Blogs > Cliopatria > Wherein I Name a Dozen or More Doctoral Programs in History that Ought to be Shut Down

Feb 25, 2007 7:16 pm

Wherein I Name a Dozen or More Doctoral Programs in History that Ought to be Shut Down

Mr. Luker, an Atlanta historian, was co-editor of the first two volumes of The Papers of Martin Luther King. He is the founder of the HNN blog, Cliopatria.

A colleague at Cliopatria recently pointed out an advertisement in the AHA's Perspectives in January. It celebrates the new doctoral program in history at the University of Texas, El Paso and congratulates its first three new doctors. Given market conditions, he asked:"Why would there be any new doctoral programs in history?" It's like pouring more sand on a beach. He might have asked UTEP about where it had placed its three fresh degree-holders.

The AHA's"History Doctoral Programs in the United States and Canada" is a useful site, searchable by institutional name, state or province, and specialization. This map of Texas and the accompanying list of in-state doctoral programs, for example, may help to explain the rationale for a doctoral program at UTEP. Other programs are concentrated in east Texas and UTEP may have a plausible case to make for its specialization in borderlands history.

By my count, however, the AHA site lists 157 doctoral programs in history in the United States and another 31 programs in Canada. At least 188 Ph. D. programs in history in North America. The AHA's list may not even be comprehensive, however. Georgia's Clark-Atlanta University (scroll down) claims to have a doctoral program in history, but the AHA knows nothing of it. What kind of doctoral program in history would it be, if the AHA has never heard of it? I know something about the department. It shouldn't be granting doctorates.

It's no secret that there are more doctoral programs in history than we need. No department wants to be told that, but it's true. It's true, even if their degree recipients don't all intend to teach in a college or university classroom. Some years ago, I think, the AHA considered the possibility of credentialing or licensing graduate programs in history. But, with characteristic courage, it backed down from that, just as it backed away from adjudicating instances of professional malpractice. Credentialing doctoral programs, like adjudicating malpractice, was too hot to handle. I'm at a point in my career where I have nothing to lose, however, so I'll step into this minefield.

If you look at the states with the largest numbers of doctoral programs in history, a ratio of 2 million people per doctoral program in history seems reasonable, particularly of state institutions that are dependent on public funding. With several wealthy private institutions, Massachusetts has a low ratio at .6 million people per program, but 9 of its 10 doctoral programs are at well-endowed private institutions that draw most of their students from across the country. It's in Midwestern and Southern states that don't have multiple well-endowed private institutions that the ratio of 2 million people per doctoral program in history points to problems: Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

In the South, hurricane damage and low population density ought to force retrenchment of doctoral programs in history in Louisiana and Mississippi. Lousiana has only 1.5 million people per program (probably less than that since Katrina); and Mississippi has only 1.0 million people per program. Whatever recovery New Orleans can hope for, the doctoral program in history at the University of New Orleans ought not be resurrected.* Next door, the University of Southern Mississippi already had faculty members in flight from an arbitrary administration before Katrina struck and should not continue handing out doctorates in history.
*Update: Warren Billings, emeritus professor at the University of New Orleans, writes me to indicate that the AHA site is in error about UNO. It has never had a doctoral program in history.

In the Midwest, Wisconsin's public institutions have had repeated funding cuts. With only 1.1 million people per program, it ought to cap graduate work in history at UW, Milwaukee at the M.A. level. Illinois has only 1.6 million people per doctoral program in history and should, at least, cap the program at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, at an M.A. With only 1.3 million people per doctoral program in history, Ohio simply has too many doctoral programs in history at its public institutions. I'm looking at you: Akron, Bowling Green, Cincinnati, Kent State, and Toledo. Except for Cincinnati, these are not well-endowed institutions. Where do you tell your students that you will place them? For the most part, public secondary schools will not hire teachers with doctorates because they can hire teachers without them less expensively.

Elsewhere, the 2 million people per graduate program in history raises questions about doctoral programs in states with small populations: Delaware, where the state university has a substantial endowment; and Rhode Island, where there are two programs -- neither of them in the state university. Why does Providence College have a doctoral program in history?* It is even more revealing in a state like North Dakota. South Dakota has no doctoral programs in history at all. North Dakota has two of them, one for every 300,000 people. The program at either North Dakota State or the University of North Dakota should be capped at an M.A. Better yet: both of them should.
*Update: According to the AHA site, Providence College terminated its doctoral program in 1995, but allowed students still in the program to continue. Ten years later, three students were still in process. Thanks to David Fahey for the pointer.

Even if some miracle of abstraction limited the numbers of doctoral programs in history to 1 per 2 million people, it might still only reduce the number of programs in the United States from 157 to 150. But that moves things in the right direction. If you browse through the AHA site, you'll find other doctoral programs that are obviously weak. Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD, is an example. Morgan State didn't grant its first doctorate in history until 2000, when we'd known for decades already that there were too many doctoral programs in history. Morgan State specializes in African American history, but Howard University's stronger concentration in the field is nearby, in Washington, DC.

Most of the doctoral programs that I've cited are small. Closing them might not dramatically reduce the glut on the job market for young history professors. But they are marginal programs, at best, and would better serve their constituencies by concentrating on offering the best M.A. programs in history that they can muster.

Related Links:

Cliopatria, 18 February
PEA Soup, 18 February
Cliopatria, 21 February
AHA Today, 22 February
History and Education, 22 February

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More Comments:

John McNay - 3/15/2007

I think John Maass makes a good point. Perhaps the problem is not so much creating PhDs but creating a herd of PhDs who do not want to teach. My sense of community colleges is not so much that they do not want PhDs but they want someone who wants to teach and has shown some talent at doing so. Also, it is worth noting that many community colleges pay more than the more prestigious four-year institutions.

John R. Maass - 3/2/2007

Interesting how this comment calls teaching "a grind"! Isn't that what we are supposed to be doing?

John R. Maass - 3/2/2007

Does not SMU also place an emphasis on borderlands history too?

James Stanley Kabala - 2/28/2007

My apologies: I have received an e-mail from one of the remaining Providence Ph.D. students informing me that he is still in the program.

Ralph E. Luker - 2/27/2007

While having fun insulting your hosts, why not gather up some courage and do it in your real name?

Lawrence Brooks Hughes - 2/27/2007

It's fun to drip with erudition and condescension. It's fun to impale your adversary like a matador, instead of hitting him over the head. It's satisfying to make attacks obliquely, with surgical care, while respecting the website rules. I talked about an "ignorant bunch," and "the typical History PhD." You talked about Mr. Hughes.

Ralph E. Luker - 2/26/2007

What an erudite observation! Mr. Hughes condescends to slum among the "ignorant" to make sure that we know that we are "ignorant". You'd think that he'd have more learned things to do.

