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Pekka Vayrynen

There's an important ambiguity here that needs clearing up. As the UK grad student notes, in most UK programs grad students can do "seminar teaching and guest lectures" -- by which they most likely mean that grad students routinely act as TAs who lead discussion sections and, sometimes, give a lecture on the course they're TA-ing for. It's rare for a UK institution to allow PhD students to be primary instructors for a lecture course, and anything equivalent to leading a freshman writing seminar is, at least, very rare. This is an unfortunate general feature of UK PhD programmes which can disadvantage UK PhDs on the international job market but which is hard to change for institutional reasons. It matters a bit less on the UK market. Assistant professor level jobs (called Lecturer or Assistant Professor, depending on the institution) are effectively permanent from the start. Many UK PhDs become competitive for those jobs only after gaining more teaching experience and publications through temporary teaching jobs or postdocs. That said, US PhDs can have an advantage over UK PhDs even on the UK market; the slightly longer typical length of the PhD means that US grad students have more opportunity to gain a competitive level of publications and teaching experience while still in grad school. Further options for UK grad students depend partly on the specific institution. But one thing worth exploring is whether other higher education institutions in one's area (particularly ones without a grad program or even a philosophy department of their own) offer opportunities for teaching courses on an adjunct basis. This happens a fair bit.

(By the way: thanks for the blog, Marcus. Especially the job market how-tos have been a very useful resource to recommend to our grad students.)

UK grad student

I am the PhD who posted the query. Just to clarify: at my institution, and I believe other UK institutions, graduate students ARE allowed to teach. The worry is that the only kind of teaching they can do is leading seminars -- related to lectures taught by the primary instructor -- and give a couple of guest lectures in their final year.

So my query is really about getting experience with designing courses and teaching an entire course as primary instructor. Or, if that is impossible, about putting together evidence that one could do so.

Oxford DPhil

At Oxford, you don't even get to do seminar teaching. If you're lucky you'll do some tutorials, but that isn't that transferable to the real world teaching expectations.


Oxford Ph.D.,
I want to clarify something, from the perspective of the USA. A person being considered for a job in the US with a PhD from Oxford is not going to be faulted for their lack of teaching experience. They are being hired (or considered) because they have been educated at Oxford, and they will (almost) inevitably have letters of support from the leaders in the field, praising both their potential and their accomplishments. The same goes for people with Ph.D.s from Cambridge, and St. Andrews. So do not let your lack of teaching experience prevent you from applying for a US job. Unfortunately, as you go down the food chain, people from lower ranked schools in the UK do not face the same situation.


anonymous: I work at a teaching-centered institution in the US, and have served on search committees. I do not believe that someone with no teaching experience would be competitive for a job at our institution, even if they were from Oxford or Cambridge.


Hi Pekka: Thanks for your kind words about the blog, and chiming in with your advice. Following your remarks, I would suggest that if U.K. grad students want to be competitive in the US teaching-institution market coming out of grad school, it would indeed be a good idea to seek out adjuncting jobs at nearby schools, if any such opportunities are both available and permitted by the student's home institution.


anonymous 10:40am: just to echo Anonymous 11:02 am, but from a different perspective:

I work at an elite R1 in the US. I think people from Oxford or Cambridge might be competitive for jobs in my department even with no teaching experience of the kind under consideration here. But it certainly is still a factor that matters, and can be a strike against a candidate. Normally this would come in fairly tame ways: it might do things like break ties between candidates, I have certain colleagues who really care about teaching and might raise it as an issue in a meeting discussing candidates, that might in turn raise other worries, etc. I doubt it would completely tank someone's candidacy who was otherwise completely perfect, but the job market in the US is abysmal for EVERYONE right now, and so I do think (sadly) that it's worth thinking about how to try to be competitive along every dimension. I am not sure if my department is abnormal in this respect--I don't think that the department where I got my PhD cared at all about teaching experience in hiring--but I thought I'd point out that there are also R1 schools, even pretty elite ones, that do care.

UK grad student: I wish I could help! I know some things that people in the US in this situation have done, and I doubt any of them would translate or be feasible in the amount of time you probably have, but just in case:

-teaching summer courses at community colleges (2-year colleges), vocational schools, etc.

