Philosophy PhD Programs: Edinburgh University and University of Michigan

In this blog post I provide some detailed, up-to-date information about two philosophy PhD programs. This week's picks are Edinburgh University and University of Michigan. These programs were chosen randomly, using an app called "Pickster." (Next week's picks are listed at the bottom of this post.) I updated this information myself, using the program's placement page and what I could find online. I aim to construct these posts with an eye to what can be seen about the programs from the APDA data set alone. This information has come from several sources, including current students and graduates. Prospective graduate students should look at the websites for the programs, linked above, for more complete information. The running tally includes select numbers from all of the programs covered so far.


  • Edinburgh's graduate program is nearly twice as large as Michigan's, with a less complete placement page, making their graduates harder to track
  • Michigan places twice as many of its graduates into permanent academic positions, ditto for those positions in programs that offer a PhD
  • Yet, students from both programs mention a good community and program ratings are similar, but higher for Michigan
  • Both programs have good gender diversity, and Michigan also has good racial/ethnic diversity
  • Some students from both programs went on to other graduate and professional schools, but these are currently mixed in with job placements

Overall placement, 2012-present
Edinburgh appears to have had 69 graduates in this period, whereas Michigan has had 37. Edinburgh placed 15 of these graduates into tenure-track or other permanent academic positions (22%), with 8 of these in programs that offer a PhD in philosophy (12%). Michigan placed 19 into permanent academic positions (51%), and 9 into a program with a PhD (24%). Of Edinburgh's other graduates, 25 are in postdoctoral or fellowship positions, 19 have other temporary academic placements, 7 are in nonacademic positions, and 3 have no or unknown placement. Of Michigan's other philosophy graduates, 8 are in postdoctoral or fellowship positions, 5 have other temporary academic placements, and 5 are in nonacademic positions (3 of the 5 listed as in nonacademic positions are currently in either medical or law school, as is one listed as in a fellowship position). Too few Edinburgh students provided salary information or information on academic/nonacademic preference to report. Michigan graduates reported an average salary of $76,629 and 94% preferred an academic position.

Note that the overall proportion of 2012-2016 graduates from the 135 programs tracked by APDA in permanent academic positions is 36%, with 11% in PhD granting programs. The current database values for all 2012 and later graduates are 37% and 12%, respectively, with an overall average salary of $71,879.

Areas of Specialization, by Category
Including all past and current students in the APDA database, 59% of Edinburgh students are in LEMM, 20% are in Value Theory, 16% are in History and Traditions, and 6% Science, Logic and Math. 31% of Michigan students are in LEMM, 48% are in Value Theory, 6% are in History and Traditions, and 14% are in Science, Logic and Math. For Edinburgh, the plurality of graduates 2012 onward placed into permanent academic positions were in LEMM (47%), whereas for Michigan the majority were in Value Theory (53%).

Note that the current database values for all past graduates and current students are 27% in LEMM, 34% in Value Theory, 24% in History and Traditions, and 15% in Science, Logic, and Math.

Including all past graduates and current students, 36% of those from Edinburgh are women (45% of current students, 29% of past graduates), whereas 37% of Michigan students are women (48% of current students, 32% of past graduates).

29% is the overall proportion reported by APDA in 2017. Current database values are 31% for all past graduates and current students, 37% for current students, and 28% for past graduates.

Including all past graduates and current students, 8% of those who answered questions about race and ethnicity from Edinburgh identified as something other than White, non-Hispanic. This number is 34% for Michigan.

13% is the overall proportion reported by APDA in 2017. The current percentage in the database is 15%.

Too few Edinburgh students provided SES information to report. 14% of Michigan students were first generation, spanning the lower middle to upper classes.

The percentage of all survey respondents who are first generation college students is 23.3% (CI: 20.7% to 26.0%), compared to 31% for all United States doctoral degree recipients in 2015.

Michigan students did not provide public comments on how philosophy could be more inclusive, but Edinburgh students provided one:

Stop employing rapists & harassers. Hire minorities. Diversify teaching & research. Make accessibility a priority not an after thought. Give graduate students conference/travel fees up front. Pay decent wages. End short term contracts.

Program Rating

In response to the question: "How likely would you be to recommend the program from which you obtained or will obtain your PhD to prospective philosophy students?" past and current Edinburgh students selected "somewhat likely," on average (4.3, n=8). Michigan students selected "definitely would recommend," albeit with an only somewhat higher rating (4.5, n=24). Neither Edinburgh nor Michigan has a moderate or higher correlation between graduation year and program rating. Of 65 programs with at least 10 survey participants who are past graduates, 15 had moderate negative correlations between these values, 6 had moderate positive correlations, and there is a slight negative overall correlation of -.07.

"Somewhat likely," 4.0, is the average rating reported in 2017. The current database overall average is the same, with an average of 3.7 for teaching, 4.0 for research, and 3.8 for financial support.

In response to: "Rate your satisfaction with the advice and preparation this program provides to its graduate students for undergraduate teaching," Michigan students selected "satisfied" (3.8, n=14). (Too few Edinburgh students answered this and the following questions to report.)

In response to: "Rate your satisfaction with the advice and preparation this program provides to its graduate students for academic research," Michigan students selected "satisfied" (4.1, n=14).

In response to: "Rate your satisfaction with the financial support this program provides for its graduate students," Michigan students selected "satisfied" (4.3, n=14).

Public Comments

Edinburgh students left one public comment about their program overall:

Great student community, lots of research events, ideal for interdisciplinary projects

Michigan students provided public comments on the program overall:

There is a strong, supportive community of graduate students. Many (but not all) professors are effective mentors. That said, this program has had a surprisingly weak placement ranking given its outstanding reputation. More mentorship on publishing as a graduate student would have been helpful.
The student body is always outstanding. Professors are extraordinary philosophers and great human beings. Both elements make of UofM an extraordinary place to learn and do philosophy. The only huge problem is the weather, which does in fact become a great obstacle on the way to graduation.
A rich intellectual environment; incredibly supportive and thoughtful faculty
Michigan philosophy PhD students need to be highly motivated to advance through the program and develop professional contacts and skills, as there is little support from the faculty in either.
excellent grad culture & norms; good gender ratio (including among faculty) + *relatively* decent representation of POC; faculty very receptive to grad student input

on training for teaching:

There was a workshop of 1-2 days on teaching and very light mentorship from faculty (most of whom are not especially focused on outstanding undergraduate teaching).
While the department support varies by instructor, there are substantial high quality resources available through the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching.
We receive at least one opportunity to teach our own class, and we otherwise receive GSI-ships.

and on financial support:

My comments apply to my time in the program, which was over a decade ago. I never had any problems making ends meet. The program is well-heeled, and every graduate student I knew at the time had no money problems.

Next week I hope to look at University of Cincinnati and University of South Carolina. Feedback is welcome, at

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