Lawrence Brooks Hughes - 2/26/2007

As a group, I find them to be a very ignorant bunch. They also tend to be quite incestuous, nearly all of the same mind politically, and likely to have strong interests in only a few overworked and currently fashionable subjects... I haven't sat in a history classroom since high school, but easily can recall three times as much history as the typical History PhD. Why not abandon and defund all 188 programs? This would force somebody hiring a History doctor to give him a test or two instead of merely inspecting his credentials. The ability level in important jobs which need History doctors--surely there are some, somewhere(!)-- would inevitably rise.

Your occasional Beethoven is going to compose his great symphonies whether he has postgraduate training in music or not. By the same token, several who do come through the history doctorate mill may never tackle some area they should tackle because they have been persuaded along the way by the "professionals" not to do so.

Philip M. Katz - 2/26/2007

This is a useful discussion, which may benefit (like everything else) from some historical perspective.

In 1995 -- an especially bad time for the new PhD recipients on the history job market -- the members of the H-Teach discussion list had a long debate about cutting PhD programs, which is still archived at I don't think anyone has referred to this yet in the present discussion (if so, my apologies).

I would also recommend E. David Cronin's article, "Doctoral Programs in History: A Report," in the AHA Newsletter for June 1969 (pp. 6-11), which describes the activities of the AHA's short-lived Committee on the Status of the PhD. This committee attempted to promote a series of acceptable standards for history doctoral programs, with the goal of forcing some marginal programs to shutter their doors.

Finally, at the risk of sounding self-serving, I think that a number of the topics raised in this thread are also addressed in two reports I helped produce for the AHA: "The Education of Historians for the Twenty-first Century" (2004, co-written with Tom Bender and Colin Palmer) and "Retrieving the Master's Degree from the Dustbin of History" (2005). Both are available from the AHA website.

James Stanley Kabala - 2/26/2007

I received my B.A. from PC in 2002. That year there was only one doctoral recipient, who was described by the Dean as "our last one." According to the AHA website (;status=Completed), his name, which I had forgotten, was Richard P. Ironfield, and there have indeed been no doctoral recipients since. So I would not count on the three remaining people ever finishing.

John Charles Crocker - 2/26/2007

I don't see at as a problem bigger than the PhD in philosophy making my coffee or the person with a masters in anthropology working as Sears.

Getting a masters or PhD in many fields is not likely to pay for itself.

People should go into any PhD program with their eyes open as to what they want from their degree and what they are likely to get from it.

Both my wife and I are working on graduate degrees and it is far from certain that they will ever pay for themselves, but neither of us regret our decision to pursue them.

Ralph E. Luker - 2/26/2007

You like the idea of a ph.d. in history driving your taxi or handling your newspaper route? I can understand that that may not be a problem for you.

John Charles Crocker - 2/26/2007

Why is a glut in the history PhD market a problem?

Ralph E. Luker - 2/26/2007

Thanks for the clarification. I suspect that one reason that the AHA is essentially of no help in re the problem you identify is that its leadership almost invariably comes from the very institutions you point to.

Tim R. Furnish - 2/26/2007

I totally agree with your comments about football coaches, and about the importance of European history to world history (esp. in the post-1500 CE world); however, I think it's overstating it to claim that "European history is the foundation of everything in the modern world." That said, I do think there are far too many European and American history Ph.Ds., esp. in the post-9/11 world. Academia is woefully short of language-competent (Arabic, Farsi, Turkish, Kurdish) Middle East experts, as well as African or South Asian. I cannot speak to the East Asian region, but I suspect it's much the same.

Robert Harbison - 2/26/2007

Yes, I've heard it. I've also heard Euro-Phobic as well. Many, if not most undergraduate colleges in this country have a requirement to teach atleast European history 1500-present, as part of the general education. I would much rather take a class in ancient to renaissance history from someone who actually studied some of that history rather than some guy who drew the short straw that semester. This is College, not high school, students need to be taught by scholars, not football coaches.

Merwin R. Swanson - 2/26/2007

Perhaps I didn't make myself clear. I am either agnostic or maybe even in favor of cutting PhD programs at third level departments.

My point is that even if all were cut, the PhD glut remains until the large major PhD programs control their output.

Ralph E. Luker - 2/26/2007

I assume that you've heard of "Euro-centrism".

Ralph E. Luker - 2/26/2007

a) Like some of mine, originally, your figures can't be exactly correct. UNO, for instance, doesn't have a doctoral program in history. If you'd read my update, you'd know that.
b) You may be correct -- that the glut in the history market is more a function of overproduction at top tier institutions.
c) Where public institutions -- like Cincinnati and Delaware -- have substantial endowments that help to underwrite costly doctoral programs in history, I'm prepared to acknowledge that. Second and third tier public institutions without substantial endowments probably ought not undertake doctoral programs in history.
d) I'd _still_ say that the glut in the history market is all the more reason that impoverished, marginal doctoral programs in history ought to be closed down.

Robert Harbison - 2/26/2007

Um, as a Europeanist, I have to take issue with your point # 3. I would say cut back on the gross number of PhDs in American history, esp 20th century, as everyone seems to jump into those fields, but European history is the foundation of everything in the modern world, from the developement of religion to the creation of our laws to the building blocks of our science, Europeans, esp Medieval-Rennasiance, laid those foundations. RH

Ralph E. Luker - 2/26/2007

No. I simply posited that 2 million population per doctoral program in history is a healthy basis of resource-providing support of a history doctoral program in a public institution. My sense is that states like Kentucky and Minnesota that maintain doctoral programs in history only at the state university are models of discipline and responsibility that other states might emulate.

Robert Harbison - 2/26/2007

States like Kentucky? We have ONE Doctoral program in a state with over 4 (FOUR) million people. Should we not add a 'regional' doctorate??

Merwin R. Swanson - 2/26/2007

There are two issues here: 1. Should third level history programs offer Ph.Ds? 2. What can the history profession do about the glut of PhDs given the number of available jobs?

Focusing on the first to solve the second borders on irrelevant.

These are the institutions that the article identifies as small schools that should not offer History PhDs. The number in parentheses is the number of dissertations in progress at these schools according to the AHA: UTEP (2), U of New Orleans (1), U Wis-Milwaukee (1), Southern Illinois-Edwardsvile (1), Akron (5), Bowling Green (11), Cincinnati (10), Kent State (10), Toledo (5), Delaware (36), North Dakota State (1), University of North Dakota (2), Morgan State (10).

That’s a total of 95 (and 36 are from one school -- Delaware).

What about some major league schools? Try this arbitrary collection:
Berkeley (114), Harvard (69), Michigan (78), Princeton (4 -- good for them), Stanford (78), Wisconsin (70), Yale (111).

That’s a total of 446.

Maybe minor league schools shouldn’t offer degrees because they don’t have the academic muscle. But closing all of them will barely dent the oversupply of history PhDs. That will require the major PhD schools to reduce their enrollments dramatically.

You may not think much of her/his faculty, of his/her ability, or of the population to PhD ratio in her/his state, but that lonely PhD student freezing in his/her office at North Dakota State is just not important in creating the glut of history PhDs.

