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07/15/2019

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EU grad student in the UK

I don't know a lot about Americans' take on this, but I'd like to contribute from a European perspective. I'll focus on Q1 and the last few questions.

First, it's hard to treat Europe as a coherent entity for philosophical purposes. Swedish philosophy has extremely little to do with Italian philosophy, for example. You can probably find some (informal) rankings of universities *inside* various countries, but I've never seen anyone attempt to compare philosophy departments *across* different European countries. The only overarching thing I can think of on a general European level is that Eastern European universities are worse than Western European ones (in all general university rankings I can think of), but most of the time, philosophers from country A won't be very familiar with what's going on in country B - unless B is an Anglophone country.

This takes me to my main point. My experience is that as least as far as analytic philosophers are concerned, the overwhelming consensus is that the Anglophone world does better philosophy, all else being equal, than what people do at home. Hence, publications and dissertations are supposed to be in English, and many of the most successful local philosophers will have done their PhDs, or at least some part of them, in an Anglophone country and then have returned. So, yes, there's a local hierarchy - and it says that whatever is going on in the Anglophone world is better.

With this in mind, I suspect that landing a PhD position with a US/Canadian background won't be too hard. That could even be an advantage. Also, I don't think that having an EU citizenship or not is going to matter a lot - that's largely an administrative issue, not one that anyone is going to care about academically. Remember that some important European countries aren't EU members either!

When it comes to funding and finishing times, they will vary significantly across countries. Philosophy PhD students are paid well (by international/US standards) in countries that treat a PhD position as a job (e.g. Sweden, Norway, Belgium, Switzerland) and hence regulates it as such, but rather poorly in countries that don't (e.g. Germany, Finland, Italy - and the UK). In the latter countries, you often need scholarships that don't come inherently with the position just to get by, whereas in the former ones, you are paid a decent-to-good wage even as a PhD student. (However, even though getting paid well in some countries looks good on paper, there's a hidden drawback here - countries that do treat PhD positions as jobs rarely employ many PhD students because they're very expensive for the departments. So you can easily suffer from a lack of a helpful academic environment in such places.)

Similarly, finishing times are also very different in different countries. It's not uncommon for someone to be a PhD student for as long or even longer than in the US in some countries, whereas others have 3-year PhDs. You'll have to look at individual countries to see what applies to you here.

You may also want to consider the differences of the European and Anglophone job market(s) in the future, after the PhD, before applying to different places. But discussing those in a way that does them justice would make this comment too long, so I'll stop here for now. (Perhaps that'll be a good topic for a future post, however?)

Michel

Just to add to EU grad's excellent post above:

My impression is that, where the Anglophone world is concerned, northern Europe is better than southern Europe, and that western Europe is better than eastern Europe. I also get the impression that German PhDs tend to do better than others, especially coming from LMU, Humboldt, and FU Berlin. I'd imagine that's closely related to program strengths. Amsterdam and Leuven also seem to be relatively known quantities on this side of the pond. At least on paper, Swedish philosophy departments are really amazing, but I don't know whether that's widely known in the US/Canada.

Where Francophone jobs are concerned, the situation is a little different. One of the best places to go, placement-wise, if you want a job in Francophone Canada, is the Sorbonne (which has one of the highest placement rates of any PhD into MA- and PhD-granting programs in Canada). Just a little behind it, though, is UdeM, which is easily one of the best universities in the Francophone world, let alone the Francophone philosophy world (being able to take classes at the other universities in Montréal and to have faculty members at those institutions as co-supervisors is a real boon, too). Probably the next-best European program would be Louvain/Leuven, but I'm not sure I'd countenance any beyond that, to be honest. Similarly, UQAM places relatively well in Canada, but I wouldn't necessarily advise attending it for your PhD (if you're Francophone, I think you'd be better off with an Anglo PhD, to be honest).

postdoc

Perhaps speaking most to 2 and 3, a remark by Karen Kelsky comes to mind:

"Overall, R1 universities are more likely to be more open to applicants with foreign degrees beyond just Oxford and Cambridge, because research networks are inherently more international than pedagogical commitments. Faculty members at Penn, Chicago, or Berkeley, for example, will know plenty of researchers with degrees from, for example, the University of Tokyo, the Catholic University of Leuven, Humboldt University of Berlin, Tel Aviv University, or the University of Melbourne. These intellectual networks arise from research stints, conferences, funded workshops, joint grant applications, and such. Familiarity eases the chances of hiring Ph.D.s from those institutions."

