Despite the worldwide prestige of America’s doctoral programs in the humanities, all is not well in this area of higher education and hasn’t been for some time. The content of graduate programs has undergone major changes, while high rates of student attrition, long times to degree, and financial burdens prevail. In response, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in 1991 launched the Graduate Education Initiative (GEI), the largest effort ever undertaken to improve doctoral programs in the humanities and related social sciences. The only book to focus exclusively on the current state of doctoral education in the humanities, Educating Scholars reports on the GEI’s success in reducing attrition and times to degree, the positive changes implemented by specific graduate programs, and the many challenges still to be addressed.
Over a ten-year period, the Foundation devoted almost eighty-five million dollars through the GEI to provide support for doctoral programs and student aid in fifty-four departments at ten leading universities. The authors examine data that tracked the students in these departments and in control departments, as well as information gathered from a retrospective survey of students. They reveal that completion and attrition rates depend upon financial support, the quality of advising, clarity of program requirements, and each department’s expectations regarding the dissertation. The authors consider who earns doctoral degrees, what affects students’ chances of finishing their programs, and how successful they are at finding academic jobs.
Answering some of the most important questions being raised about American doctoral programs today, Educating Scholars will interest all those concerned about our nation’s intellectual future.
"The right combination of money and policies can make real progress in reducing the time to degree for earning humanities doctorates, but the six-year humanities Ph.D. is probably not in the cards. Those are among the key findings of one of the most ambitious efforts ever to reform the humanities Ph.D., as discussed in one of the most thorough (and frank) evaluations of such an effort. . . . [Educating Scholars] closes by noting that 'intensive critical attention' to graduate education has been shown to make a difference in completion and time to degree. And the book notes just how formative graduate education can be: 'The education scholars receive stays with them; its influence flows into their teaching and research and finally to the successive generations of their students.'"—Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed
"The lessons Ehrenberg and his colleagues draw from the successes of the program seem like common sense until one considers how many departments fail to follow them."—Steven Brint, American Journal of Sociology
"The future of Renaissance scholarship . . . depends upon the recruitment and training of graduate students in an improved and efficient system. The Mellon Foundation invested in that admirable and necessary business and the results, harder to achieve than was at first expected, are produced and honestly analyzed in [Educating Scholars] . . . essential reading for all involved in the enterprise."—Bibliotheque d'Humanisme et Renaissance
"In covering a wide spectrum of important practical aspects of degree completion, this book is valuable for all those who are involved in doctoral programs either as supervisors or as decision-makers and administrators. More broadly, it comprises extremely useful material for those affected by, interested in, or aspiring to effect change in postgraduate studies in the humanities."—Marianna Papastephanou, European Legacy
"Administrators and faculty in doctoral programs in the humanities would do well to read this book. Likely many of the conversations they have had regarding improving their own doctoral programs will be represented in the pages. But the book's utility goes beyond the humanities. . . . Educating Scholars can help departments and doctoral programs of all stripes reconsider what is known about graduate education and provide important context for the conversation around improving the experience for all involved."—Jeffery Bieber, Journal of Higher Education
"Educating Scholars tells the story of one of the most ambitious educational experiments attempted in the past twenty-five years at America's top universities. The authors take us on a journey into the training of humanists and the efforts to transform some parts of their experience. It is full of interesting ambitions, fascinating information and ideas, false starts, unexpected encounters with changing conditions in the academic marketplace, and a set of results that were largely unanticipated. If you are interested in the humanities and in our nation's best universities, this is the book you must read."—Jonathan Cole, John Mitchell Mason Professor of the University and former Provost and Dean of Faculties, Columbia University
"Educating Scholars offers a thoughtful, detailed, and, in many respects, surprising account of doctoral education in the humanities at leading research universities and, most likely, beyond. The authors effectively indicate which policies and practices are likely to improve outcomes and which are not. These findings have caused me to rethink my work both as an administrator and as an advisor of PhD candidates."—Walter Cohen, Professor of Comparative Literature and Senior Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Cornell University
"Tough-minded, empathetic, and innovative, Educating Scholars must be read by every graduate dean, university president, trustee, and especially every faculty member who cares about the humanities and its learned future. No examination of PhD study in any field ever has been so thorough, its conclusions so inescapable. And few have offered such honest assessments and forthright recommendations about the changes necessary for realizing the promise still vibrant in the discipline and in its very best and richly deserving students."—Jon Butler, Howard R. Lamar Professor of American History and Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Yale University
"This is a book that should be read by anyone interested in graduate education in the arts and sciences. It is surely the most accurate and systematic analysis of the challenges faced by institutions and their graduate students who are seeking to earn doctoral degrees in the United States. There are very important lessons to be learned—and there is much wise advice—for those who want to improve graduate education, while also making it more efficient."—Neil L. Rudenstine, president emeritus, Harvard University
"This ambitious book addresses a hugely important topic in what is generally a set of neglected disciplines—the humanities. The conceptualization of the book is strong, and the findings of the graduate exit survey are an important and significant contribution to the field, capturing the perspective of the noncompleters as well as the completers."—Debra W. Stewart, President, Council of Graduate Schools
"This is an important, timely, and well-written book. It is destined to become an authoritative reference on doctoral education."—George E. Walker, Senior Vice President for Research Development and Graduate Education, Florida International University