Ralph E. Luker - 2/26/2007

Dr. Sinclair, Are you aware that the history department at Toledo is in receivership? It is top-heavy with full professors, who have not brought along younger faculty to pick up when they leave the doctoral program as they retire. The department is wracked with charges of being a hostile work environment for women. I suspect that it's a far different department than the one you fondly remember. Among Ohio's many doctoral programs in history, Toledo's is the first one I'd close down.

Jeffery C Livingston - 2/26/2007


have you surveyed graduates of smallish Ph.D. programs to ascertain their thoughts? I graduatedin 1989 from Univ. of Toledo with Ph.D. in History. I immediately began work at Calif. State Univ.-Chico, and remain there today as a full prof imminently satsified with my career's trajectory.

Other doctoral grads of Toledo's program work at Univ. of Guam, Kent State, Sinclair Univ. in Dayton, and Wright State. We, and Toledo's doctoral program in History, haven't done badly in my estimation.

John Charles Crocker - 2/26/2007

The issue of faculty specialization is pertinent to any graduate study.

It should be up to the PhD candidate to research the focus of the faculty at any institution they are considering. If an applicant for a position in a PhD program cannot research well to find an appropriate program for their interest then it is quite an indictment of whatever masters program they graduated from.

Isn't there communication between faculty and applicants? Don't faculty screen applicants for area of interest and advise applicants to search elsewhere if their interest does not match department interests or ability to supervise?

If this is not being done I think that is where the problem lies.

Ralph E. Luker - 2/26/2007

Another measure of what having a "joint program" means would be whether the two departments admit and deny admissions to the program jointly -- or are admissions conducted separately.

John Charles Crocker - 2/26/2007

It looks to actually be a cooperative program though it is hard to judge without actually attempting to cross register.

Ralph E. Luker - 2/26/2007

BTW, it's hard to know what "the two history PhD programs in North Dakota are actually one joint program offered cooperatively through North Dakota State and University of North Dakota." Is that something that is said whenever anyone asks the question about why ND has two ph.d. programs in history and suggests that they stretch thin resources much _too_ thin? Or, do students actually cross-register easily and take classes readily at both institutions? Institutions tend to be very jealous of student registrations and to make cross-registrations as difficult as possible.

Tim R. Furnish - 2/26/2007

Well, hopefully you're just busy with all the other posts and not considering me plague-ridden now....

Ralph E. Luker - 2/26/2007

I think it just isn't possible to answer your question in the abstract. One reason for that is that it depends on the numbers of sub-fields in which a doctorate in history is offered. There's an argument to be made for UTEP's program on geographical grounds and related to the department's strength in "borderlands history," for example. But the department doesn't restrict itself to that. Instead, it offers doctoral programs in Latin America, United States, Europe, and Africa. Really, these things are not interchangeable. A borderlands specialist probably shouldn't be directing a dissertation in African history. Much depends on how many and how diverse the sub-specialties are that a department claims to offer the doctorate in.

John Charles Crocker - 2/26/2007

Perhaps I am projecting my own discipline onto history departments. I am required to find funding for my research. I should actually be working on a grant proposal right now.

Do history PhDs not write for grant money to fund their research if it requires more than standard resources?

"How many faculty members do you have serving 40-50 M.A. candidates?"
I am not certain of the number required. It would depend on the number of undergraduate courses they were tasked with. I would make a not very educated guess that with about 1/3 to 1/2 of their time consumed with undergraduate courses and some more time dedicated to administrative work and their own research that it would take 4-6 full time faculty and several additional part time faculty.
What I was curious to know was assuming the faculty were fully loaded or nearly so, how many additional faculty would it be necessary to hire in order to distribute the work such that it would not be an onerous additional load on the pre-PhD program faculty?
Would one additional full time position be sufficient or would more be required? Two to three part time faculty?

Can an effective PhD program in history be revenue neutral in a relatively small rural setting like the Dakotas?

BTW the two history PhD programs in North Dakota are actually one joint program offered cooperatively through North Dakota State and University of North Dakota.

Ralph E. Luker - 2/26/2007

Where does the "student's project budget" come from? Are all the doctoral students to be self-funding? Or, isn't "self-funding" itself an illusion? How many faculty members do you have serving 40-50 M.A. candidates? Do they have so much spare time on their hands that they can take on another half dozen doctoral students each year without some relief on their time spent elsewhere? And, how then do you make up for that? By hiring adjuncts as many departments are now doing to stretch for doctoral programs? Your argument is one for the exploitation of ph.d. oversupply. I'd rather argue for the reduction of oversupply and less exploitation of it.

John Charles Crocker - 2/26/2007

Say a school has a smallish masters program with 40 to 50 students (20 or so per year with a few hold overs). If that school wanted to offer a PhD as well (say 5 positions) how many additional faculty positions would be required?

I assume that the subscriptions at the library would not need to be expanded or if additional subscriptions were needed then they would come from the student's project budget.

Are there any large budget items for a history program other than the faculty and to a considerably lesser extent expansion of library resources?
It doesn't seem like it would be difficult to make this revenue neutral. If the program can remain revenue neutral and fill a local need why close it down?

If quality is the issue then some accreditation process could easily address that.

Ralph E. Luker - 2/26/2007

Here, at least, is your answer about west Texas and the density of African American population.

Sterling Fluharty - 2/26/2007

I appreciate the skepticism. My preliminary analysis tends to support what you are saying. I just checked the NSF data. It shows the North Dakota schools have never awarded a PhD in history to a Native American. This data has to be used with caution, however. All of the NSF data is self-reported. This means people can avoid answering the question, or, even worse, engage in the practice of ethnic fraud. I agree with you about UTEP. It makes much more sense to talk about UTEP serving the needs of the Hispanic community in Texas. However, until I see the census data for western Texas, I can't say for sure whether or not African Americans are over- or underrepresented there.

The NSF data indicates that the University of California system is the current leader in awarding history PhDs to students of color. For instance, between 2001 and 2005, these schools in the UC system awarded 50 history PhDs to individuals of Asian descent (e.g., Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders), 46 history PhDs to Hispanics, 19 history PhDs to African Americans, and 2 history PhDs to American Indians.

What I would like to know is the percentage of these minority history doctoral students in the UC system who were California residents when they began their program. In other words, is the UC system good at attracting minority history doctoral students from within the state or from out-of-state? This would help answer your question about the choices facing minority students, in terms of the type of graduate institution they choose to enroll in, and the distance of that institution from their home community.

Tim R. Furnish - 2/26/2007

Dr. Luker,
Now, now....I happen to be a conservative (although not, as near as I can tell, a member of the "radical right") and I totally support ME/Islamic studies funding--although, like Martin Kramer, I do tend to think that folks who receive gov't funding should study something, say, relevant rather than Ottoman eunuchs.

