Important New Report on PhDs and the Time to Degree

On May 14, 2014, the MLA Office of Research posted “Opportunity Costs of the PhD: The Problem of Time to Degree” with new data on the time to degree problem for a PhD in the humanities:

for graduates who completed degrees in 2012, 9.0 years long, the median time from first entry into graduate school to receipt of the degree

MLA has done great reporting on this problem and great work in rethinking the dissertation to help work towards a more acceptable time to degree for a PhD in the humanities.  The problem of time to degree is one that requires many solutions from the full community.  The data from the MLA Office of Research is informative and useful for working to build towards solutions, making the report a very important read for the full community.

Thanks to the MLA Office of Research for the important data analysis and explanation in the posting “Opportunity Costs of the PhD: The Problem of Time to Degree”, especially with a critical call to research and other action in the closing:

Circumstances where, whether by choice or necessity, 40% of a field’s PhD recipients end up taking more than a decade to earn their degrees seem unsustainable. Shrinking the surprisingly large group of degree recipients in language and literature who take an inordinately long time seems imperative. On the other hand, when thinking about practical measures to respond to this imperative, we need to recognize how the data hide individual histories, with their complex mix of circumstances. There is much we would wish to know and understand that these data do not and cannot tell us. As students pass beyond a fourth or fifth year, how do they support their graduate studies? If they are self-funding five or six years or more of doctoral education, how is lengthy time to degree intersecting with the troubled state of academic labor and the adjunct academic workforce? The data do, nonetheless, remind us forcibly why it is important for local programs to keep track of doctoral candidates and their progress to the degree.


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