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European Phd vs. U.S. Phd


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#1 Justin Q. Olmstead

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  • Interests:I am a history teacher currently working on my masters degree. I have also created an on-line American History course for my school district. While I currently teach about lthe US Constitution, American History and Middle Eastern Studies, I have always been very interested in the 1860's to 1990's time period in European history. I am also a member of the National Council for History Education. I own a small cattle ranch and coach soccer. In this respect I am a huge ManU and Reading fan but follow European Football as a general rule.

Posted 15 November 2005 - 06:22 PM

This may or may not be the place for this but I wanted to get more opinions before I proceed. I will be finishing my MA in American History this coming May and I intend on pursuing my PhD hopefully the following Fall. I have been in contact with a couple of local Universities (Kansas State University and Oklahoma State University) but I have also been afforded the opportunity to study at Crichton University in Scotland. My masters advisor and another of my professors say that it would be a mistake to get my PhD from a European University, for a variety of reasons. Another professor, who received his PhD from Sheffield, argues that while the process of gaining the PhD is different, there is essentially little difference when it comes time to look for a job.

I would like your input in this matter if possible. What is your opinion? Does it matter where one receives his/her PhD as long as he/she has earned it? The more info. I get the better decision I hope to make so please don't hold back. Additionally, I think this could turn into a great discussion about educational programs on both sides of the Atlantic.

#2 Terry Haydn

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Posted 16 November 2005 - 10:32 AM

This is just a personal view, tentatively proffered:

Main thing is that a PhD is better than not having a PhD if you are applying for academic posts. I think that this is true both in the US and the UK.

I think that some attention is paid to the place where the doctorate was gained; in the UK, as in the US, some institutions have higher status than others, and a PhD from, for instance, Oxford University, would have more kudos than one from (say) Wigan Polytechnic. Whether this is fair or not is not the whole point.

I have even heard some people argue that who your supervisor is can make a difference in some fields. Are you being supervised by someone who has an established world wide reputation or someone no one has heard of?

Do you mean Crichton Campus within the University of Glasgow? Step one would be to thoroughly research the credentials and reputation of the instiution you are applying to. It can also be helpufl to try and find out about possible supervisors.

#3 Mike Tribe

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Posted 16 November 2005 - 12:08 PM

Another element might the the amount of coursework as opposed to research involved. When I was investigating doing a PhD a hundred years ago, the US one had about 50% coursework, 50% research while the British one was 100% research...

#4 Justin Q. Olmstead

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  • Interests:I am a history teacher currently working on my masters degree. I have also created an on-line American History course for my school district. While I currently teach about lthe US Constitution, American History and Middle Eastern Studies, I have always been very interested in the 1860's to 1990's time period in European history. I am also a member of the National Council for History Education. I own a small cattle ranch and coach soccer. In this respect I am a huge ManU and Reading fan but follow European Football as a general rule.

Posted 16 November 2005 - 05:09 PM

Another element might the the amount of coursework as opposed to research involved. When I was investigating doing a PhD a hundred years ago, the US one had about 50% coursework, 50% research while the British one was 100% research...


Indeed, from the little information I have, the course work at Crichton campus within the University of Glasgow (yes, Terry you were correct) would be 100% research, while the U.S. coursework is approximately 50/50 course to research. Is one better than the other? My understanding is that in the U.S. the programs are designed to be broad early and narrow your focus as you progress, while in Europe you begin with your primary focus and then broaden your view after you have compleated your PhD.

I have asked this question of a former professor of mine here in Kansas and her response was that she would be hesitant to hire someone with a PhD from Europe because her fear is that they would want to do nothing but research and no teaching. Personally, I think this is a false view, but this is something that I would have to deal with.

I have also been told that the supervisor makes a real difference, but I am a little limited (I think) to my research into the different programs because of my distance from Crichton campus. I have to admit that if I can get the funding, I am leaning towards Crichton campus.

