Philosophy PhD Programs: University of California, Irvine (LPS) and University of Oregon

In this blog post I provide some detailed, up-to-date information about two philosophy PhD programs. This week's picks are University of California Irvine, Logic and Philosophy of Science and University of Oregon. 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.


  • The relative sizes of these programs is unclear, since Irvine LPS graduated half the number of Oregon's graduates, but has a closer number of current students
  • Irvine LPS has a very high academic placement rate (the highest in 2016), but Oregon's is also high
  • The area of specialization profiles are quite different, with Irvine LPS students heavily focused on Science, Logic, and Math and Oregon students strongly focused on Value Theory
  • Irvine LPS has lower than overall gender diversity, whereas Oregon is near gender parity; Both have higher than overall racial/ethnic diversity but lower than overall SES diversity
  • Both programs have higher than average ratings from their students, with specific ratings highest in research for Irvine LPS and teaching for Oregon

Overall placement, 2012-present
Irvine LPS appears to have had only 15 graduates in this 8-year period (and 17 in the previous 8-year period), but lists 38 current students. Oregon appears to have had 32 graduates, listing 51 current students on its website. To see the difference here, assume that it takes 7 years to complete a PhD in philosophy, on average, and that attrition is 50% on average--in that case a program that is graduating on average 2 students a year should have a current pool of 28 students, and a program graduating an average of 4 students a year should have a pool of 56 students. So either Irvine LPS has grown at a faster rate than Oregon of late, the students take longer to complete their program, or the attrition rate is much higher.*

Irvine LPS placed 12 of these graduates into tenure-track or other permanent academic positions (80%), with 8 of these in a program that offers a PhD in philosophy (53%). Oregon placed 16 into permanent academic positions (50%), with none in philosophy programs with a PhD. Of Irvine LPS's other graduates, 1 has a postdoctoral fellowship and 2 are in nonacademic positions. Of Oregon's other philosophy graduates, 2 are in postdoctoral or fellowship positions, 8 have other temporary academic placements, 2 are in nonacademic positions, and 4 have no or unknown placement. The average salary of Irvine LPS graduates was $105,111 and 76% preferred an academic job. The average salary of Oregon graduates was $72,000 and 100% preferred an academic job.

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, 5% of Irvine LPS students are in LEMM, 2% are in Value Theory, 10% are in History and Traditions, and 83% Science, Logic and Math. 7% of Oregon students are in LEMM, 63% are in Value Theory, 26% are in History and Traditions, and 4% are in Science, Logic and Math. For Irvine LPS, the majority of graduates 2012 onward placed into permanent academic positions were in Science, Logic, and Math (92%), whereas for Oregon the majority were in Value Theory (75%).

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, 26% of those from Irvine LPS are women, whereas 49% of Oregon students are women (55% of current students, 47% 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, 38% of those who answered questions about race and ethnicity from Irvine LPS identified as something other than White, non-Hispanic. Similarly, this number is 18% for Oregon.

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

7% of Irvine LPS students were first generation, spanning the lower middle to upper classes. 17% of Oregon students were first generation, spanning the middle to upper middle 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.

Oregon students provided the following public comment on how philosophy could be more inclusive:

In my view, it needs to be made clear that the old intellectual habits are no longer acceptable. Those who remain ignorant of under-represented groups will find their work ignored, or even reviled. Unless we make efforts to humble those whose work is exclusionary, then philosophy will only progress one funeral at a time.

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 Irvine LPS students selected "definitely would recommend," on average (4.7, n=21), whereas Oregon students selected "somewhat likely" (4.3, n=7). Irvine LPS had a moderate negative correlation between graduation year and program rating (-.33). 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," Irvine LPS students selected between "neutral" and "satisfied" (3.5, n=15) and Oregon students selected "satisfied" (4.4, n=7).

In response to: "Rate your satisfaction with the advice and preparation this program provides to its graduate students for academic research," Irvine LPS students selected "very satisfied" (4.8, n=16) and Oregon students selected "neutral" (3.4, n=7).