-adjuncting at nearby universities and colleges during the normal term

-teaching in prisons and creating programs through which teaching in prisons becomes possible

-finding high schools with teachers who are willing to have someone teach a "mini course" (say, four meetings over the course of a month, or more if possible) in philosophy (note: as a former high school teacher, at least in the US, I suggest that more teachers would welcome this than we might think, given how overworked they are!); I suspect the structure of the educational system in the UK is different enough that this might be significantly harder

-teaching courses for (and in some cases creating!) public philosophy/general "schools" for interested adults. (e.g. check out the Brooklyn Institute for Social
Research, but it could be much smaller scale than this. You could just offer a course open to the general public who were interested in philosophy, and advertise it yourself. You could do it for free if you were worried about attracting people.

-there are summer programs for "gifted" and academically inclined high school students in the US; they often recruit graduate students to teach for them. Maybe there is something similar in the UK? Maybe there is something similar, they don't normally teach philosophy, and you could propose a course to them? etc.

Sara L. Uckelman

In some departments (my own) one of the reasons why PhD students are not allowed to design and lead modules is because of the requirement that summative work (i.e., work that contributes to the final mark you get in the module) at the 2nd year and above must be marked by someone with a PhD. Usually at least some of the burden of marking is put on the module leader; if the module leader does not have a PhD, then their marking load has to be given to someone who does, and that doesn't seem exactly fair.

Another difficulty is the process modules go through in order to be approved. In general (well, to be honest, I can't say whether this is specific to my department or endemic through the UK systems; perhaps others can chime in?), it is very hard to get a new module added. For a module to be introduced in October of 201n, the module proforma must be completed by the end of December 201(n-1) so that it can be submitted for faculty approval in January 201n. Modules are not generally offered on an ad hoc basis; once they are added, there is an expectation that they will continue to be offered. If the PhD student then graduates, the department is stuck with a specially-designed course that, presumably, no one else will want to take over.

It isn't entirely clear to me how either of these systemic issues can be countered. But I do believe that UK departments have some obligation towards their PhD students to help make them fit for the global job market. This obligation renders at least partially acceptable certain forms of nepotism; I discuss this further in this blog post.

Pendaran Roberts

I did my PhD in the UK at the University of Nottingham. They offered no chance to design and run courses as part of my PhD. You can at most lead discussion groups as a TA and give a guest lecture or two. Totally useless considering the competition.

I think this is the norm in the UK, as others are pointing out. It's a serious problem for their PhD students, as it makes them completely uncompetitive for US jobs. However, US PhDs routinely get hired here in the UK. As a result, UK PhDs cannot even compete with US PhDs in the UK. HAHA!

Another problem is that it's almost impossible to get the teaching experience you need even after graduating. Yes, there are 1-2 year teaching positions available, which is what you need to put those credentials on your CV. However, the job market is so poor and there are so few of these jobs available that it's likely you will never get one. Despite having 9 publications, 5 in top 20, years of seminar teaching, and great references, I cannot get a 1 year teaching position.

Another problem is that a lot of these 1 year positions go to internal candidates (maybe half of them) who have an upper hand: knowing the committee, having TAed already at the department, etc. Plus departments feel a loyalty to their own graduating PhDs. This would of course be fine, except that it's not built into the system. Unless you're singled out for whatever reasons to be given a 1 year job (friends with the department head, or whatever), you're out of luck.

My advice is you should avoid doing a PhD in the UK unless perhaps you get into Oxford or Cambridge. The prestige associated with those PhDs might make up for the lack of teaching.

If you are doing a PhD in the UK, you should talk with the department head often about needing teaching experience and try to arrange some kind of 1 year job for yourself. You cannot assume your department will do what is necessary to prepare you for the job market.

Anon UK student


This is slightly divergent from the topic of this thread, but I hope you'll let me pick up on this...

You say 'My advice is you should avoid doing a PhD unless you get into Oxford or Cambridge. The prestige associated with those PhDs might make up for a lack of teaching.'