Ralph E. Luker - 2/26/2007

Your observation about serving ethnic minority populations is a good one. I don't think that it gets automatic approval, however. I'm skeptical, for instance, of any claim that UTEP is peculiarly well positioned to serve African American students, as its chairman claimed. Is El Paso a certain of black population? What if a close look showed that neither of North Dakota's _two_ doctoral programs in history enrolled _any_ native American students? Would we still endorse its programs because of imagined possibilities that they _could_ enroll such students? Finally, must ethnic minority students necessarily be served by marginal, poorly-funded doctoral programs? Doesn't that just tend to perpetuate inferiority, whatever other face you put on it?

Sterling Fluharty - 2/26/2007

I think the AHA has produced some useful studies and data that others in this discussion have cited. However, I think it would help the profession if this data was expanded. The AHA Directory of History Departments lists the faculty and recent graduates of large and medium-sized history departments. This Directory has been put to good use by the AHA research staff. They have produced articles in Perspectives about mobility in the profession, placement rates, elitism, etc. I wonder if we have reached the point, however, where the Directory is overlooking too many small-sized history departments, or at least history faculty at small schools. If the Directory were expanded to keep pace with the proliferation of two-year schools, we would potentially have a much better picture of the profession. The Directory, once expanded, could tell us whether history PhDs "disappear" or end up teaching at small schools. We could also test the assumption that an MA is all that is required to teach at the community college level. I know this is the legal requirement in many or most states, but the reality may be that two-year schools may be leaning increasingly toward hiring ABDs or PhDs in history. Until the the Directory is expanded, however, it will quite hard to test this assumption. I think an expanded version of the Directory could also improve our understanding of whether history PhDs end up teaching in-state or faw away from their degree institution. My guess is that many or most of the history faculty who teach in two-year schools are working in the same state where they earned their advanced degree. Until the AHA or someone else develops a better system for tracking this placement, through, we won't know for sure if this is the case. An expanded Directory could also help us to better understand elitism within the profession. Studies have confirmed that historians with PhDs from the top programs generally get the best jobs in the fields. The other side of the coin, however, is the undergraduate institutions where they top-ranked historians obtained their bachelors degree. Perspectives had a good article on this a year or two ago. It turned out there was definitely a correlation between enrollment in a highly-ranked undergraduate program and admission into a highly-ranked graduate program. I think this sort of study could be taken to the next step. How often do history PhDs and ABDs return to the state where they earned their bachelors degree? Do we have a sense of whether historians with advanced degrees are loyal to their undergaduate institutions? Are the historians who teach in two-year schools most likely to have earned their bachelors degree in the same state where they end up teaching? An expanded version of the AHA Directory would help answer these questions. Another thing to consider if the Directory were expanded, is how we could increase the number of history professionals who are listed. By this I mean historians who work for government agencies like the National Park Service or who work in the private sector for companies like ABC-CLIO. I think we would obtain an improved picture of the job situation for historians if the number and range of professional positions in the Directory were expanded. Once again, there is usually not the expectation that public historians have a PhD in hand when they start their work. However, with the overproduction of history PhDs over the last few decades, it is quite possible that a lot of the PhDs and ABDs ended up working in the public history sector. This raises a similar issue. Several historians who stopped at the ABD point are listed in the Directory, as faculty or professionals. Yet these same historians are missing from the lists of former students that appear with the lists of history department faculty in the Directory. This reason for the exclusion of ABDs, of course, is that they never graduated. Should the Directory change to reflect the reality of the job situation today? In other words, perhaps ABDs who find jobs should be listed alongside the PhDs produced by history departments, as they appear in the Directory. Without this change, a certain segment of the history teaching population will remain invisible in studies based on data in the Directory.

The UTEP case raises another issue for me. I think it is lamentable that very little published data is available on the percentage of minorities who are enrolled in specific history graduate programs. The UTEP sounds like a promising example of the kind of place where a doctoral student of color can receive the encouragement or support he or she needs. The flip side of this is that there are several history doctoral programs where minority students do not feel welcome or taken seriously. An important factor is whether or not the faculty in a given program includes minorities. I think Ralph Luker's analysis could have taken minority populations into account. Faculty of color are certainly underrepresented in the field of history, especially when compared to other disciplines. There are certain places in the country where a history doctoral program might be worth preserving, not because it meets the two-million population criteria, but because it serves the needs of minorities. UTEP seems well positioned for this sort of thing, since the undergraduate enrollment at UTEP is majority Hispanic. The same sort of thing might be true for certain history doctoral programs in the South, particularly those that serve as feeder schools for historically black colleges. On the Northern Plains, it might be worth considering whether history doctoral programs are in a good position to train the next generation of history faculty in tribal colleges. I think it would be interesting if Ralph Luker would correlate his data on history PhD programs with the latest race/ethnicity estimates available from the U.S. Census web site. This would be a first step towards determining whether these programs are located in the vicinity of substantial minority populations. The Survey of Earned Doctorates, available at < >, could then be used to determine the extent to which these history doctoral programs have enrolled students of color over the last several decades. I hope participants in this discussion will seriously the need to increase the number of minorities in the the profession. We should also be asking whether some of the smaller programs that Ralph Luker proposed closing may in fact be the very schools that are already training the next generation of minority faculty.

Ralph E. Luker - 2/26/2007

Yes, I suppose that funding will remain, unless the radical right closes down Middle East studies altogether.

Tim R. Furnish - 2/26/2007

Good point about expense in training folks to do research in Mandarin or Arabic. But I was on Title VI fellowships in grad school (for Arabic twice, Farsi and Turkish) so the flip side of the issue is that there is much more federal money available (particularly in the post-9/11 world for Middle East/Islamic studies) than there ever was before.

Ralph E. Luker - 2/26/2007

Dr. Furnish, Thanks for thoughtful observations. What I wrote sought a shortform measure of adequate funding bases for doctoral programs in history and I came up with a 2 million population base per instate program. Since doctoral programs in history are generally not generative of economic resources, I believe that private institutions with inadequate resources are not likely to initiate doctoral programs in history without significant prior endowment -- so the 2 million population per program is a rough measure of potential for support in public institutions. I don't assume that such programs will be unable to place their candidates in institutions outside the state -- as Ohio State was obviously able to do in your case. I do have serious doubts about where history ph.d.s from North Dakota State or the University of Southern Mississippi will find employment.
If community colleges are now open to hiring people with doctorates in history, I certainly welcome that development. It has been a long time coming. I suspect that we're nowhere near a point that the ph.d. is a minimal expectation for employment at a community college.
It would be helpful if we had some data on the ratio of candidates per opening in various fields of history. The programs that you want to cap in admissions are probably less expensive than those you want to expand, particularly if you measure them in terms of time to degree, because of the greater demand for extensive non-English language skills.

