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Graduate institutes versus universities, and prestige


fortsibut
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Hello all.  I wasn't sure where else to post this, but since I'm a historian and this is the history forum I figured I'd ask here in case any of you had run into this issue.

I'm a history MA student (finally) at the point where I'm taking the GRE, defending my MA thesis, and preparing my PhD applications.  Although as an Africanist already studying at a US college I have a number of target schools in the US, but I'm also considering applying to a couple of programs in Europe.  One is Oxford, and the other that caught my eye is the Graduate Institute Geneva (http://graduateinstitute.ch), but I noticed that they aren't a university, per se (http://graduateinstitute.ch/home/about-us/institute/accreditation-reconnaissance-ran.html), but by their own account they "enjoy(s) a worldwide reputation in international circles."  I'm familiar with the prestige element of degree-seeking at the doctoral level (x% of tenure track jobs go to graduates of the top ~30 universities or whatever) and I'm wondering whether getting a degree from an institution that isn't a real university would hurt me pretty badly in the job search down the road.  (Or alternately, whether this is just a well-recognized different kind of school whose degrees are still well-respected.)

I'd really appreciate any info or advice you have; I'm a bit lost, here.  Obviously if I end up getting into Cornell or a similar program I'll go with the known commodity, but this seemed like an interesting potential backup plan in the event that I didn't get any bites elsewhere.  (And I'd be lying if I said that I wouldn't love to live in Geneva for four years!)

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55 minutes ago, psstein said:

If you want to get an academic, tenure-track job, you need to have teaching experience. A research institute will not give you that.

 

Eeeeh. It helps, but teaching experience isn't a component of most European PhDs. Hiring committees tend to understand this, as far as I've been told.

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I don't thin an institution or university is important factor, the difference between PhD training between Europe and USA would largely influence your chance in the job market. It is rare to see a faculty in American universities with a PhD degree from Europe, especially during recent years.

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10 hours ago, telkanuru said:

Eeeeh. It helps, but teaching experience isn't a component of most European PhDs. Hiring committees tend to understand this, as far as I've been told.

Didn't know that, thanks.

On the other hand, many American universities lean towards teaching, rather than research. Ideally, you'll have both. This is becoming a factor in the job market, to the extent that my sub-department may start requiring grad students to prepare a syllabus as part of prelims.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks to all of you for your input!  I'd definitely prefer to go somewhere that either a) is the kind of brand (Oxford/Cambridge/etc.) that would get me an interview even without much teaching experience, or b ) a reputable American uni with a good teaching component.  I've had the opportunity to work as a TA during my MA year as well as create and teach an online course at a different school, which has been a really good experience and undoubtedly will serve as a selling point (pending my student reviews!).

Other than the lack of teaching experience, there isn't a huge reputation gap between non-elite European universities and institutes, then?  And anyone else wanna weigh in on any perceived US institution bias against PhDs from non-US schools?

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I've noticed that Oxford and Cambridge graduates do not tend to do as well on the academic job market. That's obviously not because of the schools' lack of prestige but rather an awareness that the D.Phil is just a different degree that does not necessarily prepare graduates as well for the kind of work they need to do to succeed on the tenure track at an American university. The last few searches I've been on did not short-list anyone from Oxford or Cambridge--not because of any bias against the university but simply because their work was not as promising as other candidates' at a similar stage.

As far as the Graduate Institute Geneva: I've never heard of it, and I've never met anyone who received their terminal degree there. That doesn't mean that it's a lesser place or that it provides a weaker education. But it's worthwhile to spend some time looking at the professors who currently occupy the jobs you hope to interview for in 5-8 years. Have any of them graduated from this place? If not, I would consider veeeeeeeery carefully whether a degree from that institution is likely to get you where you want to be.

(Free bonus advice: Scrutinizing the CVs of tenured faculty at places like the ones you might want to work at someday is an excellent habit to cultivate now, in the application process. There's a common saying floating around these boards to the effect that Hey, it only takes one acceptance! Which is a very supportive thing to say, and also potentially catastrophic. There are some programs that will simply not grant graduates much of a chance on the hypercompetitive job market, and closing your eyes to that data is a recipe for a lot of heartbreak down the road.)

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