University News

Grad school growth puts Brown’s identity into question

Expansion of master’s, PhD programs drives shift from university-college to research university

By
Senior Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
This article is part of the series 1,000 Days: Paxson's Path

This series will explore the first 1,000 days of Christina Paxson’s presidency. This story, the first of three, will look at the way her policies have affected the University’s identity. 

As Christina Paxson’s P’19 presidency passes its thousandth day, a debate that has been brewing since before her tenure continues to mount.

Bolstering the size and the strength of graduate programs, a major goal in her strategic plan, has incited tensions between the “university” and “college” components of Brown’s university-college identity.

Fortifying doctoral programs attracts strong faculty members across disciplines, while expanding master’s programs generates huge revenue through tuition fees.

Benefits like a stronger faculty and financial gains also allow the University to stay competitive with its Ivy peers.

The specifics for just how much and exactly what kinds of growth the University anticipates remain abstract.

Provost Vicki Colvin said plans for growth in the Graduate School do not necessarily indicate that the University cares most about graduate programs. “It’s more a correction in that we haven’t focused on the Graduate School very much. For example, in the last 10 to 15 years, we grew our faculty quite substantially, but we held the number of graduate students flat. That’s devastating for our academic programs.”

The rate of graduate student growth did not match the University’s overall expansion in a number of previous administrations.

“Somewhere along the way in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, we did fall a little bit behind,” Paxson said. “The University grew, but the graduate program pace didn’t keep up to where it should be. So we have been catching up over the last decade.”

From ‘university-college’ to research university

Subtle adjustments in dialogue about the University’s mission suggest a change in emphasis from a model that prioritizes undergraduate education to a full-blown research university.

The first version of Paxson’s strategic plan, released in September 2013, made no mention of Brown as a “university-college,” a phrase that has been used to describe the school since 1946, when former President Henry Wriston coined the term.

After forceful pushback from the Undergraduate Council of Students on the omission of the term, Paxson added it back into her plan.

“When the strategic plan came out, one of the first things that we were so acutely aware of is that that term originally was left out of the plan altogether,” said UCS President Maahika Srinivasan ’15. It was a “very intentional choice to leave it out,” she said.

“It’s very clear that, for the last two administrations, the emphasis has been more on university and less on college,” said Senior Lecturer in Education Luther Spoehr.

“We use a concept at Brown known as a university-college, a college with a small graduate school,” said Luiz Valente, professor of Portuguese and Brazilian studies and comparative literature. “In the early 2000s, (former President Ruth Simmons) decided that we needed to reaffirm our position as a research university by hiring faculty and by growing some of the graduate programs.”

The shift in emphasis has occurred gradually, but faculty members who have been on campus for decades have taken note of the change, and some regret the University’s departure from focusing on undergraduate, liberal arts education.

“It’s a growing emphasis, inch by inch, row by row,” said Spoehr, who has been at the University for 19 years. “The next thing you know, liberal arts seems like a luxury, and persuading people otherwise is hard.”

“Brown was one of the last holdouts for a liberal arts orientation, but it looks like that is eroding,” said Professor of Sociology Gregory Elliott, who has been here for almost 32 years.

As a university-college, Brown has long tried to balance excellence in undergraduate liberal arts with robust research.

“Growing the graduate program is the University speaking to its research profile, and in talking about undergraduate education, it has to speak to its liberal arts profile,” said Sara Matthiesen GS, a member of Stand Up for Grad Students, an organization that promotes graduate student rights. “Brown tries to straddle those two missions.”

But some feel the University is veering too far from its mission as a university-college.

“The University has gone through a sea change in its emphases,” Elliott said. “We used to call ourselves a university-college. … That term is gone. That’s symbolic, but it does reflect a change in the understanding of the mission of Brown University.”

Nevertheless, administrators maintain that the strategic plan’s initial omission of the term does not signal a shift away from the “college” component.

“What you label Brown matters less than what we offer at Brown, which is a superb undergraduate liberal education and a top-notch research university,” said Dean of the College Maud Mandel.

