would always speak of EGS as if it was their awesome, free, summer vacation and it does, indeed, look like a scam by some of the most famous people in the field in the expense of students. From knowing the people who teach there quite well, I think you should expect very old school forms of teaching, reading from papers with a monotone voice etc etc. You can, also, expect high levels of elitism and pretentiousness. You think you can talk to JV and SZ? Think again! An army of EGS people will be trying to kiss their sweet sweet asses and they don't hide the fact that they consider themselves some kind of stars. The entire place lacks integrity and the Ronell case just underpins the whole thing. It's just hard to believe that so many famous, rich professors will accept to be humiliated in such a way for free vacations, but they do. The same goes for Kingston's CRMEP, which has significant overlap with the EGS. Ranciere completely trashed them btw. 

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