Brandeis University to Try a New Tactic to Speed Students to the Ph.D.

Dear Commons Community,

The Chronicle of Higher Education is reporting that Brandeis University with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, will institute a new dissertation fellowship designed to move students through the Ph.D.   As stated in The Chronicle article:

“Doctoral students at Brandeis who receive highly selective, dissertation-year fellowships from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will now be required to sign a “commitment agreement” with their departments, which carries several conditions.

The fellows, typically in their sixth year, are awarded the one-year grants, which this year will provide each student with $35,000, cover the full cost of tuition, and pay for health insurance. In return, the fellows must agree to work full time on their dissertations, abstain from outside employment, participate in regular seminar meetings, and submit progress reports.

The student’s adviser is also required to sign the form. Doing so ensures that professors who are crucial to helping students finish are aware of the specific terms to which the fellows have agreed…

Brandeis is not alone in trying to cut the time students take to complete their Ph.D.’s. “Many institutions are taking a close look at time to degree in an effort to improve the quality of their programs,” says Debra W. Stewart, president of the Council of Graduate Schools. While the average time to the Ph.D. has gone down in some fields over the last 20 years, she says, there is still plenty of room for improvement.

Since 2001, the median time to the doctorate in all fields has decreased slightly from just over eight years to about seven and a half, according to National Science Foundation data. But there is significant variance across disciplines. Doctoral students in the life and physical sciences and in engineering took a median of seven years to finish, while education graduate students needed 11 and a half years in 2011, down from nearly 14 years in 2001.”

Here at the CUNY Graduate Center, we have had a number of discussions on time to degree issues.  In my opinion, funding that allows students to give up outside employment and work full-time on their dissertations is a step in the right direction.



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