“I really am uncomfortable with a formulation that pits one against the other in a zero-sum game,” she said.

The idea of a zero-sum game is at the heart of concerns that the growth in graduate programs will in some ways detract from the undergraduate college.

“The view that there’s some zero-sum game and that gains in one come at the expense of the other — that’s something I really resist,” Paxson said. “There could be truth in that if we let there be truth in that, but I am determined not to.”

Doctoral expansion entices researchers

Growth in graduate programs refers to growth in both doctoral programs and master’s programs, two distinct academic endeavors.

“The doctoral students is really where the growth focus is right now,” Colvin said.

As of now, there are “no specific targets for the number of doctoral students,” wrote Dean of the Graduate School Peter Weber in an email to The Herald.

Faculty members said they believe PhD candidates’ presence on campus enriches the University’s educational offerings.

Doctoral programs are “intimately connected with the mission of a research university,” Valente said. “They have a positive impact on the undergraduate college as well as on the research university.”

Advocates for more doctoral students argue that they are essential to attracting and retaining a strong faculty.

Faculty members “want graduate students here,” Colvin said. “That’s what motivates them.”

“If we didn’t have PhD programs and we weren’t a research-intensive university, we wouldn’t be able to get the best faculty,” said Dean of the Faculty Kevin McLaughlin P’12, adding that a strong faculty benefits undergrads.

Navigating the teaching, research divide

Another motive for growing doctoral programs is that doctoral research in STEM generates indirect revenue for the University through external grant funding.

The push to increase the number of PhD candidates in science is “based on more research money flowing through the University,” McLaughlin said, adding that PhD education will grow most significantly in STEM.

“We are really trying to push on research, especially in the sciences,” Paxson said. In the recent past, the University experienced “a decline in external awards, which was the source of roughly half of the budget deficit.”

Productive research programs augment an institution’s prestige. “Once the prestige is there, you’re more likely to get grants,” Spoehr said. “You spend money to make money.”

Enabling an increase in research involves attracting the doctoral students necessary to aid faculty members in their lab work as well as allowing professors time to focus on their research.

“It has become very clear … that the University is trying to become a singularly important research university to compete with the big boys at getting known for its contributions to research, which no faculty member here would say is a bad idea,” Elliott said. “But the question is: Does it change the balance of the use of resources?”

“The balance is already more on research and less on teaching,” he said. “If you increase that imbalance, that’s going to have an effect.”

Administrators recognize this difficulty and are contemplating how to navigate it.

“There are only a certain number of hours in a week, and our faculty have to negotiate that,” Colvin said.

Colvin is a strong proponent of “double teaching,” a model in which professors teach twice the number of courses they normally would in one semester and focus solely on research during the other.

“I think we need to find ways to help (faculty members) get the space they need to be productive scholars as well as excellent teachers,” Paxson said. “Whether it’s double teaching or the idea of a winter term or Jan-term that could build in some more flexibility for faculty … we will need to move in that direction,” she said.

Double teaching is especially pertinent in STEM fields, Colvin said.

After receiving grant funding, the faculty member leading the research project must typically visit the funders four or five times, she added. “If you have no ability to travel because you’re teaching for nine months of the year, you cannot have a leading research program in STEM.”

In addition to allowing the University to stay competitive through generation of revenue, research also leads to important advances in knowledge that will carry Brown’s brand.

“Yes, we have a short-term budget deficit, and we need to get the research back on track, but at the end of the day, we want our faculty to be scholars who are pushing the boundaries of knowledge,” Paxson said.

Differences in disciplines

In contrast to doctoral programs in STEM, those in the humanities and social sciences impose a financial burden on the University.

“The humanities and social sciences do not have the same kind of external funding available to them,” said Joel Simundich GS, president of the Graduate Student Council, who is currently pursuing a doctorate in English.

“They see doctoral students as taking money from the University, and this is because we’re always looking for funding,” he said.