Tim R. Furnish - 2/26/2007

Professor Luker,
I tend to agree with you that there are too many doctoral programs (esp. since I obtained my doctorate from Ohio State, not those other Buckeye institutions) but I think there are three other major considerations here:
1) You seem to work from the premise that doctoral program mainly produce faculty for in-state employment, but is that necessarily true (at least, that is how I am interpreting your calculus of state populations vis-a-vis programs)?
2) As a professor in a community college, I can tell you that your assumption that an M.A. is sufficient to teach at such a venue is increasingly simply untrue. And such colleges are the fastest-growing segment of higher education.
3) I think an equally, if not more, sensible way to cut back on the glut in history Ph.D.s would be to cut the enormous numbers of them in American and European history, which simply provides cannon fodder for Starbucks, and instead bolster numbers of folks in Middle East, Chinese, African, world history--fields much more in demand these days. What say you?

Ralph E. Luker - 2/26/2007

Mr. Tarver, You missed the fact that what I wrote is based on information from the American Historical Association's website. Insofar as the information is incorrect, it is because the departments have given the AHA incorrect information. If LSU at Lafayette offers a doctoral program in history, wouldn't you think it would want the AHA to know that? The AHA and I are well aware of the doctoral program in history at Tulane. UNO had, apparently, told the AHA 20 years ago that it offered a doctoral program in history and had never corrected that misinformation in 20 years.
Your claim that "The whole drift of Mr. Luker's comments leads to the conclusion that we need less rather than more higher education in history" mystifies me. Did you read what I wrote? Having more and more doctoral programs in history -- regardless of how adequately they are funded and staffed -- is very foolish. What I suggest is that -- lacking adequate financial support -- marginal doctoral programs in history would better serve their constituencies by concentrating on offering the best M.A. programs that they can muster. That's not denigrating, berating, or undervaluing them. It is simply an argument that -- given modest resources -- some departments are overreaching.

John Tarver - 2/26/2007

Two points: one, LSU in Baton Rouge and UNO are campuses of the Louisiana State University System of eight campuses; two, you missed the PhD program at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, a campus of the UL System. Tulane University in New Orleans, a private school, also offers the PhD in history. The remaining 20 to 25 campuses in the state do not. The whole drift of Mr. Luker's comments leads to the conclusion that we need less rather than more higher education in history, a conclusion that I protest in the strongest terms.

Ralph E. Luker - 2/26/2007

Given time to degree, it's probably fair to say that an institution's investment in a doctoral student is or _should be_ three to five times what it is in a master's student.

John Charles Crocker - 2/26/2007

If an institution has the facilities and faculty necessary for a reasonable masters program in history how much more does it cost for them to offer a PhD as well?

Isn't most of the literature required available either electronically or via interlibrary loan? If not, why not?

Tim Lacy - 2/25/2007

David: I totally agree. Every program in the U.S. should post that data in a visible, accessible place. Right now we have too many academic libertarians out there arguing that those who undertake the history Ph.D. do so with full information and by "free" choice. What a joke. Of course every department likely has its "realist," telling as many doctoral graduate students as possible that their engaging in an exercise of futility. Then there are the optimists that point to impending Baby Boomer retirement among professors. But having outcomes data posted would help both those "realists" and the graduate student trying to assess end points and risks. Risk assessment for potential phd students today is tough business. [Aside: I have ~NO~ regrets over pursuing and finishing my PhD, even though I currently do not hold a tenure-track position. But I did it for larger, love-of-learning, challenge-the-mind reasons.] - TL

Dave Stone - 2/23/2007

A few years ago, the AHA did a breakdown of job placement by size / prestige of program. What they found was that small and marginal programs had a much smaller placement rate into academic jobs. So the harm in all those extra grad students is people who spend years of hard work and low pay for little prospect of the job they're being trained for.

christopher mark miller - 2/22/2007

In a spirit of fairness, here's the full debate over adding the UW-Milwaukee program. Some of Dr. Luker's comments seem well-placed. I also have to add that there does not seem to be any available follow-up data to test the assertions that were made here.

I tend to think that the program as described is a reasonable use of resources. I can also understand that programs such as is (last in) are probably the firs to be cut as well (first out). In any case, the UW system was clearly conflicted on precisely these lines.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, The, Nov 9, 2002 by NAHAL TOOSI

UWM granted its PhD in history

Regents go against administration in letting university offer program

By NAHAL TOOSI, Journal Sentinel

Saturday, November 9, 2002

Madison -- After a rare spirited debate, the regents of the University of Wisconsin System on Friday rejected its administration's recommendation and allowed the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to offer PhDs in history, the school's first new doctoral offering in 15 years.

It's the first time in recent memory that the consensus-oriented board acted against a system recommendation. The 10-to-6 vote was closer than it seemed, hinging on a few regents' last-minute decisions about a program first proposed in 1992 that would enroll about six students a year.

"We're ecstatic," UWM Provost John Wanat said. "We're really happy about the affirmation that came from the board for this, and we're going to make them proud."

Regent Phyllis Krutsch, who voted against the program, said she worried about how voting against the system's administration would affect future board processes.

"This is not usually how we do business," she said.

But Regent Lolita Schneiders, who backed the proposal, said later: "We were appointed to make the decisions. Not the administration."

The discussion Friday exposed regional divisions on the board, with Milwaukee-area regents taking offense to a lack of support from Madison-area regents for a program UWM backers said would enhance the intellectual vibrance of southeastern Wisconsin.

Proponents said they had received letters of support for the program from business leaders in the Milwaukee area, including the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce.

"All the regents from the southeastern Wisconsin area are in support," said Regent JoAnne Brandes, who lives in Franklin. "We do have more knowledge of the areas in which we live."

But opponents wrote off any Madison-Milwaukee competition.

"I think we knocked down those barriers in the last decade," said Regent Jay Smith, who lives in Middleton.

He and others said they were concerned about the use of resources systemwide and at UWM, especially during tight financial times.

The financial question so bothered Regent Jonathan Barry that he plans to propose temporarily suspending action on future doctoral program proposals.

"I don't know that (UWM supporters) realize to what degree they're going to support this program in the future," said Barry, who voted against the proposal.

Beginning in 1992, UWM drafted proposals for a doctoral program in history. The latest incarnation would offer three concentrations: urban history, global history and modern studies. The program will target non-traditional students who would take courses part time or in the evenings.

University officials say the PhD program can be provided with no added cost because the department's 32-member faculty can handle the five to seven new students who would enroll every year. They say that along with e-mails, letters and phone calls they've received over the years, a survey of area teachers shows significant interest in earning the doctorate for personal satisfaction or career advancement.

The system administration, specifically the academic affairs staff, has questioned many of UWM's assertions. In a recent memo, Cora Marrett, the UW System senior vice president for academic affairs, doubted that the school had the resources for the program. She also said an abundance of doctoral programs in history were available in the Midwest and nationwide, and that the job market was not good for those who earn the degree.

In a speech Friday, Marrett emphasized that the value of a doctoral degree lies in its earner's contributions to research, not merely personal satisfaction or career advancement.

Marrett later said many of the same questions -- about the need and cost of the program -- had arisen over the last decade. Late last year, the academic affairs department finally sent the program for a first reading by the regents, who asked the same questions.