Secondary question: How does one choose their dissertation? I have a great interest in history in general, but my focus goes from anything dealing with the age of empire to WWI and WWII, the Cold War, etc. My masters thesis is dealing with Eisenhowers decision to allow the U-2 flight that was shot down over the USSR, but I have such an intense interest in these other areas that I am finding it hard to try and narrow it down. Additionally, I wonder if the topic of my dissertation will have an impact on my ability to get hired.

This is just a personal view, tentatively proffered:

Main thing is that a PhD is better than not having a PhD if you are applying for academic posts. I think that this is true both in the US and the UK.

I think that some attention is paid to the place where the doctorate was gained; in the UK, as in the US, some institutions have higher status than others, and a PhD from, for instance, Oxford University, would have more kudos than one from (say) Wigan Polytechnic. Whether this is fair or not is not the whole point.

I have even heard some people argue that who your supervisor is can make a difference in some fields. Are you being supervised by someone who has an established world wide reputation or someone no one has heard of?

Do you mean Crichton Campus within the University of Glasgow? Step one would be to thoroughly research the credentials and reputation of the instiution you are applying to. It can also be helpufl to try and find out about possible supervisors.


Do you have any info about Crichton Campus within the University of Glasgow?

#5 John Simkin

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Posted 16 November 2005 - 06:14 PM

Secondary question: How does one choose their dissertation? I have a great interest in history in general, but my focus goes from anything dealing with the age of empire to WWI and WWII, the Cold War, etc. My masters thesis is dealing with Eisenhowers decision to allow the U-2 flight that was shot down over the USSR, but I have such an intense interest in these other areas that I am finding it hard to try and narrow it down. Additionally, I wonder if the topic of my dissertation will have an impact on my ability to get hired.


One area you could explore is the way that the media dealt with issues like the U-2 incident, Bay of Pigs, Cuban Missile Crisis, etc. Some interesting documents have been released over the last couple of years about the way the CIA manipulated the mass media during these incidents.

On another thread Nathaniel Heidenheimer has written about Kathy Olmsted's research in the way the NYT and the Washington Post changed perceptions on the Otis Pike and Frank Church reports into the CIA and the Cold War.

http://educationforu...?showtopic=5314

You will definitely get a lot of help from other members of the Forum. We have several members who are experts on this subject.

I believe that a Forum like this would be an excellent way of testing out your ideas. Postings could be seen as a first draft of your PhD.

#6 Raymond Blair

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Posted 16 November 2005 - 11:12 PM

Justin,

My first suggestion would be to closely look at your desire to get a Phd in history. Why are you getting one?

The job market is pretty dreary for college professors and while Kansas State and Oklahoma State are fine schools, you will be in competition with Ivy League PhDs for any job opening you pursue.

Also, I would look for dissertation advisors not schools. Your relationship with one professor and that professor's reputation and contacts are going to be very important.

If you are interested in pursuing a Ph.D. I would strongly considering the Europe route UNLESS you are intending to specialize in United States history. The foreign PhD's have an exotic air to them when compared to K State or OK. State U. But I would not suggest following the route I did and landing at a school and then looking for a dissertation topic and advisor.

I entered school gung ho about trying to get started on my dissertation was told to cool my jets. The dissertation is the main thing to go get done. The schoolwork should be a cakewalk for you. The thing I got the most value out of was the classroom instruction experience.

If you can get in a system that makes you a Ph.D. more quickly than the other I would take it. And always look to publish early and often. No publication or presentation is too small.

BUT (and I was told this too) the path to a tenured history professor is a long and lagged and jaded one. I would urge you to think about what you can do with your masters. In retrospect I very well may have been better off stopping at that level.

I stopped writing my dissertation because I was adjuncting and prepping for piecemeal classes at various universities and could not progress on my dissertation. And when I saw job openings at schools I wasn't really that interested in teaching at several hundred applications came from all over the country AND a local favorite son was often in the mix.




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