Securing funding, especially after the fifth year, is a current point of contention for doctoral students.

“Part of the strategic plan is to simultaneously make us a better research institution while effectively shortening time to a degree and limiting resources for humanities and social science,” Simundich said.

Doctoral programs in STEM fields typically take five years, while those in humanities and social sciences tend to span seven or eight, he said.

In the strategic plan, there is a push to “make the humanities and social sciences meet the timeline of STEM,” he added.

“There is this sense that we are here on Brown’s dime,” said Matthiesen, who is pursuing a doctorate in American studies. Doctoral students’ contributions to undergraduate teaching — mostly as teaching assistants — often go unappreciated, she added.

Because their doctoral work generally does not receive external grant funding, “it’s humanities and social sciences professors who really want and need more support for the Graduate School,” Colvin said.

Doctoral programs in these departments are valuable because they expand the course offerings for advanced undergraduate students, in addition to drawing faculty members.

In the humanities and social sciences, “most professors will open graduate courses to advanced undergraduates,” Valente said. “It’s a tremendous opportunity for undergraduate students.”

A new avenue for revenue

A potential source of revenue for funding doctoral students, as well as for shrinking the deficit, is additional tuition-funded master’s programs, Colvin said.

“When they say they want to grow the graduate programs, embedded in that is expanding master’s programs as a source of revenue for the University,” Matthiesen said.

Two distinct types of master’s degrees can be pursued at Brown: a degree from a traditional master’s program, run through an individual department, or a degree from an executive master’s program, run through the School of Professional Studies.

Executive master’s programs were introduced in 2012 and feature a “blend” of online education with brief residential stints geared toward mid-career professionals, said Karen Sibley, dean of the School of Professional Studies.

The two existing executive master’s degrees are in business administration and healthcare leadership, and degrees in cyber security and engineering are currently being developed.

The total number of degrees offered is projected to reach “eight to 10 in the next three to five years,” Sibley said, adding that demand for these programs is growing.

Brown faculty members teach the executive master’s courses in conjunction with practitioners in the field of study.

“It’s very important that we have Brown faculty, because that’s what the students want, but they also want experts from their own expertise,” Sibley said. “Over time, we are clearly going to have to grow the faculty.”

But until the faculty expands, “it’s a zero-sum game,” Elliott said. “You have a finite number of faculty who will be committed to teaching a larger set of courses, especially in these master’s training programs,” he said.

In the Department of Computer Science, which is collaborating with the School of Professional Studies to develop the curriculum for an executive master’s program, the question of increasing faculty members’ duties is being closely examined.

“It’s a question that we thought hard about,” said Ugur Cetintemel, professor of computer science and chair of the department, adding that the department is looking at “what can be done over the summer, when faculty aren’t actually teaching courses.”

Expanded programs, increased demands

Both traditional and executive master’s programs add work onto faculty members’ existing course loads, which could strain their ability to focus on undergraduate teaching.

“In master’s programs, there is a teaching burden,” Mandel said. At the same time, master’s students “do not necessarily help the faculty like PhD students do,” she said, noting that master’s students generally neither work on research grants nor work as teaching assistants for courses.

Growth in traditional master’s programs “will probably entail no new hires,” McLaughlin said. “We would expect the departments to be able to absorb that with their existing faculty resources. As part of their workload, they would teach a course for a master’s program,” he said.

But faculty members are wary of the heightened workload and wonder whether it will be sustainable.

“We’re often told that these programs don’t require huge commitments on the part of the faculty, but everyone has a limited amount of time, and if they’re going to invest their resources in these types of programs, something is going to suffer,” Valente said.

“There’s some question in my mind and in the minds of several faculty members as to whether these programs are going to have perhaps a negative impact on the research and teaching mission of the University,” he said, adding that the master’s programs are intended to provide individuals with credentials for their careers rather than to add to the University’s intellectual endeavors.

“There is pressure on this school from the change in focus to turn us into a glorified vocational school,” Elliott said.