I'm curious about this. Clearly, Oxford is a world-leading department, and a PhD from there will make candidates competitive for jobs in the US as well as the UK. But Cambridge is a tiny department, and is not obviously any stronger than St Andrews/Stirling, Edinburgh or KCL. Do you really think a student interested in, say, epistemology, should prefer to study at Cambridge than Edinburgh, which is world-leading in epistemology? (Likewise, once Tim Crane leaves Cambridge this summer, one would surely be advised to study at KCL rather than Cambridge if one is interested in philosophy of mind). Any advantage conferred by a Cambridge PhD in such cases seems to me purely a function of the university's better reputation, rather than the department's better reputation. But is that a real variable when it comes to applying for jobs?

I guess one might draw the conclusion that one shouldn't do a PhD anywhere in the UK apart from Oxford, but that sounds extremely depressing, and unrealistic, I think. St Andrews, Edinburgh, UCL etc have relatively good placement records.

I'd be curious what US readers think, too. Is a Cambridge PhD at an advantage over, say, a St Andrews PhD in the US jobs market (all else being equal)? A quick glance at their placement records suggest neither place students in US jobs, at least not for the last 6 years or so.

Pendaran Roberts

Anon UK student,

I think it depends on what you want.

If you want access to the US job market, i'd go to the most prestigious places. Most Americans will never have heard of Saint Andrews. I suspect a lot of them won't know where Edinburgh is, although they might have heard of it once.

What matters as well is how much the department will help you to attain the qualifications you need.

Honestly, no I wouldn't do a PhD in the UK except at the very best places. What exactly those are we can debate. I suspect Oxford and Cambridge, due to their prestige, would be two of the best. Maybe... UCL?

Pendaran Roberts

Remember that when committees are looking through 500 applications, whether you get put in the bin will largely depend on whether they see the university name attached to your PhD and think 'oh wow, that's a good place!' What matters to this is prestige, reputation that is, more than fact.


"Remember that when committees are looking through 500 applications, whether you get put in the bin will largely depend on whether they see the university name attached to your PhD and think 'oh wow, that's a good place!' What matters to this is prestige, reputation that is, more than fact."

Pendaran: I'm just one person, but I have served on two search committees at a teaching institution and my experience has been that nothing could be further from the truth than this. Maybe it's true at R1s (though frankly I wouldn't know), but when it comes to teaching jobs I see people hired from programs of all different ranks. Do you really think it is in the interest of a teaching school to hire someone from Oxford with no teaching experience and 5 top-ranked journal publications? What would compel a teaching school in the middle of nowhere to interview or hire someone whose pedigree suggests they belong at (and would probably prefer to belong at) an R1 job at Cornell or some such?

I really think that when it comes to teaching schools, you have it quite wrong. Teaching schools are not mostly concerned with pedigree or dozens of top publications. They are much more interested in the whole picture: whether someone can publish enough to get tenure, but also whether they are a good teacher, will attract students to the major, would be a good colleague, etc.

Anon UK student


What do you mean by 'the very best' and 'prestige'? Do you mean in terms of the university's overall prestige (in which case obviously Cambridge and Oxford come top), or in terms of departmental prestige (in which case it's far less obvious how things stand), or in terms of supervisors' prestige (which would massively depend on what one aims to specialise in)?

I think it's bad advice to tell students not to consider places apart from Oxford in the UK. I personally know one person who had an offer from Oxford but chose a different UK institution purely on the strength of the supervisors that institution could provide. And I'm not convinced they made a bad choice: they'll likely become a better philosopher, and have a more internationally recognised supervisor to give them a reference, than they would have had at Oxford.

I guess this is all irrelevant if search committees in the US are not composed of philosophers, in which case the only thing they'll register on flicking through applications are the universities (not, for example, the supervisors' names). Is that really how things work?

Also, presumably if one wants ultimately to work in the UK or Europe then your advice to them would be different? Or perhaps not?

Pendaran Roberts

There is tons of evidence, statistical and empirical, that prestige bias is a huge problem in academia.

If you want a job in a top 50 program, you must get a PhD from a top 50 Program. People almost always fall many ranks between their PhD program and the program they are hired by.

So, look at the Leiter rankings and make the decision based on that. Department prestige is what's most relevant probably, but university prestige and department prestige are highly correlated.

You might say you don't want a job at one of the top 50 programs. That's fine, but as the majority of jobs aren't in those programs, you'll be competing with PhDs from those programs for jobs in worse programs.