Academic affairs staff had thought they could bring the issue back with a go-ahead recommendation earlier this year, but then the state budget situation worsened, and further study convinced the system that it could not recommend the program, Marrett said.

"I believe what happened is that academic affairs typically has worked through the issues," Marrett said. "Either the proposal is withdrawn. Or the issues are worked out between academic affairs and institutions. Thus what would come to the regents are only those that had the support."

UWM Chancellor Nancy Zimpher also took the podium Friday. She stressed that the history PhD was within UWM's mission and that it would help the university fulfill its "ambition to become a premier research university." The school must offer a balanced array of doctoral programs, she said.

The school has received system administration's support in its still-developing efforts to offer doctoral degrees in medical informatics and health sciences, largely because of the strong labor demands in those areas.

Jonathan Dresner - 2/22/2007

I don't see how keeping excellent students out of programs with critical masses of high quality faculty and resources solves the problem of smaller departments with smaller libraries and smaller fellowship budgets providing less of an opportunity for development.

Yes, intellectual diversity is valuable, but I think you're seriously overstating the level of "historiographical dogma"... though as an Asianist, I may not notice it so much.

Ralph E. Luker - 2/22/2007

Manan knows that I am not here, but I couldn't resist a reply. The notion that you can start up a high quality doctoral program in history at a second tier public university with _no cost_ to the taxpayer strikes me as ludicrous -- unless you assume that the department has faculty members who are just sitting around twiddling their thumbs prior to the new start-up. High quality doctoral programs in history are enormously time-consuming for faculty members and, given cut-backs in Wisconsin's public higher education, I doubt that UW-Milwaukee can maintain a doctoral program of high quality without a high cost of time devoted to undergraduate education. The idea that there is any enormous need for ph.d.s in southeastern Wisconsin's public schools also strikes me as unlikely.

christopher mark miller - 2/22/2007

Do the three programs at one university really yield the data that Ralph Luker says they do? I'd argue no. There are really only three PhD-granting institutions in the state: UW-Madison, UW-Milwaukee, and Marquette University. Madison serves the research institution crowd, Milwaukee's new program was explicitly designed to attract high school teachers, and Marquette's program fills the niche for small-college qualified generalists. UW-Milwaukee's program began just a few years ago and was undertaken at no additional costs to the school. It leverages the already fine faculty in place there to provide Southeastern Wisconsin teachers another track to improve their educational background.

christopher mark miller - 2/22/2007

Wouldn't a better solution simply be to limit the number of students in the "top" programs, forcing qualified students to attend elsewhere? This would slowly trickle down the prestige that has gathered around the research institutions that do nothing to prepare their students for the teaching tasks that many of their graduates will face. Increased respect for teaching in the profession will assist ALL departments with changes in university dynamics.

The idea that PhDs should be restricted to the top programs is deeply offensive. Let's cap enrollments at a few of the programs in the top 25. Aren't increases in student enrollment at places such as the University of Texas, University of North Carolina, and the University of Washington just as responsible for the "glut" of historians on the job market? (and let's be clear--by "glut" we mean "glut of people who want a full-time tenure track job at a major state-sponsored research institution where they'll never have to teach much." Those programs keep churning out students who say the same things and perpetuate the same historiographical dogma because they magnify the intellectual impact of the faculty at those schools; this centralization doesn't result in diversity of thought--it perpetuates a power structure by controlling the mainstream of the profession.

Maybe instead of examining the "PhD program/population" ratio in geographic areas, we should examine the ratio of PhDs produce/professor and look to diversify the field of dissertation advisors so we can diversify the field as a whole. If we simply diversify the faces of those sitting around the table of the "old boys" network, but leave the table the same size, have we really changed anything at all?

Christopher Miller
Marquette University
Milwaukee, WI

David M Fahey - 2/18/2007

A year or two ago I posted a link to Miami University's history graduate program website that provided the name, dissertation title, date of degree, dissertation advisor, and--what is relevant here--current job according to most recent information. The Miami program awarded its first Ph.D. in the late 1960s. May I suggest to other programs a simpler version of what I did? Post information about Ph.D. recipients' employment for those who received their degree in the last ten years. This would give prospective students and others a realistic notion of what happens to those who study in a program and the basis for comparison with other programs.

David Silbey - 2/18/2007

I echo Nathanael's remark: doctoral programs should only bring in those students it can fund for all/most of their graduate work. Of course, there's no reason not to do both: limit students in large programs and shut down marginal ones.

Andrew D. Todd - 2/18/2007

I'm ex-Cincinnati myself (Faculty brat, Philosophy; B.A. Anthropology, 1981; B.S. Engineering (Engineering Science), 1985; took about 36 quarter-hours in the History department in the late 1970's and early 1980's). When I was there, the History department had a strong synergy with Cincinnati's "main peaks." The History Department had: Daniel R. Beaver (Military History, did things like mobilization, economic linkages, etc., did a biography of Newton Baker); James Laux (Automobile History); and Saul Bennison (History of Medicine) Other departments were in a similar position. The Anthropology Department had Rhoda Halperin (Medical Anthropology) and Beth Dillingham (Primitive Technology, among other things). The Philosophy Department did not have a regular Artificial Intelligence program-- that would have cost about as much as anywhere from five endowed chairs (Michigan, Minnesota, etc., via National Science Foundation grants) to fifty (Stanford, Carnegie-Mellon, MIT, via DARPA money). However, Cincinnati did have my father, William Todd, doing thought experiments (in the Michigan 1950's tradition), collaborating with people in the medical school's Neurology department, etc. When computers got cheap enough, after 1980, he started doing experimental work in a modest way, spending about $10,000 of his own money on the necessary computers. The point is that at least three liberal arts departments that I know of were "cross-integrated," doing something that the engineering school or the medical school found interesting. Most of that seems to have gone by the wayside. As most of the people above retired, they were not replaced.

Sidenote: One time, I persuaded my father to let me do a market research survey of his freshman logic class, the curriculum of which was heavily into Artificial Intelligence. It turned out that there were large numbers of science and engineering students there.

Jonathan Dresner - 2/18/2007

I don't think the new programs mean new jobs, though I do think that administrators can sometimes be talked into new hiring lines in order to facilitate the creation of a new degree program. My experience with academic funding suggests, though, that it has to have a significant prestige boost and other rewards for the institution because budgeting's a zero-sum game.

Ralph E. Luker - 2/18/2007

In addition to UT's prize student, David Brown, I suppose you could point to Kent State's prize student, Harry Stout, who holds the Jonathan Edwards chair at Yale and chairs its department of religious studies.

Jonathan Dresner - 2/18/2007

First of all, nobody's suggesting restricting Ph.D. programs to first-tier programs, just questioning the proliferation of third-tier ones.