An evolving identity

But the value of increasing master’s programs is that they provide the University with necessary financial means.

“I am convinced that Brown cannot really thrive for any of its students or any of its faculty if it remains primarily dependent on undergraduate tuition revenue,” Paxson said.

The School of Professional Studies, which also runs the University’s summer programs, yields an annual profit of $5 million, Sibley said, adding that the school’s general gross revenue is expected to increase by at least 50 percent over the next three to five years.

Srinivasan also acknowledged the practical value of more master’s programs. “If we institute master’s programs, it ends up generating more revenue that could potentially go to undergraduate things,” she said.

Running master’s programs to generate revenue is “very much a reality of how schools finance different operations,” Simundich said, though he cautions the University about using the term “revenue stream” to refer to master’s students.

“There is a huge tension between genuine investment in what these programs will yield for master’s students and seeing them as a source of revenue,” he said.

Administrators say Brown needs to grow master’s programs not only for financial reasons but also to remain competitive with its peers.

“Most of our peers have master’s programs that dwarf ours,” Colvin said. “Everybody else is growing them because of their importance, particularly to revenue.”

“When I look at Brown and I benchmark it against our peers, what we see is that other universities tend to have more master’s programs, and they tend to have more professional schools,” Paxson said.

But determining the University’s needs based on comparison to “peers” depends on which institutions it identifies as peers.

“Who decides what our peer institutions are?” Spoehr said. “We compare ourselves to Harvard, despite the fact that they have an endowment that’s seven times bigger than ours. … It’s a real question of institutional identity. Is our peer institution Harvard or is our peer institution Wesleyan?”

Paxson titled her plan “Building on Distinction,” reflecting her intention to follow the direction set by Simmons and elevate Brown to a new position in higher education. For Paxson, the goal to build on distinction prioritizes building graduate programs.

This brand of distinction represents what at least a few faculty members call a departure from the university-college model, and it has positioned Brown between two different identities: the university-college it has long been and the large research university it aspires to be.

“It used to be that Brown considered itself kind of an anomaly in the Ivy League,” Elliott said. “But that’s gone.”

Topics:
  • Blinker de la Drupier

    No question at all about Brown University being a haven for rapists. Chris Paxson likes it that way.

    • Eric Rohmer

      yes, i’m sure president paxson goes to bed every night wondering, “how can i make this university a better place for rapists?”

      you are probably well-intentioned, but you are also unfortunately stupid.

      • Clinker de la Crupier

        You are right. She does not wonder about that. Her inaction has the effect as if she did. Same result, whether she is maligned or stupid.

  • Guest

    Double teaching means that it will be more difficult for an undergrad to take a specific course because the professor may only offer it every other year because they are losing a semester to research every year. This definitely will have an effect on the Brown undergraduate experience in the University-College.

    • GS

      The irony about the ‘zero sum’ talk here is that, in the event of rising incidence of double-teaching, it’s graduate students (suitably supported and trained and at an appropriate stage in their careers) who could help to maintain a greater variety and currency of courses for brown undergrads by teaching their own classes. Some of us do this already. Just one of the many examples of how investing in graduate students doesn’t straightforwardly mean ‘taking away’ from undergraduates, and rather, underpins the ‘university-college’ symbiosis.

      • Guest

        If you are coming to Brown to be taught by graduate students that is fine. But Brown’s reputation has been built on the fact that all of the faculty teach at all levels, unlike most public institutions who rely heavily on graduate students to teach undergrad courses so faculty can do research.

        • GS

          That might have been true a (good) number of years ago, but if you stop and look at the degree of grading, discussion/recitation section teaching, lab supervision etc. that graduate students *are* doing and *have* been doing for a while now, in order that faculty can do their research (there are departments where faculty do almost no grading whatsoever, and in language departments the weekly teaching almost falls entirely on graduate students), then this ‘reputation’ simply doesn’t fit the facts and hasn’t done so for a long time. ‘All of the faculty’ do not ‘teach at all levels’ – or they certainly far from do all of the teaching at all levels. That ship has already sailed.