In response to: "Rate your satisfaction with the financial support this program provides for its graduate students," Irvine LPS students selected between "neutral" and "satisfied" (3.5, n=15) and Oregon students selected "neutral" (3.4, n=7).

Public Comments

Irvine LPS students provided public comments on the program overall:

Excellent and supportive intellectual community; high standards for academic work; strong placement support and record.
My program emphasized self-directed research from early in graduate school, which I found empowering, and also was extremely helpful when it came to publishing and jobs. There was a lot of focus on interdisciplinary work, including coursework in other departments. I found the graduate advising to be very good - each of my main graduate papers was read by 4-6 faculty members who gave helpful comments, without which I could never have managed to start publishing in early graduate school. I also enjoyed the climate, both graduate and faculty.
The graduate students in the department generally form an incredibly supportive and unified body, with each of the broad areas of research strengths within the department generally characterizing smaller student research support groups. The faculty also generally promote an attitude that graduate students are, nearly from day one, potential partners in collaborative research with interesting and creative ideas to bring to the table. This may be related to the fact that there is no undergraduate major hosted by our department, and so the faculty are not often concurrently advising undergraduate students, but this is just speculation.
The professors were brilliant and kind. The program is very challenging, and it is exciting to be in such a specialized department.
The program was more specialized than other Philosophy programs. But also I was encouraged to take courses from other departments, including mathematics, cognitive sciences, etc.
The program was very student- and research-focused. I had a great deal of attention, time and energy from my supervisors. The student::professor ratio was very low and so very conducive to good work. The expectations were very high. The pressure was high. But as a student I was given the supervision and mentoring that was necessary for me to achieve what I needed to achieve to land a tenure-track job while still ABD. I feel that I learned a lot not only about my subject, but about the profession and what it takes to be a successful philosopher and professor.
The research area itself; speaking with brilliant faculty and grad students; access to a broad array of intellectual perspectives.

on training for teaching:

Because of the school I was in within the university, I had very little opportunity to teach or assist in undergraduate philosophy courses. However, there was an advanced pedagogical program at the university that I was encouraged to become a large part of, and that aided in my learning to be an undergraduate professor in various and important ways.
LPS does not have an undergraduate major, so undergraduates are NOT at all a priority for the department. If you yourself care about teaching undergraduates, you WILL need to be proactive and see additional support and training/resources outside the department (and some of these exist on campus--you just have to be proactive). (Jeremy Heis is the exception here: TAing for him will help you prepare to teach well.)
There are many opportunities to TA and teach. There are university programs for teaching training, but the department does not have official venues for pedagogical training.
There is a TA training workshop at the beginning of the first year.

on preparation for research:

Faculty have described the department as "more like a research institute" than a normal academic department. It is all about the research, and course work and advising will push you to (1) become adept at writing clearly, (2) strategically using your time to maximize research output, (3) confident presenting research at talks.
Great research training, including feedback from multiple faculty members and a host of older graduate students.
Research was the main focus of our work as students. I feel that I was guided along the path toward productive and interesting research. I was guided and mentored toward putting forth quality work that both I and my professors were proud of. The fact that many of the graduate students in my program published before leaving grad school (at a time when that was not yet expected) attests to the quality of the research and guidance we were able to have as students.
There is a rich collaborative and mentor ship culture.

and on financial support:

I had a full fellowship that paid for tuition and fees and provided me a modest living stipend. I did work two additional part-time jobs to better make the bills, but many of my classmates did not have to do so.

Oregon students also provided public comments on the program overall:

Although not all faculty are equal, I had excellent mentors at UO. They were very encouraging of original thinking, seeking to develop my ideas, not just further their own intellectual agenda. They helped me to see myself as a professional and to pursue professional experiences, which was critical when I was on the job market. The pluralist course array was absolutely vital to developing flexibility in robust philosophical thought. They encourage students to explore any philosophical school that may be fruitful to their questions. They also are more experienced and encouraging than most when it comes to thinking across disciplines. The necessity of taking feminist courses made the graduate student community much more dynamic and engaging. The necessity of teaching duties was vital to my development as a professional teacher and as a thinker.
At a previous institution, I had experiences with faculty openly hostile to one another, and they constantly dragged graduate students into it. While at my PhD granting institution, the faculty were professional and accessible, and any issues they had with one another were kept behind closed doors, making a very supportive environment for graduate students. Also, the coursework is demanding and pluralistic. You cannot get through without being exposed to topics you may not otherwise have sought out, including things like feminist philosophy, not yet a staple in all programs.
Emphasis on pragmatism and engagement with social issues. Cross disciplinary. Clear writing encouraged. Mark Johnson was my excellent dissertation advisor-- emphasis on metaphor theory and second generation cognitive science. Many other interesting and committed faculty.
The department is genuinely pluralistic, and I was exposed to a number of areas in philosophy I otherwise would not have encountered or taken seriously. Most of the professors are also brilliant and legitimately care about educating students, both graduate and undergraduate, and they pass on the importance of that task to the graduate students. Like all programs, one or two professors stand out as not fitting this profile, but that in no way detracts from the great education you get there.
The program is explicitly feminist and pluralist. It encourages students to explore various fields of philosophy and combine them in interesting and innovative ways. The department also offers a variety of courses from non-Western traditions including Indigenous philosophy and Latin American philosophy. Faculty are invested in graduate student success and the community of grad students is friendly, supportive, and close. There are also lots of teaching opportunities for grad students.
The program is quite unusual in that it is pluralist. I have found that this makes the graduates stronger, more flexible thinkers. They are forced from day one to engage with others outside of their philosophical niche. Also, many of the works by students who attend this program are engaged with contemporary issues. This seems to work well for them on the job market and in publishing. It is also important to note that students are required to take at least two courses in feminist philosophy. Ultimately this makes it a much more hospitable place to be a woman in philosophy. In my experience, the faculty are not trying to create clones of themselves or acolytes. They genuinely nurture the creativity of graduate students. I also found the learning environment to be mostly collaborative.

on training for teaching:

First year graduate students with a teaching appointment (TA or solo teaching) a required to take a year-long Teaching Seminar taught by the department head or chair of grad studies. This teaching seminar is helpful for learning teaching and classroom management studies and for bringing up challenges and issues that come up in classrooms. The course also includes readings on philosophy of teaching, a workshop on how to create syllabi, and an opportunity to draft a teaching statement. Though the teaching seminar is very useful, the department does not always follow up with students to ensure that they are progressing well in teaching.
Graduate students started as TAs for large lecture sections, and they met weekly with the professor to discuss the material, grading techniques, and teaching methods for their discussion sections. We were given ample opportunities to ask questions and get feedback from the professor but still had freedom in our discussion sections to structure the time how we saw fit.

on preparation for research:

From the start, grad students are encouraged to send papers to conference and articles out for publication. Many of the final papers for the courses are designed to be the right length to send to a conference. In addition, one of the comprehensive exam requirements is to write an article-length research paper that ideally would be sent off for publication. Many faculty members will also provide feedback on articles. Every year grad students organize a workshop with a faculty member to talk about the publication process.
I am not certain what other programs provide. I think they could do better at directly conveying the landscape of academic research. Perhaps bringing in successful alumnae to address these concerns. However individual mentorship, in my experience, was very helpful. Primarily, I was encouraged to take risks and try things. This was how I learned about academic research.

and on financial support:

I took the view that I was a student there to learn, not an employee. So I appreciated the tuition remission and small stipend I got.
The financial support for the program is very low, and though the university is located in a small town, rent prices and other costs of living have been increasing significantly in recent years, leaving grad students in precarious positions. In comparison to other similar programs, our department offers significantly less funding, which as inhibited recruitment efforts on some occasions. The grad students are unionized and through the union have very good health care, which helps to make up for some of the other lacks.
When I was there, benefits were great and cost of living was low. I did take out loans to attend conferences, so more support in this area would have been very helpful.

Next week I hope to look at Villanova University and Katholieke University Leuven. Feedback is welcome, at

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*Two people reached out to me to let me know that the PhD program at Irvine LPS has significantly grown in the last few years.