Does this hold for philosophy? If it does, then what's at issue in 2 and 3 above probably depends a lot on the specific departments in the U.S. that one has in mind.

LeuvenStudent

I’d be interested in hearing more about what researchers think of Leuven in particular.

David

A salient factor might be your friend's particular sub-field. For example, there are a lot of departments in Europe where faculty, postdocs, and PhD students do excellent work in philosophy of science and formal epistemology. Munich, Turin, Geneva, and Konstanz all come to mind, although there are many others. While the job market is hard everywhere and for everyone, there are some people in Europe who seem to bring in a lot of grant money for postdocs, with some of these postdocs going to people who have trained at these institutions. I don't know whether the same holds true for other sub-fields, so it might be a good idea for your friend to get some first-hand testimony on the strength of the European network in their particular subfield.

Cosmopolitan

1.Is there a clear philosophy prestige hierarchy in Europe? If so does it carry over into the United States?

"where the Anglophone world is concerned, northern Europe is better than southern Europe, and that western Europe is better than eastern Europe."

Agreed.

2. The vague impression I get is that search committees often treat all non-uk European PhDs the same, kind of like a low ranked US program, although there is often the disadvantage of lacking teaching experience.

That's not what search committees with active researchers (i.e. those who are plugged into international research networks) think.

3.Somewhat in conflict with what I just said, other times I get the impression that, especially at research schools, a European PhD is much preferred to a mid to low ranked US PhD. This seems to be because the former has a negative reputation (among elite research schools) while the latter really has no reputation. There is also some sort of plus from the mysteriousness of it all.

Yes, minus the "mysteriousness" bit.

4.The more elite liberal arts schools often like the diversity this would bring, especially if you speak multiple langues (again, this is just my impression that is not based on anything known to be reliable.)

I think this applies beyond elite liberate arts schools.

Amanda

Thanks so much for the feedback everyone has offered, this is all very helpful! Amazing the difference in pay - I can't imagine getting a regular salary as a PhD student.

As for what they study: the MA thesis was in moral psychology although they also have significant background in traditional epistemology and might alter how they play their research interest according to program. They might take a more scientific approach to ethics or something, but I'm not sure. They were telling me lots of Europe tends to focus on historical stuff, which they don't like.

Interesting that it seems right there is an advantage getting a Europe degree over say, a mid-ranked US degree. This doesn't surprise me from what I have seen happen, but doing a brief visiting job in Europe myself I find it interesting that Europeans themselves seem to have such a preference for US programs, but then US programs do the reverse! I don't doubt many European programs are excellent, but to reflectively assume they are better than a US program 30 Leiter ranked is interesting. (I mean as a "general" assumption, it might be perfectly reasonable for specific universities, but I have seen a broad brush in the US that applies this to most or all Western European schools.)

Sceptical

Marcus, I would be very curious to know what US jobs these people with European PhDs recently got? As far as I can tell (as someone without a US PhD), the US market for R1 jobs is almost inaccessible for those without a North-American PhD. The very few exceptions I have seen tend to be people with AOSs outside of analytic philosophy, and every now and then an Oxbridge person.

Anon

Sceptical: I have a PhD from Italy. Right after I defended my dissertation, I had a 3-year postdoc at a R1 university. Now I'm VAP in the same institution. I have also interviewed for tenure-track jobs in other R1 universities. I work in philosophy of science and technology, but in this field I do something really specific and in high demand right now - that might explain how I got into a R1 institution with a European PhD.

Marcus Arvan

Sceptical: I can’t think of every case off the top of my head, but one case that comes to mind is Etienne Brown, who received his PhD in France and reported in our Mentoring Program thread that he was just hired into a tenure track position at San Jose State University. https://philosopherscocoon.typepad.com/blog/2019/07/mentoring-program-mentee-feedback.html#more

Chris

Dear Sceptical:

In philosophy of science, at least, it sometimes happens. e.g., Mario Hubert (PhD University of Lausanne) just got a prestigious post-doc at Cal Tech.

Matthieu Queloz (PhD University of Basel) got a good post-doc at Oxford

Simone Ghelli, Italian PhD, has a post-doc at Oxford,

Jack Stetter (phD U of Paris) has a VAP at Loyola (does 17th and 18th c)

Of course it remains to be seen where they end up. But you could look at the placement pages of some of the European philosophy departments.