Secondly, though the culture of the "Ivies" has traditionally been "R-1 or Bust" that's changed a lot in the last few years. If not in the departments themselves, then in the career counseling services and teaching programs, there's a growing recognition that archival work is only a small part of what professional instructors do: mandatory teaching instruction, for example, is proliferating rapidly. Also, the revolution in graduate financing of the last few years -- after my time, of course -- will produce new generations of first-tier Ph.D.s without the kind of debt that would make them shy away from the lower end of the market.

Of course, none of that helps Asianists, since most CC's don't want us even when we do a lot of World teaching, but the oversupply is an order of magnitude less (it still exists) than in the US/Euro fields.

David J Merkowitz - 2/18/2007

Ralph...I think you tossed this out because you bored and needed a good discussion on a cold winter weekend. It was interesting and worth it.

The real reason to have all the phd programs is that it is better for society for produce a few extra historians than a few extra lawyers. You know as well as I that pretty much all historians at one time or another cast a glance at the lawyers with the nice cars and big houses and thought but for the grace of God go I.

I mean really if it wasn't for the UC Phd program I'd likely be a productive member of society not living off the state dole. (probably just one of those lawyers state income taxes pays my salary for a year of TAing, but that is neither here nor there).

David J Merkowitz - 2/18/2007

Ralph is more right than he realizes. Due to a variety of decisions across UT that department is in terminal decline. Of course, it was UT's history PhD program that produced Hofstadter's recent biographer, David Brown.

One of the challenges that small programs have is what sort of program to develop. On the one hand you could recruit 3-5 in a relatively small area and do a specialty degree (come here for the American West - which oddly enough was Toledo's focus for most of the 90s, but you get my drift) or do something like comparative history which UC tried in order to get our South Asianist, Latin Americanist, and Ottomanist some graduate students. However, one person moves on and the entire program all but disappears. Plus the department continued to get more interest from Americanists. caveat - the South Asianist operates essentially a grad program until itself and places its students at institutions that the Americanists wouldn't dream of.

The problem is the university's are holding onto the program as a prestige thing rather than a serious commitment (especially when it comes to faculty lines).

Paul Edison - 2/17/2007

One at the University of North Carolina-Pembroke. One in our own department--the result of a national search. The third was hired by UTEP as a lecturer/administrator in the Entering Student Program.

Hiring one of our own was not something we did lightly, of course. But she simply stood out among the applicants, and we could not be happier with our decision.

Ralph E. Luker - 2/17/2007

Professor Edison: Thanks for your statement about the doctoral program at UTEP. Where, by the way, has the department placed its three new doctors?

Ralph E. Luker - 2/17/2007

Jeff, An M.A. is a perfectly legitimate credential for teaching in a community college. Most of the programs that I cited would be doing their constituencies a favor if they did not attempt to offer doctorates, but concentrated on the best M.A. program possible. Warren Billings of the University of New Orleans wrote me to correct the AHA records to indicate that UNO doesn't offer a ph.d. Rather, it has an M.A. program that is ranked among the twenty-five best in the country.

Jeff Vanke - 2/17/2007

And who's going to teach history at most of the community colleges in this country? Not Ivy League Ph.D.s - they/we will sooner change careers than settle their careers into a major teaching grind.

So there's an argument for proliferation of programs. It may not be in state taxpayer interests to create any given new program, but it is in their interests to have a decent supply of local Ph.D.s who are willing to consider jobs at open-admissions colleges.

As a North Carolinian, I'm glad the UNC Board of Governors rejected UNC-Charlotte's attempt to create a Ph.D. program in history.

But I'm also leery of elitist attempts to manage supply and demand by limiting programs. I'm probably on my way out of the profession. I took an informed gamble by entering grad school in the first place; I obtained a tenure-track job and walked away from it five years later; and I was unwilling to sacrifice geography and child-rearing in order to move up the ladder to each next obvious career move. If I have any professional regrets, getting a Ph.D. in a crowded market isn't one of them.

Paul Edison - 2/17/2007

Dr. Luker,

In 2003, of all the doctorates earned in the United States, only 7% were awarded to Hispanics and African Americans; yet these groups represent 32% of the doctoral-age population (see “Diversity and the PhD” from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation). Doctorates in history fared only slightly better in 2005: 9.6% went to African Americans and Hispanics (see the same issue of Perspectives that you refer to at the opening of your comments). In contrast, 63% of the 24 current students in the doctoral program at UTEP are either Hispanic (including 4 students from Mexico), Native American, or African American.

To my knowledge, ours is the only PhD program in the country focused on borderlands history. (We encourage transnational and comparative work, but we generally do not accept students whose research resides outside of the southwest borderlands region and Mexico.) While one can fruitfully study borders in, say, Boston, surely there are certain advantages to studying it here, at a majority Mexican American university, where one can routinely speak Spanish and walk to Mexico itself in a matter of minutes.

Further, and again in part because of our location, our program offers a different model of graduate education than that existing at many institutions, and one that in some respects resembles the recommendations of “The Responsive PhD” recently issued by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. In this model, doctoral students are not only exposed to a rigorous and broad intellectual formation, but have ample opportunities to demonstrate “public scholarship” by venturing regularly and fruitfully into public history and community affairs.

These are some of the reasons why I believe there is an important place for our program, and why I am confident that our graduates will continue to be successful.

Paul Edison
Chair, Department of History

Ralph E. Luker - 2/17/2007

I don't think it does, necessarily. For one thing, El Paso and Morgan State are probably reasonably exceptional as new programs in the last decade. I think the big expansion in doctoral programs in history took place in the 1970s. Those that got established have held on and refused to retrench. Look at the consequence at a place like Toledo, where the distribution is something like 16 full profs, 1 asso prof, and 2 ass't profs. You've got a department there that's been largely locked in place for 25 or more years and virtually no new blood. And I doubt that UT will do 1 to 1 replacements when the full profs retire.

Manan Ahmed - 2/17/2007

Don't all this new, small programs also mean new jobs?

Jonathan Dresner - 2/17/2007

Another issue raised in some of these comments is the question of access: how many people can afford to move hundreds of miles in search of a Ph.D. program? It's certainly an argument used commonly in support of these weaker programs.

One could argue that if you don't have the means independently or through scholarships to afford to do the Ph.D. full-time, then you shouldn't do it. At the very least, the research facilities available at smaller institutions are likely to be quite weak.

Or we could consider an opportunity for technological fixes: distance learning models, combined with the extraordinary growth in online archives, could make high-quality Ph.D. programs much more widely available, and produce more tech-savvy and forward-looking graduates in the bargain.