          What *is* real is that in addition to all of the above, sometimes (frequently in my experience) grad students care and engage more with individual students than some faculty do. There are so many ways in which being taught by graduate students provides qualities to the Brown education than being taught directly by already busy faculty who want to research (because let’s face it, if you want great faculty, those faculty are going to want to research–that’s just the way the profession has and continues to construct itself).

        • brown ’17

          Some of the most helpful teachers I’ve had at Brown have been graduate student TAs. It’s great to have classes taught by faculty, but the graduate students are sometimes just as important in terms of teaching and grading.

          There’s a huge value in having courses led by faculty members, but that value isn’t directly related to the quality of teaching. In my experience, the biggest advantage of faculty-led courses is that it creates an easy way for students to connect with and reach out to their professors outside the classroom, opening the door to undergraduate research.

          Increasing the number of graduate students, while maintaining faculty-led courses, won’t affect this dynamic – in fact, it would enhance the learning experience while still allowing for close interaction between undergraduates and faculty.

    • Brown’15

      How does that make sense? If a faculty member double teaches, they teach the same number of courses they would have taught otherwise in a year, just all in one semester.

      • Guest

        It’s not the number of classes, it is the variety of the subject matter. If you have to teach twice as many classes in a semester you may opt to go with less variety because there is a lot more prep to do to teach six different courses than 2 sections each of three different courses.

  • brown09

    Brown needs to increase its profile through graduate school expansion and research excellence. If we aspire to compete with the Williams, Amherts and Swarthmores of the world, we could likely be the best of that pool, but increasingly, these are not the destinations for the worlds top academic minds. Go to Asia and ask the people if they have heard of Amhert. Then ask them if that school or Cal Berkeley is known to be a top academic institution. I’ve done a lot of business abroad and very little is known of Brown unfortunately. We need to work to ensure that Brown is associated with cutting edge research and education that is positively shaping the world. This doesn’t have to be an us vs them fight.

  • browngradstudent

    Interested in what President Henry Merritt Wriston actually meant by the term ‘university college’? How about reading some of his own words?

    http://www.henrymerrittwriston.org/pdfs/volume_4/1946_00_00_university_college_v4.pdf

    To wit, on the ‘zero-sum’ contention and the frequent *mistaken* pitting of graduate student instruction against undergraduate education–this might surprise some readers:

    Pages 10-11, original numbering:

    The graduate school is an essential element in a university college. It gives outlet to
    intellectual energies beyond those absorbed by the college. That is the explanation of the institution of graduate study at Brown. In 1889 President Ezekiel G. Robinson wrote: “It is earnestly to be hoped that courses of graduate study, to be rewarded by higher degrees, which have . . . been begun, will hereafter become permanent parts of the educational opportunities afforded at Brown University.” President E. Benjamin Andrews stated the issue more sharply three years later: “I cannot avoid the conviction that Brown University has reached a serious crisis in its history. It stands face to face with the question whether it will remain a College and nothing more or will rise and expand into a true University. The problem is a momentous one, and . . . must be irreversibly answered in one way or the other before a decade passes. .. . The old and well-known institutions of higher education in this country are silently but irresistibly parting into two classes.” “University work will immensely enrich the undergraduate life of every college strong and progressive enough to do it well.” “College studies flourish best in a university air, university research is most
    successful when carried on in connection with university instruction.”

    […]

    The graduate school makes possible the full use of the library, laboratories, and personnel resources. The Brown University Library, for instance, is one of the largest university libraries in the country; it is probably the greatest scholar’s library freely open to undergraduates. Brown’s laboratories and personnel are equipped for research at advanced levels.

