Philosophy PhD Programs: University of Colorado at Boulder and University of Kentucky

In this blog post I provide some detailed, up-to-date information about two philosophy PhD programs. This week's picks are University of Colorado at Boulder and University of Kentucky. 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.


  • CU's academic placement record is stronger than UK's, but both are below the overall placement rate
  • The program rating for both CU and UK is nonetheless above the average program rating
  • The majority of CU students and graduates were in Value Theory, as were the majority of 2012-2019 CU graduates placed in permanent academic positions; for UK the majority for both were in History and Traditions
  • CU is just above average in terms of gender diversity but low in terms of racial/ethnic and socioeconomic diversity, whereas UK is low in terms of gender diversity
  • Too few UK students participated in the survey to provide all of the numbers

Overall placement, 2012-present
CU appears to have had 33 graduates in this period, whereas UK has had 21. Of these, CU has placed 10 into tenure-track or other permanent academic positions (30%), with 2 of these in programs that offer a PhD in philosophy (6%). UK has placed 3 into permanent academic positions (14%), and 0 in programs with a PhD. Of CU's other graduates, 3 are in postdoctoral or fellowship positions, 14 are in temporary academic positions, 4 are in nonacademic positions, and 2 have unknown placement. Of UK's other graduates, 1 is in a postdoctoral or fellowship position, 12 are in other temporary academic positions, 4 are in nonacademic positions, and 1 has unknown placement. 87% of CU's past graduates and current students preferred academic positions. The mean salary for CU graduates was $71,542.

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, 24% of CU students are in LEMM, 61% are in Value Theory, 14% are in History and Traditions, and 2% Science, Logic and Math. 14% of UK students are in LEMM, 28% are in Value Theory, 53% are in History and Traditions, and 6% are in Science, Logic, and Math. The majority of CU's graduates 2012 onward placed into permanent academic positions were in Value Theory. Of UK's graduates 2012 onward placed into permanent academic positions, all were in History and Traditions.

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, 32% of CU graduates are women and 16% of UK graduates 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, 9% of those who answered questions about race and ethnicity from CU 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%.

11% of past or current CU students who answered survey questions about socioeconomic status were first generation college students and CU students spanned the lower to upper middle SES categories. (Too few UK students answered these questions to include them.)

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.

Neither CU nor UK students provided public comments on how philosophy could be more inclusive.

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 CU students selected "somewhat likely," on average (4.1, n=18). UK students also selected "somewhat likely" (4.4, n=5). (CU 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," CU past graduates and current students selected "neutral" (3.2, n=10) on average. (Too few UK students answered these questions to include them.)

In response to: "Rate your satisfaction with the advice and preparation this program provides to its graduate students for academic research," CU past graduates and current students selected "neutral" (3.3, n=10) on average.

In response to: "Rate your satisfaction with the financial support this program provides for its graduate students," CU past graduates and current students selected "neutral" (2.8, n=10) on average.

Public Comments

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

Most notable I think was that there was camaraderie among the grad students--we were friendly but also highly competitive. We taught a lot and shared info about teaching, talked about the papers we were working on and the courses we were taking. The faculty at the time we very accessible and supportive. My own advisor was out of the country in alternating years, but other faculty regularly met with my and read my dissertation as I wrote it and challenged me to do my best work. I worked with 4 different faculty members as a grader and TA and they were all great teachers and helped me develop important teaching skills. The graduate teacher program, including the teaching award, helped me get a TT job at a LAC, I think. We completed teaching workshops in philosophy and more general ones, had observations, created a teaching portfolio, etc. At that time, grad students were rarely encouraged to publish or attend conferences. I do not remember being encouraged to do so. I think that is more important today. We also regularly had invited talks from some of the best philosophers in the world. That really helped us to understand how professional philosophy was done.
The program which which I received my PhD does an exceptionally good job training its doctoral candidates to become excellent teachers. The program has a broad research emphasis that spans applied ethics, value theory, political philosophy, metaphysics and epistemology. Although its strengths and weaknesses lie in this respect have changed a good deal since I graduated, it remains in the top 30 on the strength of faculty research and standing in the profession. Guidance for graduate students in how to proceed to find productive, interesting work in academic philosophy is particularly good in this program. I recommend it without reservation.

on training for undergraduate teaching:

I TAed for faculty members for 2 semesters, holding 2 "recitations sections" for on class each semester, and the following year I taught a 1:2, my own classes, with about 35 students enrolled. We had a graduate teacher program in which grad students attended several teaching workshops in the department each semester and several university-wide workshops a year. For certification, we had to log 20 hours of discipline-specific training and 20 university-wide workshops, have an observation, build a teaching portfolio, and complete some other tasks. I probably learned the most about teaching from being around grad students who were really interested in being good teachers. We talked about teaching a lot and share ideas frequently. Several students ahead of me in the program had published a paper in Teaching Philosophy, which was impressive. They also started a philosophy outreach program that introduced philosophy in to pre-college students. I believe being involved in these programs helped me when I was on the job market. I could demonstrate that I had thought seriously about teaching effectiveness and I was interested in joining a community of teachers.

and on financial support:

The stipend and teaching opportunities were enough to live frugally on.
I was an unfunded MA student before being accepted into the phd program. For the latter, the tuition stipend was not very good. I have a lot of student loans, but it was worth it to me to have a TT job teaching philosophy.
We receive funding for only 9 months out of the year. Summer funding is typically $1k from the department. Academic year stipends are inadequate to support single students. Married students or those with significant family support find it easier. Students no longer reliably receive dissertation fellowships, and many will tech every semester until they complete the program. Despite overall poor financial support, a few students are permitted to double- and triple-dip, receiving multiple streams of departmental funding in addition to university funding (while other students receive $0). Travel funds are disbursed unfairly - behind closed doors via non-competitive processes that likely run afoul Title IX laws. Graduate students receive very little information about the criteria on which funding decisions are made, and the criteria we have access to is infrequently followed. Funding is granted primarily to senior students first, and most students are waiting until their 6th or 7th year to obtain dissertation funding, adequate summer funding, etc.

Among the non-public comments I noted negative comments regarding issues of climate (x3) and financial support (x2).

UK students left one public comment about their program overall:

Excellent historical focus, great faculty. Wholeheartedly recommend the school for its educational experience. There are some difficulties with funding on the administrative level, however, and a school with a bigger name would help with placement.

Next week I hope to look at Vanderbilt University and The University of Sydney. Feedback is welcome, at

*Post last updated 4/29/19

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