David M Fahey - 2/17/2007

David J. Merkowitz and others touch on several issues. I don't regard the capability of small, so-called marginal programs to prepare doctoral students as the central issue. Many (not all) of such programs have faculty and library resources comparable to most of the so-called major programs as they had existed between the world wars. A by-product of over production of history Ph.D.s is that there are excellent people virtually everywhere. With the aid of the Internet (for instance, OhioLink in my state), students and faculty have access to books and periodicals to a degree that didn't exist a few decades ago. The central program is not training new Ph.D.s properly but the scarcity of jobs for them. Somebody with a law degree who doesn't practice law is considered well qualified for all sorts of other jobs and not a loser. Somebody with a history Ph.D. who doesn't teach (or hold one of a small number of other jobs) is typically considered a failure and looked upon with suspicion by non-academic employers. We don't need an unlimited number of Ph.D.s. It is uncertain whether society as a whole is better off if a higher percentage of the Ph.D.s that we do produce come from elite programs. The potential to write major books isn't the sole criterion. Typically would be academics study at a graduate program more prestigious than their undergraduate alma mater and almost always find jobs (if they do find jobs) at campuses far less prestigious than their graduate institution. Often they make the adjustment, many times they don't. We all know people who cling to life at their graduate campus with part-time and temporary work. When I taught in Gary, Indiana, the faculty there regarded the University of Chicago as an endless source of cheap labor. At this point in my blathering I realize that nothing that I have said leads to any action. What can I suggest? Both shrink the big programs and eliminate the marginal ones. Unfortunately, I don't know how to define my terms: shrink how much? how big a program takes up too much room in our little canoe? Or should the market dictate how big a program can be? what is relevant for identifying a program as marginal? size of student body? faculty, library, and financial resources? effectiveness in placing students? specializations and geographical location?

Ralph E. Luker - 2/17/2007

I think I understand your concerns, David, but propping up _two_ history doctoral programs in North Dakota isn't going to do anything for "diversity" among historians -- except produce some who haven't had the best education available. The same goes for maintaining _eleven_ doctoral programs in Ohio or _five_ in Wisconsin or _three_ in Mississippi. There simply isn't the constituency or the tax base to justify it.

David J Merkowitz - 2/17/2007

Obviously as a grad student in a marginal program like UC, the students end up supplying a lot of the energy.

When I was head of Grad Assoc. one of our big pushes that ended up for naught was encouraging greater interaction with the history departments in the area. Part of our challenge was that UC was the only one around on the quarter system (though that is likely about to change as rumor has it we are moving to semesters) and teaming up didn't work well with the divergent academic schedules. I actually think that would be a better solution than elimination. UC and Miami (who has restarted their program) would combine. I am less confident about the potential in NW Ohio as each of those institutions is a clear step below the SW Ohio schools.

FWIW...UC has long been considered a 'hard' place to work, mostly due a lack of investment in a school dominated by arts, engineering, and medicine. We have long had a strong core and the recent turnover toward younger faculty has gone quite well. However, to really compete we would probably need to increase the faculty size by at least a third.

As an urban historian, I guess I fear the loss of the urban PhD programs especially in the midwest. History is already too dominated by the coasts, Chicago, and Ann Arbor so a focus that results in more grads from Boston, New York, Philly, DC, LA just seems like a solution that would only exacerbate the lack of diverse voices.

I tend to side with those who argue that the bigger programs would be better off shrinking and letting the wealth spread across the country. Taking the ten or fifteen grads a year from Ohio won't change much, but eliminating 100 from the Boston to DC corridor would start to change the complexion of history community. Plus it seems that coastal profs are often allergic to teaching in the midwest, which does nothing positive for anyone. The historian stuck in a place she doesn't like, the students who get a teacher who would rather be elsewhere and a department filled with faculty members who would rather leave town than stay around.

David M Fahey - 2/17/2007

When funding higher education became too expensive for Ohio cities, their municipal universities became state universities. Often they were located a short drive from oldtime state universities situated in small towns: Cincinnati near Miami, Toledo near Bowling Green, Akron near (actually, very near) Kent. As the former municipal universities and the neighboring oldtime state universities both had Ph.D. programs in history, the result was a lot of doctoral programs. By the way, the history Ph.D. program at Miami began as a joint program with Ohio State. Joint programs are rare today. The only one that I know about is that which joins together in some fashion the graduate history programs at Akron and Kent.

Nathanael D. Robinson - 2/17/2007

Closing small, unviable programs and restricting the creation of new programs would, as you've said, barely resolve the glut of new PhD's. Shouldn't, however, more pressure be placed on larger universities (some which have become PhD factories) to limit their numbers, especially of unfunded, incoming studends? History department's annual budgets are, to some extent, measures of the feasibility of future employment. Yet, admissions are used to fatten them up. The practive of admitting unfunded students has gotten out of hand; what ought to be a limiting factor has been artificially superceded.

Jonathan W. Wilson - 2/17/2007

UT-Austin already has a <em>very</em> strong program in Latin American history, so my initial reaction to the <em>Perspectives</em> ad was to wonder what El Paso was up to. (I have a hard time imagining that I would want to go there to study European or African history.) But Austin is almost 600 miles from El Paso, and I'm not sure how strong UTA is on border history specifically. So it may not be a terrible idea.

HAVH Mayer - 2/17/2007

I don't think the AHA should be in the business of approving or accrediting programs. I do believe there should be some positive recognition for bodies that have insisted on quality. The California master plan still holds, despite the pretty fair resources at some CSU campuses. In New York, the Regents, with control over independent as well as public institutions, have been known to order the closing of small programs (e.g., Fordham, I believe).

Jonathan Dresner - 2/17/2007

I've been watching my current institution create M.A. programs on some pretty thin foundations: there's huge rewards -- professional, fiscal, prestige -- in institution building, and hardly any in deconstruction.

Somehow, general responsibility rarely enters the picture.

Ralph E. Luker - 2/17/2007

David, I thought I'd hear from you on this one. I think we agree that Ohio needs to reduce the number of doctoral programs in history at its public institutions. Neighboring Kentucky, for instance, didn't automatically develop a doctoral program in history when the University of Louisville joined the state system. I agree that all five of the programs that I named probably shouldn't be shut down, but most of them should. I do remember hearing a lot of complaints about facilities at UC when I was teaching up in the Cincinnati area. There's nothing wrong with a respectable M.A. program and a lot wrong with a weakly funded Ph.D. program.

David J Merkowitz - 2/17/2007

You aren't wrong!

For most readers, what follows is an impassioned defense of just one of the names Ralph is full of self-interest and similar sorts of things, but it needs to go on the record as it were.

I don't think Cincinnati belongs on the list (besides the fact that I go there and well it would suck to have the program disappear).

The big problem in Ohio is that the state wants to force everything into OSU and most of the state universities were actually independent city colleges for a century or so before the joined the state. These city universities support their History (and English) Phds programs as a form of civic pride of sorts. Anyway our low cost labor keeps a number of institutions of higher ed in the Cincy area in business.

Thus and therefore, Ohio never really developed a 'system' of higher ed. Rather we have a highly dysfunctional conglomeration of institutions. By and by...UC actually has one of the largest public university endowments in the country, not so much in history but enough to keep me well over my fighting weight.

Contrast that with Toledo (also alma mater)'re killing me Ralph... now there is a program that makes no sense. However, even more than UC that program was supported as civic duty more than anything else.

Basically in sum...OSU sucks!

Some of this is tongue-in-cheek, some impassioned. Also for the record.