Amid Professors’ ‘Doom-and-Gloom Talk,’ Humanities Ph.D. Applications Drop

Historians in the News
tags: education, humanities, history crisis



Graduate programs in the humanities have faced withering criticism for churning out a surplus of doctorates despite a tight academic job market.

Data released on Thursday by the Council of Graduate Schools suggest that the criticism could be starting to sink in. While overall applications to doctoral programs were up nearly 1 percent from 2015 to 2016, applications to arts and humanities programs declined by 7.1 percent.

The council warns against making too much of any one year’s data, because they are the result of a voluntary survey, not a census of all graduate programs. Even so, the five-year period before this year’s survey also showed an average annual drop of 3 percent in applications to arts and humanities doctoral programs. ...

Another factor contributing to the downward trend could be that hypercompetitive graduate programs are scaring away potential applicants, said Stephen Aron, chair of the history department at the University of California at Los Angeles. The department admits a fraction of the share of applicants it did 30 years ago. "People may be deciding they’re not viable," he said.

Like Ms. Cullingford, Mr. Aron explains the realities of the academic job market to prospective graduate students "so they can go in with their eyes open." ...




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