It's basically impossible to move up in the rankings. So, the worse of a program you go to, the less job prospects you will have. Everyone above you will be able to compete for your jobs but you won't be able to compete for theirs.

Bringing this back to the original topic, I'd say that as it is hard to get teaching experience with a UK PhD, you need to factor that into your decision. It may be that the right way to do this is to say well, I'll only do a PhD in the UK if the prestige of the program is high enough that I think it'll cancel out the lack of teaching experience.

You might think that being a better philosopher or whatever is relevant to employability. I would caution you about placing too much emphasis on this. Rankings are highly significant. The rank of the program, according to the gourmet report, that you attend for your PhD will determine the rest of your life: which jobs you can apply for, which you can't, whether you will get a job or not, how long it'll take to get a job, how much money you'll make, etc.

Marcus Arvan

"You might say you don't want a job at one of the top 50 programs. That's fine, but as the majority of jobs aren't in those programs, you'll be competing with PhDs from those programs for jobs in worse programs. It's basically impossible to move up in the rankings. So, the worse of a program you go to, the less job prospects you will have."

Pendaran: Statistical evidence is just that--statistical. It means that there is prestige bias on the market as a *whole*. But it commits the fallacy of decomposition to infer that the bias exists (or exists equally) for all types of jobs, particularly teaching jobs.

If you look at recent hires on philjobs, you will indeed see (I believe) that jobs at top-50 research schools by and large go to people from high-prestige programs. But show me the people from Oxford, Cornell, etc., who are getting jobs at small teaching schools in the middle of nowhere. Is that what you see in the data? It's not at all what I see.

Here, for instance, are a few recent hires at non-elite teaching schools (https://philjobs.org/appointments):

Amy L. McKiernan has been appointed as Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Dickinson College starting in 2017. Doctorate: Department of Philosophy, Vanderbilt University. -- NOT LEITER RANKED

Galen Barry has been appointed as Assistant Professor at Iona College starting in 2017. Doctorate: Department of Philosophy, University of Virginia. AOS: History of Modern Philosophy. - LEITER RANK = 31

Sam Stoner has been appointed as Assistant Professor at Assumption College starting in 2016. Doctorate: Department of Philosophy, Tulane University. -- NOT LEITER RANKED

Krista Rodkey has been appointed as Visting Lecturer at Valparaiso University starting in 2016. Doctorate: Department of Philosophy, Indiana University, Bloomington. - LEITER RANK = 24

If you keep looking the past several years on philappointments, I think you will find similar stuff: people from lower-ranked and unranked programs getting a good share of teaching jobs. My university's faculty, for example, is not full of Harvard, Cornell, or Oxford PhDs. It is full of faculty from programs all over the map. And I would invite you to look at faculty at other teaching universities. I interviewed at 20 teaching schools my last two years on the market, and their faculty were not stacked faculty from "high prestige" programs either.

As I have argued on this blog before (http://philosopherscocoon.typepad.com/blog/2015/03/why-the-academic-job-market-is-not-like-professional-sports.html ), there are reasons to believe that the academic job-market is not like professional sports (where every team is looking to get "the best player"). There are institutional reasons for teaching schools *not* to try to hire the third or fourth-best person coming out of "top programs"--because those people are still *researchers*, and teaching schools are looking for something quite different: people who do enough research to get tenure, but who are great teachers and even better colleagues.

Teaching schools are just not looking for the same things as R1s. I can tell you this from ample experience on on both sides of the market.

Pendaran Roberts

Sure it's possible to get a teaching job without going to a prestigious school. But you're not going to get one without teaching experience, which is the concern for U.K. phds. So, how does this relate to the original topic?

Marcus Arvan

Hi Pendaran: That is the point of the original topic -- that UK PhDs are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to teaching experience. The question in the OP was how to get that kind of experience to become more competitive for teaching posts. Your (implicit) point seemed to be that none of this matters because of prestige bias. My point is that teaching experience still does matter for teaching jobs, and there are reasons to doubt that prestige bias is the same problem for those types of jobs.

Pendaran Roberts

No No. I don't think prestige is all that matters. It's just a bigger component than some people naively think.