Other philosophers of science, such as Franz Huber at Toronto did his PhD in Germany, or Holger Andreas (PhD Leipzig), job at UBC

and of course, there are those who worked in some area of continental philosophy with European PhDs, such as Steizinger (job at McMaster) or Manon Garcia (PhD Paris, job at Yale)

Of course, this is nothing like a systematic search. Keep in mind also that many people who get European PhDs are European and stay in Europe - but get jobs. Also keep in mind that the job market is tough in general.

You should look into the placement record of wherever you're applying.

For research jobs, the more famous your supervisor is (internationally), the less difference it makes where you got your PhD.


Amanda


Helen just got a distinguished chair at Saint Louis University.

It happens but it is hard to gage how unusual it is due to circumstantial differences. I am pretty sure it happens at r1s more than other schools.

Sceptical

Thanks, everyone! I have to say this info does not surprise me much, though. These are all either not R1s (Étienne Brown) or are in philosophy of science (where the analytic-Continental divide, for historical reasons, exists much less if at all), or are exceptional mid- or late-career cases (De Cruz). Much of them are not even tenure-track. I dream of a future time when the US will start hiring internationally in philosophy as they do in the sciences.

Nicolas Delon

Hi all, I also got my PhD in Paris and a TT job in the US (New College of Florida). Coming from Paris there’s also Raoul Moati (Chicago) and Manon Garcia (Yale). In the UK, Daniele Lorenzini is at Warwick. I must be forgetting a few people. Does this mean you should do your PhD in Paris in order to get a job in the anglophone world? Absolutely not. Manon and I for instance spent many years in the US post-PhD before landing a TT job. Our postdocs certainly helped. So, it’s not impossible but that’s clearly not the most straightforward path. There’s no doubt many many departments threw away my application just looking at where I got my PhD during my years on the market.

Happy to say more if anyone’s interested.

Étienne Brown

Hi all,

I keep an internal record of French PhDs who got TTs in the U.S. out of sheer curiosity. In addition to those already mentioned (Manon, Nicolas and myself), we can add Béatrice Longuenesse at NYU, Édouard Machery at the University of Pittsburgh and, more recently, Norman Ajari at Villanova. Regarding the latter, I am not entirely sure this is a tt rather than a VAP, but it seems like it. Interestingly, this is the only non-Sorbonne PhD I know who got a job in the U.S. By Sorbonne, I mean Paris-I (Nicolas, Manon, R. Moati) or Paris-IV (É. Machery and myself). As for European PhDs at R1s, it will be interesting to see how things evolve in the future. In my opinion, M. Queloz has a very strong publishing record, and I'd be surprised if R1s didn't show any interest in him (assuming that he is interested in getting a job at an American R1. My own impression is that a European PhD might not be enough to secure a tt, but that a European PhD + decent publications + a postdoc at a R1 might be. I was at Oxford when hired, and I know that Nicolas and Manon spent some years at places like Chicago, NYU and Harvard.

I'd also be curious to know how people with European PhDs feel about that. I did worry about the value of my diploma on the job market, but I'm happy to have it in the end. I am a Québécois with a French Ph.D. who got a job in California, and it sort of makes me feel like I do things my own way (albeit with the help of the mentoring program!). Of course, I would probably tell you a different story if I did not get a tt, and I certainly do not wish to deny that getting one is much easier coming out of a leiterrific program, for better or worse.

Mike Titelbaum

I just want to reiterate the comments above that a lot of this depends on area. In my mind, we haven't hit the point yet where a few institutions on the Continent are universally acknowledged as the best all-around in analytic philosophy. But when I think of Formal Epistemology, a number of places immediately spring to mind, mostly in northern Europe but also in Italy as well. A couple of those are centers (like MCMP), while others involve a single, prominent researcher whom I associate with that institution. PhDs from those institutions are certainly on a par with PhDs in English-speaking countries.

Having just completed a search in Philosophy of Science at my university, I can also say that a number of high-quality philosophy of science students (especially philosophy of physics) are coming out of Europe. While we ultimately didn't wind up hiring one of them, we easily could have.

Sceptical

The question in this post concerned competitiveness for jobs, not the quality of PhD programmes. The constant confusion between the two may well be the single biggest reason why contemporary philosophy has even less relevance and success than contemporary science. Hiring someone, even in part, because they were students of someone (or somewhere) prominent is the least meritocratic idea there is. Academic co-optation may have been born in Germany but the US are clearly its contemporary heir.

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