Philosophy PhD Programs: University of Calgary and University of California, Santa Barbara

In this blog post I provide some detailed, up-to-date information about two philosophy PhD programs. This week's picks are University of Calgary and University of California, Santa Barbara. These programs were chosen randomly, using an app called "Pickster." (Next week's picks are listed at the bottom of this post.) This information comes from the APDA database, and was updated by my research assistant, Anna Durbin, using the program's placement page and what she could find online. The running tally includes select numbers from all of the programs covered so far.


  • Both Calgary and UCSB are small to mid-sized programs with below average academic placement rates
  • Calgary students tend to focus on Value Theory, whereas UCSB students are more often in LEMM
  • UCSB has above average racial/ethnic diversity, but below average gender and socioeconomic diversity
  • The program ratings provided by past graduates were below average, but more recent graduates from Calgary gave it a higher rating
  • Yet, UCSB students were more satisfied on the specific measures (teaching preparation, research preparation, and financial support)

Overall placement, 2012-present
Calgary had 19 PhD graduates in this period, whereas UCSB had 22. Of Calgary's 19 graduates, 18 went into academic or unknown employment, and they placed 6 of these into tenure-track or other permanent academic positions (33%), with none of these in programs that offer a PhD in philosophy. UCSB placed 5 of 19 into permanent academic positions (26%), likewise with none in a philosophy program with a PhD.

Of Calgary's other graduates, 1 is in a postdoctoral or fellowship positions, 10 are in other temporary academic positions, 1 is in a nonacademic position, and 1 has no or unknown placement.

Of UCSB's other graduates, 2 are in postdoctoral or fellowship positions, 11 have temporary academic placements, 3 are in nonacademic positions, and 1 has no or unknown placement.

The average salary of Calgary graduates is $93,096 and 90% preferred an academic job. The average salary of UCSB graduates is $67,875, and 100% preferred an academic job.

Note that removing nonacademic positions from the total number of graduates in reporting permanent academic placement is a new standard for this project. According to the old standard, 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 according to the new standard are 42% and 15%, respectively, with an overall average salary of $68,542 and 90% who prefer an academic job.

Areas of Specialization, by Category
Including all past and current students in the APDA database, 14% of Calgary students are in LEMM, 40% are in Value Theory, 9% are in History and Traditions, and 37% Science, Logic and Math. 58% of UCSB students are in LEMM, 31% are in Value Theory, 10% are in History and Traditions, and 2% are in Science, Logic and Math. For Calgary, the majority of graduates 2012 onward placed into permanent academic positions were in Value Theory (67%), whereas for UCSB these were split between LEMM and History and Traditions (40% each).

Note that the current database values for all past graduates and current students are 28% in LEMM, 34% in Value Theory, 24% in History and Traditions, and 14% in Science, Logic, and Math.

Including all past graduates and current students, 33% of those from Calgary are women, as are 14% of UCSB students.

29% is the overall proportion reported by APDA in 2017. The current database percentage is 31% for all past graduates and current students.

Including all past graduates and current students, 13% of those who answered questions about race and ethnicity from Calgary and 22% from UCSB identified as something other than White, non-Hispanic.

13% is the overall proportion reported by APDA in 2017. The percentage from the Diversity and Inclusivity survey is 14%. The current database percentage is 20%, but this is likely inflated relative to the true population due to some of our data gathering efforts.

22% of those from Calgary were first generation college students, as were 14% from UCSB.

The percentage of all survey respondents who are first generation college students is 23.4%, compared to 31% for all United States doctoral degree recipients in 2015.

Students from Calgary provided public comments on how philosophy could be more inclusive (UCSB students did not):

Getting away from combative metaphors. It is little wonder that tall confident white males do well in philosophy when doing philosophy is seen as a form of battle.
There are many different things that can be done. But, I think it starts at the undergraduate level. This can mean bringing more diversity into your readings, making efforts to bring people who would not normally think about taking philosophy into the classroom, and other things too. It also means working hard to make sure students succeed and are not left hanging without a support net. They will experience real changes that some of us never did. We need to be aware of this and advocate for them.

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 Calgary students selected "somewhat likely" (3.7, n=12), whereas UCSB students selected in between "neither likely nor unlikely" and "somewhat likely" (3.5, n=11).

Both programs had a moderate or higher correlation between graduation year and program rating: Calgary's is positive (.44, graduates of more recent years give higher ratings) and UCSB's is negative (-.39, graduates of more recent years give lower ratings). Of 69 programs with at least 10 survey participants who are past graduates, 14 had moderate negative correlations between these values, 7 had moderate positive correlations, and there is a slight negative overall correlation of -.06.

"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, 3.9 for research, and 3.7 for financial support.

In response to: "Rate your satisfaction with the advice and preparation this program provides to its graduate students for undergraduate teaching," Calgary students selected "satisfied" (3.7, n=9), as did UCSB students (4.1, n=7).

In response to: "Rate your satisfaction with the advice and preparation this program provides to its graduate students for academic research," Calgary students selected "neutral" (3.4, n=9), whereas UCSB students selected "satisfied" (3.6, n=7).

In response to: "Rate your satisfaction with the financial support this program provides for its graduate students," Calgary students selected "neutral" (3.1, n=9), whereas UCSB students selected "satisfied" (3.7, n=7).

Public Comments

Calgary students provided a few public comments on the program overall:

Excellent supervision; Supportive environment
Lack of travel funding. Seemingly focusing on the MA program.
The department is very warm and welcoming. There are a variety of interests and they are remarkably inclusive. Additionally, the department has been an advocate for women and people of color in the profession. Intellectually, I grew tremendously and learned a great deal from my professors and fellow graduate students.
The department was not supportive. The faculty and my cohort were generally closed-minded and even hostile towards anything that did not belong in a narrow tradition of analytical philosophy. There was not an open dialogue, and any discussion of ideas that questioned the assumptions of that tradition were shut down and dismissed. My supervisor was not helpful or supportive at all, and the department did nothing to help me obtain employment but rather cut off all communication immediately after I graduated.

on preparation for teaching:

I taught a great deal as a teaching assistant and did teach a course or two of my own. There was great advising on teaching but in content and strategy.
I was able to teach a few courses while still a PhD student. There were opportunities to TA starting in the first year of my MA program
The TA work was redundant busy-work that did not help me at all with any preparations for teaching. Some of the faculty for whom I was a TA created an atmosphere of antagonism between the students and me with careless comments and did not take any responsibility.
There is some advice and preparation from the department, and some workshops through the university that are mostly useless. The best advice comes from informal chats with senior members of the department or other graduate students who have taught courses and learned from their mistakes.

on preparation for research:

Excellent researchers (especially among junior faculty) in the department who are available for discussions of methodology and writing skills.
There is little advice toward the publication process - it seems to be left up to each individual supervisor to talk about publications, but some supervisors may think that this is not a priority for graduate students.
Things have changed since I was a student, but the department was slow to provide explicit structure for professional writing.

and on financial support:

Being a graduate student means that you will struggle financially. However, I was funded throughout my time in graduate school and was able to do well. Additionally, there were very helpful with international students who often have greater dependency on the university for finances.
The department only takes students that it intends to fully fund.

UCSB students likewise provided public comments on the program overall:

Excellent and devoted faculty, and a program in which students without a great pedigree or track record can prove themselves and get financial support quickly.

and on preparation for teaching:

I was a TA for many semesters and I had many opportunities to teach my own classes, something that benefited me a lot on the job market, and in my career.

Next week I hope to look at Michigan State University and London School of Economics and Political Science. Feedback is welcome, at

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