Philosophy PhD Programs: University of California, San Diego and Victoria University of Wellington

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, San Diego and Victoria University of Wellington. 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.


  • UCSD is a mid-size program, whereas VUW is a small program with very few survey participants, limiting the information I am able to provide
  • UCSD has higher than overall placement into permanent academic positions, but VUW has lower than overall placement
  • The plurality of UCSD students are in Science, Logic, and Math, whereas the majority of VUW students are in Value Theory
  • UCSD has lower than overall gender, racial/ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity
  • UCSD students gave their program a stronger than average endorsement

Overall placement, 2012-present
UCSD appears to have had 32 graduates in this period, whereas VUW has had 6. Of these, UCSD has placed 14 into tenure-track or other permanent academic positions (44%), with 3 of these in programs that offer a PhD in philosophy (9%). VUW has placed 1 graduate into a permanent academic position (17%), and that program offers a PhD. Of UCSD's other graduates, 6 are now in postdoctoral or fellowship positions, 7 are in other temporary academic positions, and 5 are in nonacademic positions. Of VUW's other graduates, 1 is in a postdoctoral or fellowship position, 1 is in another temporary academic position, and 2 are in nonacademic positions. 94% of UCSD past graduates and current students preferred an academic job, with all graduates reporting a mean salary of $68,751.

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, 18% of UCSD students are in LEMM, 19% are in Value Theory, 19% are in History and Traditions, and 44% Science, Logic and Math. 0% of VUW students are in LEMM, 60% are in Value Theory, 20% are in History and Traditions, and 20% are in Science, Logic, and Math. Of UCSD's graduates 2012 onward placed into permanent academic positions, 0 were in LEMM, 5 were in Value Theory, 3 were in History and Traditions, and 6 were in Science, Logic, and Math. VUW's sole graduate 2012 onward placed into a permanent academic position was in Value Theory.

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, 24% of UCSD graduates are women 40% of VUW students are women.

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, 11% of those who answered questions about race and ethnicity from UCSD identified as something other than white, non-Hispanic.

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

15% of the past or current UCSD students who answered survey questions about socioeconomic status were first generation college students, and students spanned the lower middle to upper SES categories.

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.

VUW students did not provide public comments on how philosophy could be more inclusive. UCSD students provided several:

Shorter PhD (because the opportunity cost of undertaking it penalizes the vulnerable more than others), lots of transferable skills, no snobbery about leaving academia, plus obviously sensitivity training
Philosophers should be more self-reflective. But there also need to be institutional remedies: striving for equity on syllabi, in conference invitations, in hiring decisions. We need to make decisions with inclusion and demographics in mind.
Actively try to foster a culture in departments in which overly assertive or aggressive behaviour in discussions and seminars is not rewarded, while listening and helping create space for others to contribute is. (The former clearly benefits traditionally privileged/dominant groups.) Be willing to talk to graduate students and faculty about this in a constructive way, even when their behaviour does not cross an obvious line.

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 UCSD students selected "somewhat likely" on average (4.3, n=22). Too few VUW students answered this question to report their numbers. (UCSD did not have a moderate or higher correlation between graduation year and program rating, excluding current students. Of 65 programs with at least 10 survey participants who are past graduates, 15 had moderate negative correlations, 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," UCSD students selected "satisfied" (3.7, n=14) on average.

In response to: "Rate your satisfaction with the advice and preparation this program provides to its graduate students for academic research," UCSD students selected "satisfied" (4.4, n=14) on average.

In response to: "Rate your satisfaction with the financial support this program provides for its graduate students," UCSD students selected "satisfied" (3.8, n=14) on average.

Public Comments

UCSD students left the following public comments about their program overall:

My teachers took me into their lives (often in their homes with their families) and showed me the human and the everyday side of academic life, how they balance duties, how they use their time, how research happens, etc. In general, generous and available faculty was the key for me.
UCSD is a learning environment filled with people doing interesting, and philosophically-diverse work.
During my phd studies I have not encouraged to publish and to participate in conferences. Networking for the job market did not help either. The department was friendly, but not oriented towards the main goal: getting graduate students a TT job
The atmosphere is collaborative and supportive, rather than competitive. There is no sense that your success is my failure. And interdisciplinarity is encouraged.
This is one of the most racist and sexist programs in philosophy. How can they claim to value diversity if most of their professors are white males.*
The maddeningly serious-but-superficial problem with my program is that it is not a top 10 Leiter-ranked prgram. Academic philosophy is dying and it deserves to die for its long-running failure to engage significantly with other fields and other concerns at the college and university level. Most programs have been scraping by based on the teaching loads for courses in critical thinking, logic, analytical/argumentative writing, and basic ethics. This is not a sustainable practice, and we are training too many Ph.Ds. Un the current climate, hiring departments are risk-averse, and maddeningly the Leiter-rankings have become a way to manage risk. it is imprudent for anyone to attend a Ph.D program in the current climate unless it is a top-ranked program.
The main thing about UCSD is that everyone is nice to each other and supportive, which makes a huge difference.
Positive atmosphere in department, both among students and between students and faculty. People are open to a pretty wide range of philosophical areas and approaches, and I feel encouraged to seriously pursue topics outside of my core area. I feel that faculty take our professional and academic development, as well as our personal well-being, very seriously and make themselves clearly available for guidance and feedback (as do fellow students.)
The climate at UCSD is excellent. It is a rigorous, yet supportive environment.

on training for undergraduate teaching:

There are good teaching opportunities for graduate students: principally learning by doing.
There was not a lot of specific preparation from the department, although that has increased over time. The university itself provides a fair amount of useful resources.
Department offers a teaching workshop at the beginning of the year and makes guidance clearly available throughout. It is also very easy to talk to other students about teaching and get their advice or feedback, since most of them do care about teaching. We get further pedagogical instruction from the College writing programs, in which most of us are required to spend some time teaching.

on training for research:

Academic research is the expected career-track for the typical graduate student at UCSD.

and on financial support:

Almost my entire graduate education was paid for by the taxpayers of the state of California (where I no longer reside) and by the tuition dollars of undergraduates. I graduated with only one small ($3K) loan that I took out one summer in order to work on my dissertation without interruption.
The salary is too low for the high cost of living in San Diego. Of course the tenured professors get paid plenty while the graduate students starve.
The general stipend for graduate students is not super great, as one would expect at a public university, but the department was pretty good at finding ways to add to it, and I found it possible to make ends meet without much trouble and without finding any sort of outside funding.

VUW students did not leave any public comments.

Next week I hope to look at Bowling Green State University and University of Maryland, College Park. Feedback is welcome, at

*relevant to this comment is an email I received from Jonathan Cohen, chair at UCSD:

“I was puzzled by this comment in particular:

‘This is one of the most racist and sexist programs in philosophy. How can they claim to value diversity if most of their professors are white males?’

I guess there is a question of whether it makes sense to assess a program's claim to value diversity just by looking at the makeup of the faculty, since the two could come apart. putting that question to one side, I'm still quite surprised at the conclusion drawn. our current faculty of 26 includes 7 women (~27%) and 6 faculty who self-identify as members of under-represented minorities (~23%). both of these numbers outpace national disciplinary norms. moreover, both numbers would be even higher for recent hires --- largely because we have paid increasing attention to these matters in recent recruitments. while there's still plenty of room for improvement along these lines, I think the comment misrepresents the situation.”

*Post last updated on 4/29/19

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