Recommendations for History Doctoral Program Web Sites

Obtaining a doctorate in history is an enormous commitment in time and resources for students, faculty, and departments. Given that, it is important to all parties concerned that the decision to undertake doctoral studies be as fully informed as possible. History doctoral programs should utilize the World Wide Web to provide all of the information a potential applicant will need to assess the program.

In the The Education of Historians for the 21st Century, the Committee on Graduate Education found that many students enter Ph.D. programs with unrealistic expectations about their chances of landing a coveted tenure track position.  Given the realities of today's academic job prospects, the CGE believes that potential students would be well served by having complete and transparent access to information about individual doctoral programs. According to the  CGE report: "History departments need to make an honest assessment of the appropriate size of their graduate programs, based on departmental and institutional resources, the range and scholarly interests of faculty members, and reasonable expectations about the job market for graduates . . . ."  Before applying to a particular school, students should be aware such issues as the program's mission, financial aid, placement history, average time to degree completion, professional ethics guidance, teacher training opportunities, and options for instruction in non-academic professions. 

Specifically, the CGE recommends making the following information available on departmental web sites:

1. Mission statement/Handbook: Every history program should post a clear mission statement and/or list of the program's goals, as well as the official requirements for completing the program (course requirements, foreign language expectations, etc.). 

The history department at Carnegie Mellon University, for instance, offers a good example of an informative online program description. Note how they integrate the program’s particular fields of specialization with a discussion of their pedagogical approach, the special resources the program can provide, and the intended outcomes for their graduates.

2. Faculty members: A list of faculty members' current research and teaching interests (including public history projects); links to faculty CV's; an indication of current and planned leaves.

3. Profile of current graduate students: The number of doctoral students in the program, broken down by field and status (still taking courses, working on dissertations, etc.). Also the number of master's-degree students (if there is a separate M.A. program).

4. Profile of Recent Applicants: The number of applicants in the most recent academic year; the number accepted (including the percentage who had M.A. degrees); the number who enrolled - all broken down by field.

5. Demographics of current graduate students: The breakdown of current graduate students by race/ethnicity and gender.

6. Financial aid for incoming students: The number (or percentage) of incoming students in the most recent year who were funded; how many received multi-year commitments; the typical aid package offered to incoming graduate students: how many students in the previous four years entered the program without funding but were subsequently funded; the maximum number of years a student can expect funding.

7. Other financial aid opportunities: Funding opportunities available to graduate students (tuition waivers, fellowships, assistantships, external funding, loans, etc.) - and how many current students received each type of funding. The site should also include a description of the typical duties and responsibilities for TA's and/or RA's.

8. Time-to-degree/Attrition: The average time to degree (by major field) over the previous five years; how many students in the most recent cohort left after one year in the program; eight-year completion rate for doctoral students.

9. Placement information: Placement information for the previous five years, listing names, completion dates, dates of entry into the program, fields/dissertation topics, and current positions held (academic or nonacademic). Should also include graduate students who left before completing their Ph.D.'s, if the students left to pursue a history-related position or continue their training in history at another institution.

10. Dissertations, completed and in progress: The names, dissertation topics (or titles), and advisors for Ph.D.'s conferred in the previous five years and the same information for current students with approved prospectuses.

11. Graduate student housing: The availability of graduate student housing, including housing for graduate students with spouses, domestic partners, and/or children.

12. Cost of living: An estimate of the annual local cost of living for a graduate student, including any training-related costs (such as medical insurance or student fees) not covered by the typical financial aid package. (Good models are provided by the graduate schools at Harvard and Berkeley.)

13. Additional funds for research/training: Are any (or all) of the following available: summer support; funding for research-related travel or conference participation; or funding for advanced training in foreign languages or in such ancillary skills as paleography, statistical analysis, computer applications, etc.?

14. Teacher preparation: Is there a formal program of (college) teacher preparation, at either the departmental or institutional level?

15. Career planning: Does the department (and/or another unit of the institution) offer a formal program of career planning? Are nonacademic careers are included in this program?

16. Internships and other practices: Is there an internship program for students interested in public history careers? Are there formal arrangements with other schools to provide the graduate department's students with an opportunity to explore teaching and faculty roles at non-research-oriented institutions?

17. Professional ethics: Does the program offer formal training in professional ethics and practices?

18. Graduate students and governance: Is there a graduate student association or a TA union? Are graduate students invited to serve on faculty committees, or otherwise participate in the governance of the department?

19. Intellectual community: A description of any regular program of guest lectures, student­/faculty seminars, or other institutionalized practices devoted to nourishing intellectual community in the department.

20. Unique opportunities: A description of special or even unique opportunities and/or priorities that are distinctive to the program.

An expanded version of the rationale for these concerns can be found in the summary of CGE report.  

We welcome suggestions for additional examples, and also take for granted that sites may change or become obsolete. Please contact Robert B. Townsend with recommendations or emendations.



Last Updated: August 9, 2007