Teaching experience definitely matters too! And I agree with you Marcus that for teaching schools this experience is going to be very important.

But one thing is sure, if you're a UK PhD, you're not going to be competitive for teaching experience. So, make yourself competitive for prestige.

I think that's fundamentally what I'm saying!

Marcus Arvan

Hi Pendaran: Okay, I get you now. Yes, I worry this is a very serious problem: that by restricting access to teaching, UK programs may be putting their graduates in a doubly bad situation, lacking competitive experience for teaching jobs and competitive prestige for R1 jobs. I glanced at the philappointments data a while back due to this worry, and indeed saw what seemed to me to be disturbingly few jobs going to U.K. graduates.


Just want to confirm Marcus's point about hiring. I have been paying close attention to teaching hires, and almost all of them go to people from unranked programs with a few publications in not very prestigious journals. I actually think one of the worst places to be in (besides a UK PhD at not-Oxford, which is indeed a problem) is to be from a mid-ranked program with top publications. Someone with that profile does not fit into either the teaching or research profile, and hence often end up SOL.

Anon UK student

I've found this conversation useful, thanks guys. Pendaran, I totally get what you're saying and think much of it is true.

Still, though, I do think that for some people getting a PhD from non-Oxbridge UK unis can be worthwhile. Many (most?) people at the unis I've mentioned (roughly the UK top 5) go on to great jobs, even if they're not tip-top R1 jobs. (And FWIW it's untrue that you can't move upwards in the rankings. Off the top of my head, Ralf Bader went from a St Andrews PhD to a permanent position at Oxford, and several people have gone from similar unis to JRFs at Oxbridge).

It does seem, though, that the US is basically closed to UK PhDs, Oxford (and only Oxford) excepted. If you want a job in the US, I'd concur that you shouldn't do a PhD in the UK. If you want a job in the UK, though, it may be better to stay here for a PhD, since it's hard to network from another continent, and networking is obviously important.


I am older, and though the market has changed since my time on the market, I think some things are still roughly the same.
What Amanda says does not seem right. I am at a state school that is principally devoted to undergraduate teaching. The people we have hired (and sometimes lost after) are from Leiter ranked programs (roughly about 20 to 40). We hire people who have published in recognized venues (top 5 or so specialty journals, for their AOS, mostly). We would probably not dip below this pool. I have pressed for some candidates from lower ranking places, but they do not pass the "high" standards of my prestige concerned colleagues (one who has not published since securing tenure, and never published anything of note before). You must be a good teacher to keep your job here (at least, a devoted teacher, and some evidence of effectiveness).
To Marcus and others: there are schools in the UK that can place people, but it is largely due to the reputation of a single key department member in a specific area. The best example is Steven French at Leeds. He has placed quite a number of students at great jobs in the UK and Europe. Everyone in philosophy of science knows of Steven by reputation. With Oxford and Cambridge (yes Cambridge - remember they also have the HPS program and Department), they have numerous faculty with well deserved reputations and they can place their grads both in the UK and in North America.


Anybody is free to go look at who got hired at teaching schools last year. It is all on phil jobs.

Marcus Arvan

Anonymous: Your point about advisors in the UK is very well-taken! However, to piggyback on Amanda's response, I think local anecdotes have limited evidential value. Anecdotally, my experience at a private teaching-focused university has been the opposite of yours. I have seen no evidence of preference for program prestige, nor any clear preference for publications in the most prestigious journals. I also went through the philjobs appointments page for the job-market several years ago, and recall finding broadly what Amanda reports. In any case, I do think the best evidence is the actual hiring data.


Almost none of the hires made of people from my (top ten) department for the past couple years are on philjobs. Neither is there info about many of my friends who have gotten jobs lately.


The info on phil jobs is incomplete. But I have no reason to think it is not representative. Almost all survey data is incomplete. When trying to figure out US opinion on X, for example, you do not ask every single person in the US. Rather you ask a random sample. So in spite of the fact that the data on phil jobs is incomplete, I think we can glean statistical evidence. Unless, of course, someone has a reason to think that there is a systematic tendency of those who post on phil jobs to be of a certain type. (It doesn't seem that way to me).

Pendaran Roberts

In 2016, I input all the data from that year on philjobs into SPSS.

