More than 50 Doctoral Programs Suspend Admissions for at Least a Year!!

Dear Colleagues,

The Chronicle of Higher Education is reporting that more than 50 doctoral programs in the humanities and social sciences won’t be admitting new students in the fall of 2021 — a response to the pandemic and ensuing economic turmoil.  It’s a sort of financial triage to help the programs devote funding to their current students, many of whom will be delayed in completing their degrees because of the disruptions. Suspending admissions for a year, some administrators say, will also allow them to reimagine their doctoral curricula to account for the flagging Ph.D. job market.

We needed to take a bold and aggressive action to make sure that we could support our students that we already had matriculated.

Princeton University’s sociology department was among the first to announce its decision, in mid-May, and other programs followed throughout the summer. More dominoes fell this month — and entire graduate divisions opted for universal pauses — as the University of Pennsylvania decided to suspend all school-funded admissions in its School of Arts and Sciences, and most programs in Columbia University’s social-sciences and humanities departments said they’d do the same. Nearly all cited the desire to support existing students.

That decision was a unanimous one for faculty members in Princeton’s sociology department, Dalton Conley, the director of graduate studies, said in May. Not only were many of the department’s students forced to halt in-person research — like ethnographic interviewing — or book a hasty return to the United States from their field-work sites as borders closed, but some, as parents, also confronted immediate child-care needs.

“We did a lot of careful analysis, as a social-science department, about the systemwide effects going forward and came to the conclusion that regular studies might be disrupted for quite some time,” Conley told The Chronicle. “We needed to take a bold and aggressive action to make sure that we could support our students that we already had matriculated.”

The department considered several models for doing so, including admitting fewer students over several years. In the end, Conley said, “we wanted to have a situation where we weren’t continually kind of having to go in and tinker here and there and cancel some admission slots, revisit the question, cancel additional slots. We wanted to have some buffer.” Taking a “one-time hit” and suspending admissions for a year, Conley and his colleagues decided, made it less likely that they’d have to revise enrollment numbers in the future.

I think that this is wise decision on the part of these programs. There is a definite need to think through how they should evolve in a post-pandemic world.

Below is a sample of programs that have been suspended.



Institution School/Department
Brown University Africana Studies, American Studies, Anthropology, History, Political Science, Sociology
Columbia University Anthropology, History, Political Science, Sociology, East Asian Languages and Cultures, English and Comparative Literature, French, Germanic Languages and Literature, Italian, Latin American and Iberian Cultures, Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies, Music, Philosophy, Religion, Slavic Languages and Literature, Classics, Classical Studies, Theatre, Mathematics, Statistics
Cornell University History
Harvard University Graduate School of Education
New York University Anthropology, Comparative Literature, English, French, History, Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, Spanish and Portugese Language and Literature
Princeton University Sociology
Rice University School of Humanities: Art History, English, History, Philosophy, Religion
University of California at Berkeley Anthropology, Art History, Sociology
University of California at Santa Barbara Sociology
University of Chicago Art History, Cinema and Media Studies, Comparative Literature, Linguistics, Music, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Philosophy, Romance Languages and Literatures
University of Massachusetts at Amherst Sociology
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill History
University of Pennsylvania School-funded admissions in most programs in the School of Arts and Sciences
University of Pittsburgh Anthropology, Communication, Classics, Critical European Culture Studies, English, Film and Media Studies, French, Hispanic Languages and Literatures, History, History of Art and Architecture, Linguistics, Music, Political Science, Slavic Languages and Literatures, Sociology, Theatre Arts
Yale University American Studies, Art History, Slavic Languages and Literature

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