    And Page 16, original numbering:

    The university college cannot be content to expound the wisdom of the past; it must keep its students aware of the inevitability of change as well as the permanence of values and the stability of principle. Only the resources of a university can fully implement so vast a responsibility. Only the single-minded commitment of a college to this task can keep that energy from fatal dissipation. President Robinson made this clear when he said in his last annual report: ” In . .. pleading that provision be made for advanced instruction, nothing is further from my thought than that the distinctive work of the college should in any way be interfered with, or its courses of study or standards of excellence be in any way changed.”

    True, there’s some stuff in here which can still provide valued critical input into debate over Brown’s future, but graduate students have been an essential part of Brown for 125 years now. Playing up or privileging the ‘zero-sum’ angle is unproductive and disingenuous.

  • Shriram Krishnamurthi

    I don’t really care what term they choose as a label. The fact is that many faculty who come to Brown are quality researchers who could have gone to other quality research universities. A research university doesn’t have to be a large state school; even many of our Ivy and other private peers are excellent research universities, and demonstrate that one does not have to choose. (Does anyone really believe Princeton or Chicago or Caltech or … faculty don’t take teaching very seriously while also doing research?)

    Being at Brown is especially challenging because we also emphasize excellence in education. In my department, that is a standard and important part of our evaluation of every faculty candidate. And our introductory courses in the subject are all taught by tenured faculty, some younger and some much older. It’s a matter of culture, and one we take seriously. That’s why we chose to come to Brown.

    I can understand where the zero-sum mindset comes from. It’s not the fault of students for thinking that way. It’s the fault of the university leadership for not having educated students about why it’s a misconception—for not sufficiently stressing the value to _undergraduates_ of doing research before they graduate. And to do research, they naturally need researchers as faculty members. In STEM disciplines, it is not uncommon for undergrad, masters, PhD, and post-doc to work with a faculty member on a project. That is a tremendous learning opportunity for an undergrad whether they’re going to grad school or a job, and not one you can reproduce at a Williams or Wesleyan.

    We live in a complex world. In that world, students are best served by being confronted with cutting-edge knowledge: in seeing how knowledge is forged, not waiting until it is cooled and hammered into undergraduate textbooks. In some areas, there’s a 10 to even 20 year gap between the cutting-edge of knowledge and what shows up in a book. What would Brown students rather have? Work directly with the faculty shaping the discipline and see the future as it’s forming, or wait until everything gets distilled and printed and is common knowledge?

    There are other factual issues and/or implications here that need correction. For examples, 6-7 year PhDs are not at all uncommon in STEM; those additional years are funded the same way the first five years were, i.e., mostly from research grants. Graduate courses in many STEM disciplines are also fully open to undergrads; it’s not uncommon to find a third or half of a graduate class populated with undergrads. Etc. But these are all pretty minor compared to the big picture, above.

    • Brown Prof

      “Does anyone really believe Princeton or Chicago or Caltech or … faculty don’t take teaching very seriously while also doing research?”
      I used to teach at such a school before coming to Brown, and I’m here to tell you: that’s exactly how it is. At the Very Famous School I used to teach at, undergraduate education was basically an afterthought.

      • Shriram Krishnamurthi

        Maybe in your area, anonymous Brown Prof. But in my area, at the Famous Schools I’ve been at, visited, or know people at, research-active faculty pull their weight. (By no means all the faculty, and by no means at all of them.) I can easily name absolutely world-class researchers at places like Harvard, MIT, CMU, Rice, Cornell, etc. who not only courses with great passion, but even do it in low-level courses. So, thank you for having come to tell us all, but that is not how it is at all.

  • another_GS_stillnottheenemy

    Anybody feeling groundhog day? Yep, we’ve been here before, and so let’s do ourselves the collective favor of acknowledging some useful words already written on this topic, relatively recently, in fact: http://www.browndailyherald.com/2013/10/07/mulligan-gs-together/

    Zero-sum thinking is lazy, inaccurate, and leads to behaviors which stifle and undermine the good collaborative benefits that grads and undergrads already share on campus–as many lab partnerships/teams would demonstrate, for just one example.