I found that 65% of hires were from ranked programs (top world 50 Leiter). However, only 15% of jobs were jobs at ranked programs (top world 50 Leiter). This suggests that being from a ranked program seriously helps even outside the top 50.

I also found that the best predictor of Employer rank was PhD granting program rank. To back this up, only 1 of the hires at a ranked program was from an unranked program, and the ranked program in question was rank 47.

Now, this is data just from one year and obviously incomplete. It relies on philjobs and so does not include data on everyone.

It could be that philjobs is biasing these results. I'm not sure if there is any obvious story to be told for why but still worth thinking about.

It could also be that there was something special about 2016. I doubt it.

Despite these criticisms, I think we nevertheless have good reason to 1. think that PhD rank is important outside the top 50, and 2. to think that the chances of moving up into a top 50 job without going to a top 50 program are low.

Also, there are other people who have done this kind of thing. Helen Cruz?

Conclusions relevant to this discussion? A UK PhD isn't going to give you teaching. So, you'll only have a chance at research focused schools. These tend to be ranked. So, go to a UK program that is ranked well or you will be in a bad situation. Even if you somehow know you can get teaching, still go to the best ranked program you can. The data suggests that rank matters a lot even outside the top 50.

Marcus Arvan

Amanda and anonymous: I would be very curious hear the reasons why people aren't posting their appointments on philjobs--as that could potentially provide reasons to wonder how representative the actual reported data is.

Here is why I think this information might be relevant. In past years, some new hires had their CVs publicly discussed (and criticized) at some other blogs (for lacking perceived accomplishments). I have also noticed that the appointments page seems really slow this year--with very few appointments being reported (far fewer than I, at least, would expect).

I cannot help but wonder whether people have been dissuaded from publicly reporting their appointments, and whether it has specifically dissuaded particular populations from doing so. I notice, for instance, that 'anonymous' says they are from a top-10 department. I wonder if there is anything specific that would lead someone from highly-ranked departments not to want to publicly post their appointment. If so, that might lead the reported data on philjobs to be unrepresentative.

Anyway, this is all just speculation--but it might help to find out!


The top 50 schools makes up an incredibly small percentage of overall schools. There are plenty of R1's that are outside of the top 50, so paying attention to who gets hired in the top 50 is fine, but will be completely unrepresentative.

And yes, I really can't say if there is a pattern to who posts on phil jobs but it would be interesting to know.I would also suggest that one of the reasons the hiring data is slow this year is because hiring is much later. As several people have noted, a large percentage of first round interviews came after the new year, and I am still dealing with flyouts this far out.


And Pen that is interesting data. I think many would be surprised that 35% of hires were from unranked programs.


Also, Pendaran, was the data you mentioned only TT jobs or also positions like postdocs and visiting positions?

Pendaran Roberts


Just TT jobs or equivalent.

I was shocked that only 35% of hires came from unranked programs.

I'm not sure how many PhD programs there are in the English speaking world. Any estimates? I'd hazard a guess of somewhere between 150 and 300.


My guess is that the percentage of the 65% that is from the top 15 was very high. And there are roughly 100 Phd programs in the US, but many of those only graduate 1 -3 grad students a year. The higher ranked programs usually graduate more. Also, many of the European jobs are not on phil jobs, so I would take your survey to be mostly a North American survey.

To know the true odds we would have to know how many graduates each program has a year...

Pendaran Roberts

The appointments page includes appointments from all over the world. I used the rankings for the english speaking world.

So, it would be wrong to say it's just US based data.


It includes them, but I think most of the time they are not included (given it is a voluntary data base. I think that less appointments from outside the US would be one of the "systematic tendencies" I mentioned before. But I could be wrong about that. Again it would take more research).

Pendaran Roberts

Top 5 accounted for 11.2% of hires.

Top 15, 32%.

Top 29, 49.6%


I am inclined to find Pendaran's data (and his interpretation) very persuasive. People must realize the path to a Tenure Track job is arduous, and gets more and more improbable as one moves down the rankings for Ph.D. programmes.

Pendaran Roberts


I looked at this a year ago. I did not include location of employer. However, I do remember more than a few non US employers.

The data is probably skewed US. But does include non US.

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