7 Replies to “Does Philosophy Need Rankings?

  1. I am sympathetic to the argument, which I think Eric Schliesser has made, that rankings are inevitable, and it’s best to try to do them ourselves instead of leaving them in the hands of US News and the like.

  2. Please note that this post is about the need for rankings at all. The previous post is where to post on issues concerning what rankings should look like, assuming we need them.

  3. A friend mistook my previous comment on this, so to clarify: Philosophy does not need rankings, but I also hold that rankings are, in fact, inevitable on whatever dimensions are available. (If lots of info about departments that engage in X is available, someone who cares about X will likely seek out, and likely share with others, what departments do X more and better than others.)

  4. PGR is mainly useful for finding who teaches what where and, to some small extent, whether a department is “weighted” one way or another: e.g., M&E vs Normative, analytic vs continental. But rankings do students, especially undergrads, a great disservice, for no matter how hard they try, the fact that one department is ranked N and another N-2 looms large! I can’t tell you how much too many of my students have agonized over rankings. So I would recommend getting rid of any ranking that has any person’s or any group’s imprimatur. Without rankings, students can read up on various faculty members interests and publications and look at whether their proclivities and talents “fit” various graduate programs.
    More useful would be such things as (a) retention rates of grad students, (b) how long between matriculation and PhD, and © *detailed* placement records — e.g., “In the last 5 years, we have placed n% of PhD students in the following universities:___” There might also be something about faculty turnover andthe number of junior and tenured members.

  5. One comment I’ve heard from a number of people in favor of rankings is how useful the PRG is to prospective grad students deciding where to apply. In support of this claim, such commentators usually say something about how much it helped them or would have helped them, had it been around when they applied. I would be surprised, though, if there is anything more than anecdote or armchair speculation to support this claim. Do we even know what percentage of applicants look at the rankings before applying, let alone whether their doing so was more beneficial than not, on balance? Hans Oberdiek above offers some anecdotal reason to doubt this. (If someone knows of reliable data that speaks to this question, it would be great if they would post it!)
    Fwiw, I myself didn’t make use of the PGR and very much doubt I would have if it had been available. I went to grad school because I needed to be employed somehow and getting paid to study philosophy for a few years seemed like the most appealing option. How many currently employed philosophers are like me? I have no clue. I would be very surprised if anyone does.
    It seems to me that if our grounds for a ranking is the good of prospective grad students, then we should (as others have observed elsewhere) focus more broadly on the question of what types of information would be useful to them and how we might go about gathering it reliably. It’s not clear to me that doing that requires a ranking of departments.

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