    It might not be anyone’s fault that they start thinking that way, but we all have a duty to educate ourselves on the facts and correct our misconceptions. We won’t get anywhere with repeated assertions that the world is flat, or that a snowball tossed onto the Senate floor is evidence against global warming.

    PS. BDH: maybe next time, you could choose your headlines a bit more judiciously and avoid the dog-whistle? Thanks much.

    • John Mulligan

      Thanks for the link. 🙂

      • another_GS_stillnottheenemy

        Thanks for the article!

  • Brown Prof

    Let me emphasize one point made in this article: When Paxson et al talk about expanding the graduate school, I seriously doubt that they are talking about expanding uniformly. The money is going to go to the life sciences, brain sciences, economics, and similar areas in which there is grant money to be had. It won’t be going to sociology, history, English, gender studies, and those sorts of areas. And to my mind, while that won’t necessarily affect the “university-college” aspect, it will entail a shift in Brown’s priorities away from the liberal arts model and towards something more pre-professional.
    I’ve been teaching here a little over a decade, and I’ve already seen these priorities. Our department has no more “slots” for graduate students than it did when I got here, and the whole way graduate students are funded has changed in a way that is designed to force students in our department to complete their degrees in the same sort of time students do in, say, physics or biology. That’s just not realistic, and no-one who had any actual idea what it took to do complete a PhD in my field would think it was.
    The actual effect, then, will be to force us to reduce the number of graduate students we accept. If we’re only being given enough money to fund N students for five years each, and if it actually takes a minimum of six years to complete a degree, then the only options are: (i) lie to incoming students about how long it will take then to finish; (ii) reduce the number of incoming students so that we have enough money to fund them for six years.
    To be honest, I personally find all this talk from the administration about “commitment to the graduate school” a little disingenuous.

    • Alum ’97

      Though your academic discipline isn’t revealed, it seems safe to assume you are a humanities professor. Examine hiring statistics for new PhDs in Archeology, History, English, Philosophy, Poli-Sci, Modern & Ancient Languages, and so on, over the past decade or more.

      The funding gravy train that i) supports a system of high PhD student attrition rates, and ii) has produced a glut of humanities PhDs amongst those that do eventually graduate but are not (and perhaps never will be) absorbed by the job market has to end somewhere. Unemployment, or, even worse, the career of the perpetual adjunct are sorry outcomes.

      Your dilemma can be resolved by confronting the reality of oversupply, improving the quality of PhD graduates, and strategically reducing the number of grad students in the humanities to keep the duration (and funding) of the course of study intact.

  • Brown Master’s Student

    -“The doctoral students is really where the growth focus is right now.”
    -“The master’s programs are intended to provide
    individuals with credentials for their careers rather than to add to the
    University’s intellectual endeavors.”
    -“The value of increasing master’s programs is that they provide the University with necessary financial means.”
    -“If we institute master’s programs, it ends up
    generating more revenue that could potentially go to undergraduate
    things,” she said.”

    As a master’s student, I have benefited from my time at Brown. However, I am tired of hearing that master’s students are simply cash cows for the university, and that we are only focused on our credentials rather than “intellectual endeavors” during our time here. We contribute a great deal to Brown’s intellectual endeavors during our programs. We do important research, get published, support doctoral students, and mentor undergraduates. I’m tired of sharing my master’s courses with undergraduates who are simply not yet prepared for graduate-level work (and, no, undergraduates; just because you’re a Brown undergrad doesn’t mean you’re already at the caliber of a graduate student).

    Money made from master’s programs should go back into master’s programs. We are assets to this university, even if the administration doesn’t see it. To the administration, I’ll say this: I’ve given you plenty of money for tuition and seen little return in support for master’s students. The credentials I’m earning have resulted in a high-paying job offer, but I’ll think twice before I donate to this university as an alumnus. I would want my donations to go to master’s students and I know that’s not where you’ll spend it.

  • upupperclassman

    Brown is moving in the right direction with President Paxson. Strengthen the Graduate Schools and this will benefit also the University College.