Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Posted Without Comment

You know how people say that the various social science job markets aren't as bad as the humanities markets? And that the market might even be "rebounding" after a few down years?

I was emailing with a friend who's still a grad student in my old department at Grad U this afternoon. Zie informed me of the following:

(1) Of the ten students on the market this year from our top-ten social science department, only two got tenure-track jobs. (Another got an instructor position as a spousal hire). Two other people have already been working on temporary contracts, but failed to get a tenure-track job this year despite applying widely. So 70% of the people on the market this year will be back on it next year ... along with all of the new first-timers.

I've been around Grad U Department for nine years, and in those nine years I have known exactly three people who didn't get a job on their first run at the academic job market - and perhaps five or six more who took very undesirable temporary jobs as a desperation move. But never, ever have I seen a year where more than one student was unemployed this late in April. This year ... seven.

And for the record, all of these people have impressive CVs with good publications and teaching experience. These are not academic slouches taking a "test run" at the market.

(2) According to my friend, the department is now giving the advanced students a hard time about funding for next year. Our department has always been very good about funding its advanced students, especially if they were willing to teach and/or were on their job market year. This is apparently no longer the case. These students who didn't get jobs this year are also being told by the department that they will likely not be funded by Grad U any longer.

(3) Just today, the department sent out its excited, self-congratulatory email, announcing the names of the full, normal-sized cohort of first-year students they have admitted for the 2012-13 school year.

Does anyone else see anything wrong with this picture?????


  1. JC... YOU ROCK!!!

  2. I am in a social science dept at a university that usually places between #10-#15 on US News rankings. There are usually around 5-7 people on the job market each year. Here are our stats for who found a TT job:

    2012: No one
    2011: No one
    2010: Spousal hire
    2009: One person
    2008: Two people

    I don't know the stats before that, but I know it was much better before the economic crash -- almost everyone got a job within 1-2 years. Keep in mind here that the people who graduated in 2008 *still haven't found work* -- these are cumulative totals. All of the jobless people are taking post-docs or adjuncting or living off their parents/spouse.

    1. Well, I guess it's reassuring to know that our department isn't alone? But WOW is that depressing.

      And I'm sure your department keeps admitting full cohorts every year, and failing to mention what's been going on in the past few years for its grads, right?

      This whole situation is so sad and infuriating.

  3. Yes, it is depressing. I suspect that departments are admitting people since its far easier not to admit that there is a problem, than it is to admit that there is. Why? It's far easier to carry on in the old ways of doing things (ie burying one's head in the sand/sticking fingers in one's ears and shouting 'no, no, no'..) since admitting that a problem exists means also resolving it which means somebody has to do some HARD WORK to resolve these problems because no-one wants to start to take responsiblity...ie make serious decisions. I fear that things have to get worse before they get better since how else with things change?

  4. PhD = Ponzi Scheme

  5. I know there is no "simple solution" for the abysmal job outlook for PhD grads but one step towards -a solution- would be to simply admit less students. But from what I know, department rankings (gag me) are based on -number- of PhD grads so I see where it may be advantageous for a dept. to admit many students and hope a healthy number of them leave with a degree. Anyone with any quantitative ability whatsoever also knows how misleading raw numbers can be but that rant can wait another day.

    Hell, admitting less students may even free up some funding for better grad stipends; I personally don't think PhD students should make anything less than $30k and an adjustment for locale (I had to choose smaller city decent school over top-tier school in a major city for this reason exclusively, and by "top-tier" I mean the #1 grad program in my field... not to toot my own horn or anything but JC makes perfectly valid points about privilege in other posts).

    I don't necessarily think the PhD is a Ponzi scheme I do however think the (big) academic system as a whole is very exploitative and dishonest.